Chakra Discussions

Mother Cow Speaks Out - That's No Bull!

by Nanda Kishore das
(Manager of Mother Cow Goshala)

Posted May 16, 2004

I have read some of the controversy about the Mother Cow Goshala on Chakra.org and I feel compelled to reply to the rather harsh criticisms.

Hare Krsna dasi and Tapasvini dasi have both made statements, and raised questions putting our Mother Cow Goshala into question. I think both of these ladies are sincere, but they appear to have a self-generated or ISKCON-centric idea of what cow protection actually is. According to their utopian rules of cow protection, there has never actually been a goshala in India, either in modern or ancient times until the advent of the GBC rules committee. This of course is not true.

Cow protection according to ancient Vedic standards means that the cow and bull are AGHNYA - never to be killed! The condition of how and where the cows and bulls are kept has always been reflected by the individual or group financial status. For example the king's goshala and the sadhu's goshala were always different in terms of size and facility. In some instances a goshala consisted of only one cow and possibly a calf, that when grown up would go to another hermitage or a farmer.

So cow protection actually means to protect the cows and bulls from slaughter or physical harm as we find Maharaja Pariksit doing in Srimad Bhagavatam. It does not say that Pariksit took the cow and bull to his palace and gave them a rubber bed to sleep on, or that he never milked the cow or sold milk or never gave them to some one else.

Actually cows and bulls have always been given in charity in Vedic culture. But of course one could question as Tapasvini dasi has that, "How do you know what will happen in the future?" Therefore, never give in charity (unless it is to ISKCON). Similarly one should never get one's daughter married because, "You never know about that boy?" So just keep your daughter at home for the rest of her life, safe and sound.

The misconception of a goshala according to the utopian rules of Hare Krsna dasi and Tapasvini dasi is one where no milk can be sold and all bulls and oxen must be kept at home forever.

The first point I wish to deal with here is 'selling milk.' According to Caitanya-caritamrta, Madhya-14.173, purport, it is said, "Being a cowherd girl Srimati Radharani regularly carries milk in a container and often goes to sell the milk on the other side of the Yamuna."

Similarly Srila Prabhupada says in Srimad Bhagavatam class December 29th, 1973 as follows. "If there is excess milk product, if there is excess grain product, then you can sell to others."

Again Srila Prabhupada has said in New Vrndavana, June 9th, 1969 as follows. "I calculated, one cow per one person means the milk products he can sell, he can get other necessities of life in that way."

Again in New York, July 18th, 1976 Srila Prabhupada says while discussing with H.H. Tamal Krsna Goswami as follows. "So if there is more milk, you can sell more, get money!"

Again Srila Prabhupada says at Aligarh, India, October 9th,1976 as follows. "I have been in Pennsylvania farm. They get enough quantity milk. They sell $1500. Jaya!"

So to keep this article short I would say that, based on the above quotes, it is safe to say that it is not exploitation of the cow to sell the excess milk.

At Mother Cow Goshala we are presently receiving about 140 litres of milk each day from our 26 go-matas. Of that, 20 litres is taken to the Deity kitchen and prepared into various offerings like ghee, hot milk, curd, yogurt, sweet rice, rasagula, sandesh, burfi and so on. These items are all offered to the Deities of Sri Sri Radha-Govinda and then distributed as prasadam to the devotees and ashram visitors.

Srila Prabhupada wanted his children to have fresh milk daily and we are very happy to report to Srila Prabhupada that his children in our ashram gurukula receive all the fresh whole milk that they want.

The balance 120 litres daily is sold to local families and sweet shops in Mysore under the label of "Govinda's Ashram Milk", something that we feel Srila Prabhupada would be very proud of. From the sale of that milk we receive Rs 1,500 per day. That is about $35 (US) per day. We employ 6 men from the village to assist the devotees in tending the cows. We pay each worker Rs 60 per day. Our daily out going wages comes to Rs 360. So at present we are running on a daily gross profit of Rs 1140. Then there are the expenses of cow feed, electrical, and medicals for the cows. At the end of every month we are usually in need of a donation from our small ashram owned business in Bangalore to make ends meet at the goshala.

