Chakra Living

A Call for Cow Protection

by Gopal das

Reposted February 5, 2004

Fulfillment: A Call for Cow Protection and the Establishment of Brahminical Culture

A funny thing occurred recently when the "Last Call for Global Excellence Award 2004 Nominations" notice appeared in the Cow Conference. We all discovered that there was no mention of cow protection as one of the categories.

Before I go on, I would like to point out that it was eventually found to be a simple oversight resulting from no one yet nominating anyone in that field.

But it got us thinking: Why is there so little support for cow protection in ISKCON these days? There is talk of simple living and high thinking, there is plenty of talk of warm milk and prasad swimming in ghee, but there is little talk of fulfilling the final leg of Srila Prabhupada's mission, and if there is, it is for the most part only talk.

"Without protection of cows, brahminical culture cannot be maintained; and without brahminical culture, the aim of life cannot be fulfilled." [Srimad Bhagavatam 8.24.5 purport]

So we are all working together, in various ways, in various missions, on establishing brahminical culture, but how do we expect to accomplish this without the very foundation of brahminical culture cow protection? This is not simply a "vaisya issue."

Now, cow protection doesn't just mean having sufficient milk, it doesn't mean Govardhana Puja, it doesn't even mean cows and bulls. It means establishing a system whereby those who maintain the cows and engage the bulls in working the land to produce grains and foodstuff, not only for the Deities and devotees, but for the cows and bulls themselves, will be able to do that service in a supportive and sustainable way indefinitely. In reality, it means a Vaisnava community. How can it be considered a Vaisnava community without cow protection?

I am sure that I'm not the only one who joined this mission to the call of "We have self-sufficient communities based on cow-protection," only to find later that it was only so much wishful thinking and propaganda. Eventually we get jaded and may even find ourselves repeating the same half-truth about Varnashrama Dharma and the next 10,000 years. This is voluntary blindness to the real state of this aspect of Srila Prabhupada's mission.

In order to progress, we must first accept the fact that we are currently in denial, then admit that this aspect of Srila Prabhupada's mission is critical to the fulfillment of the rest (again, that being to establish brahminical culture). Cow protection based on ox-powered agriculture is also essential to draw our children back to that which is natural and sattvic, just to make a material balance in life, what to speak of the pleasure it would give to them to get their hands dirty now and then and see where real food comes from.

And what pleasure it would give their Lordships! It would be at once educational and ultimately purifying for any community as a whole. It can, of course, be left for Srila Prabhupada's follows somewhere down that 10,000-year-old road, or we can do it. As we were the ones asked, it is only fitting that we do it. If anything, we should offer it completed, as a gift to the devotees yet to come.

It is not an understatement to say, that except for in a few rare locations, real sustainable cow protection (according to the Minimum Standards of Cow Protection as published by the GBC Ministry for Cow Protection and Agriculture), is practically non-existent. Nor is it blasphemy or aparadha to admit to ourselves and to each other that many of our leaders, throughout ISKCON's history, though expert in many other aspects of Srila Prabhupada's preaching mission, have had little or no vision for how to fulfill this most important next step (cow protection, as indicated in so many of Srila Prabhupada's instructions, is actually a next step that is essential for us to maintain our present footing). If some individuals do or have had such a vision, then entangled in management or absorbed in preaching, they are not willing to put forth the time and energy to bring that vision into focus. We must remember that in a world full of turmoil and frustration, the organized exhibition of genuine simple life is preaching.

The movement itself has shifted from a movement based on preachers and monasticism, to one of families and communities trying to balance practical life with love of God. Naturally, most people are not willing or cannot practically live in a commune. But Srila Prabhupada did not ask for communes, simply communities where goodness naturally leads to the sincere cultivation Krishna Consciousness.

As in many cultures, the center of our devotee communities is the temple, and the center of that temple is the altar, whereupon Sri Sri Radha Krishna stand and bestow Their infinite mercy upon those people of faith who gather together before Them and chant Their names. We must know that engagement of the cows, bulls, and land is not a project separate from this ideal. Instead it is an integral part of pleasing Srila Prabhupada and thus obtaining the mercy of Sri Sri Radha Krishna.

We should know the land, cows, and bulls to be nothing less than the paraphernalia of the Deity, as are the products of their proper engagement (milk, ghee, vegetables, and grains). We would not consider spraying air freshener on or around the Lord as a substitute for the finest oils or incense, while the finest incense instead lay in the drawer unlit, fading, and collecting dust. We would never consider it satisfactory to leave the Deities' silver cups and plates blackened with tarnish and covered with cobwebs in the cupboard, while instead serving Their Lordships with a paper cup and plate.

How have we found it acceptable, in this day and age, 30 years after receiving the instructions and inspiration, to let the cows, bulls, and land sit idle and in a state of neglect while we buy gallon after gallon of milk from the store, blocks of the cheapest yellow stained butter boiling into ghee, products that have come at the cost of another cow's life? What example does this set for the world and for the historic record?

Sure, there is some spiritual benefit for the cow who suffered to produce such milk, and of course, there is the milk-equals-a-better-brain-for-me thing, but what of our actual, eternal spiritual benefit, the kind that comes by true and continual service to the instructions of Sri Guru, for the pleasure of the Lord and His pure devotee?

Would the Lord not be more pleased to have fresh milk from His own personal cows? Would the cow not be more saved to take its next birth under the protection of Sri Gopal? Would the fire not be more pleased to accept grains and ghee not just purchased but produced with devotion? And what of the bulls? They have no milk to give. We cannot offer their "product" as it sits frozen or refrigerated in the store waiting for purchase, nor would it be an acceptable offering. They must be engaged in tilling the soil, "or else you will make a plan to kill them," says Srila Prabhupada to his followers.

As a movement, we need to focus on this goal. Now is a good time. I believe that in doing so, we will find solutions to many of the other problems that trouble us as a worldwide community. We do not have to ask whether Srila Prabhupada would be pleased. It was, in fact, his real final instruction, his dying wish, practically his last breath. Yours in service to Sri Guru, Gopal dasa


Gopal das is a disciple of Varsana Swami. Devotees may send comments for posting at the Chakra web site, chakraletters@gmail.com. The author also invites correspondence at dasgopal@aol.com