So for Hare Krsna dasi and Tapasvini dasi to suggest that we are running a goshala just to get milk so we can sell it and get rich at the expense of exploiting the cows isn't quite fair. But if they have to point the finger then they should remember that three fingers point toward themselves (ISKCON). Following those three fingers we find that the ISKCON goshala in Mayapur sells milk on a daily basis to the Deity and also to the gurukula children.

At least at Mother Cow Goshala we do not force Krishna or His little playmates to purchase our milk. We are happy (just like the wives of the Yagnika Brahmanas) to offer it to Krishna and His friends for free, with love and devotion.

I might also mention here that if and when our goshala earns enough money via milk sales to actually show a profit, we will happily give that profit to the Deity and His devotees. All over the world ISKCON sends its devotees into the streets and airports to engage people in giving donations (even by hook or by crook) to support their Deities, temples and the devotees. This of course is done with the good intention to engage the public in devotional service. My question then is, if you can collect money from the public by hook or by crook to serve Krishna then what is the harm in selling milk for the same end and thus engaging the cows in devotional service?

Now the issue of bulls and oxen. Put simply, the Mother Cow Goshala method of co-partnering with the Pinjrapole Jain Goshala is a crisis management alternative. And for that matter so is the new ISKCON system of never giving out the bulls or oxen from their goshalas. In both cases these are systems evolved due to the crisis of cow slaughter prevailing in the world today.

Actually the concept of cow protection requires the co-operation of a God centered (Vedic) society. Ninety percent of bulls are to become oxen and the oxen are meant for the farmlands where grains are produced. It is wrong to think that every goshala, in the country or in the city, also acts as a farm. (By the way Mother Cow Goshala is a sankirtana ashram goshala in the country and not in any way a farm for producing grains etc. We grow Tulasi, mangos, coconuts, cow grass, and flowers for the Deities.)

Historically here in India, goshalas always give or sell their bulls and oxen to the farmers who in turn produce and sell grains, etc. We have always been a capitalist society. However, we are in a time period in India where even the vaisyas (farmers) will sell their cows and bulls for slaughter. Therefore there is not a complete system for maintaining cows and bulls in society. Alternative solutions have to be employed.

Mother Cow Goshala's alternative to the non-existing co-operative Vedic society is a co-operative relationship with the Jain community of Mysore. Tapasvini dasi has insinuated that we are giving Krishna's bulls to 'unknown people' at Pinjrapole. However, we can assure Tapasvini dasi that the staff at Pinjrapole is not unknown to us. Pinjrapole was started in 1908 responding to a plea from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). In fact in 1992-4, I was the veterinarian for Pinjrapole, the Ramakrishna Mission and also the ISKCON farm near Mysore.

Hare Krsna dasi has criticized Mother Cow Goshala because we do not work the oxen, but I might point out here that the ISKCON Mayapur Goshala uses tractors to plow their fields while the bulls and oxen stand idle in the goshala. It is a known fact however that Srila Prabhupada wanted the fields plowed with oxen and not tractors. Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

Hare Krsna dasi and Tapasvini dasi might be interested or surprised to know that the Pinjrapole goshala alone protects and maintains more cows and bulls than all of the ISKCON cow projects combined. Pinjrapole at Mysore has a total of 3,700 cows and bulls at their facility. They have 50 milking cows, 700 dried up cows, 2,000 bulls, and 950 calves. Pinjrapole has other such facilities around India such as in Chennai and they are much appreciated for their work by pious people here in India. The combined goshalas of Pinjrapole (according to published financial statements) in India are currently spending in excess of Rs15,00,000 ($35,714) every month for cow protection. Pinjrapole is hardly what we would call 'unknown'.

In Pinjrapole at Chennai they have 4,000 cows at their goshala, which is maintained by selling milk, dung, gobar gas, and donations from a dedicated community. They are in effect the best model for cow protection in the world today. One that ISKCON might learn from.

If Tapasvini dasi hasn't figured it out by now then I will spell it out for her. We send our bulls to Pinjrapole because we are not financially able to maintain the cows and the bulls at the same time. That is an honest and simple truth, one that every cow project in ISKCON faces. The difference is that we have an alternative arrangement with Pinjrapole that works, while most ISKCON cow projects do not (Although they could if they were a little humble in their dealings with others and didn't consider everyone outside ISKCON to be a demon.)

Tapasvini dasi has made it sound like it is a great sin to give away a cow or a bull to someone who is not a devotee of Krishna, when in fact it is not. Actually, what to speak of Pinjrapole, even some of the Mayavadi ashrams in India have better cow protection programs in effect than ISKCON. So in some cases it might be a better idea to give the cows and bulls to someone who can take care of them better. In our case we give the bulls to Pinjrapole because they are better equipped than we are.

Tapasvini dasi has assumed unfairly that if a cow will not produce sellable milk at Mother Cow Goshala that we will simply give it away. We have never done such a thing and we never would. In fact, several old cows have passed away at our goshala and we do not even give them or sell them at that point. They are all buried beneath the grass fields where they served the Supreme Lord during their life.

Also for that matter, on a ratio of "devotees-to-cows" our little ashram and goshala at Mother Cow is doing more than the great ISKCON to protect cows and bulls. We have a total of 20 devotees at our ashram and we are protecting 26 cows and 10 calves. On a scale we are protecting approximately 1.5 cows per devotee. By that standard then we would expect ISKCON to be protecting many thousands of cows, calves and bulls since they always tell how many thousands of devotees they have in ISKCON and how they are always bigger and better at everything. The fact is that all the ISKCON cow protection projects around the world only maintain a small number of cows in proportion to the number of people in their very wealthy society and that too is only successful due to the hard work of a few dedicated individuals and not due to the efforts of a spiritual society dedicated to mother cow and father bull.

Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita that every endeavor is covered by some fault. We certainly do not want to fault ISKCON or any devotee in this world in their attempt to protect the cows and bulls but we think that before Hare Krsna dasi and Tapasvini dasi go around criticizing the endeavors of others that they should be more concerned with their own societies state of affairs when it comes to cow protection. After all Srila Prabhupada said that the only thing that should be puffed up in ISKCON are the puris.

India is a very traditional country with a great history of its own from before the western world was even discovered. It is a fact that India has declined from its former glory but it is also a fact that many people and government leaders in India fight hard for cow protection throughout the country. Cow slaughter is now only legal in two states in India, West Bengal and Kerala and also in the far eastern states such as Meghalaya and Nagaland. All other states in India have a ban on cow slaughter and such an offence is punishable by law. The problem in India is that the laws are not always upheld.

Thousands of individuals in India however are dedicated to cow protection and they are even willing to fight for the life of the cow. In India we have organizations like the BJP, VHP, RSS, and Bajrang Dal that are dedicated to establishing cow protection throughout the entire country. The Bajrang Dal is, put simply, a militant arm for cow protection. People in Bajrang Dal have even killed and been killed in their fight for cow protection.

So Tapasvini dasi should not think that everyone in India is corrupt and does not care about mother cow. On the other hand we would be interested to know what, beyond the arm chair and the computer screen, it is that Tapasvini dasi actually does or is willing to do in the fight to save the life of mother cow and father bull.

Another note here is that Tapasvini dasi doubts who Taradevi dasi is and wonders who's disciple she is. As far as I know, Taradevi dasi lives in Kolkata and is initiated in Gaudiya Math. We have had some correspondence from time to time and she does accept siksa from our guru via our ashram website, but we hardly see how this has any relevance to her favorable opinions about the work of Mother Cow Goshala.

In conclusion I would like to suggest that Hare Krsna dasi and Tapasvini dasi be more positive and try to see the beauty in what Krishna has arranged for His cows at Mother Cow Goshala.