A Discussion on Cow Protection (05/20/04)
Dear B______ Prabhu,
Please accept my humble obeisance. All glories to Śrīla Prabhupāda.
I am Swami Narasingha standing in for N_____ Dāsa because, between the gośālā, āśrama management, and construction, he has very little time for correspondence. I hope you do not mind my doing so.
We have been very busy and I do apologize for the delay in writing. Thank you very much for answering N_____’s first email.
Just an initial thought for you to think about and it is the theme that I am trying to get ISKCON to adopt in their India gośālās. The theme is HOLISTIC COW PROTECTION
What ISKCON is doing in the realm of cow protection here in India is known to us to some extent. In a nutshell it is not that impressive, considering that ISKCON has been established here in India for almost four decades.
Māyāpura has a cow protection program that has sometimes been called the ’Siberian salt mines of cow protection’ due to the abuses the cows suffered there for years and years. Kurma Rūpa in Vṛndāvana has a nice home/gośālā for street cows and that’s just about the extent of the cow program in ISKCON India save and except for a couple of temples and a few individuals connected to ISKCON such as Mother L______ who nobly protects cows at her small farm. Then there is M______ in Bangalore (Ṛtvik-ISKCON)who has a very together organic farm and a small gośālā located about 15 kilometers from Mother Cow Gośālā, near Mysore. N_____used to be the veterinarian for Madhu Paṇḍita’s farm.
In almost every respect, every Hindu society in India and āśrama, large and small, has a more impressive farm and animal protection program than ISKCON. Take the disciples of Yogi Bhajan for example. They have several organic farms called Namdhari’s and a chain of organic food stores under the same name in big cities like Bangalore. Then there is Pinjrapole with close to or more than 8,000 cows being sheltered and protected. The list goes on. Even the Ramakrishna Mission, which Śrīla Prabhupada despised, has a better cow protection program in India than ISKCON. So ISKCON has a long way to go before they can boast of being the leaders or example in that field.
1) Milk production
Good idea. Without milk you cannot have a Brahminical culture. You cannot perform religious rites or develop a brain suitable for understanding spiritual science. Milk from cows that are not exploited and are serving Lord Kṛṣṇa is essential.
2) Training and working of bullocks. Showing the usefulness of the bullocks.
One question that Śrīla Prabhupada asked was, “So, how you are working the bulls?”
Even with the advent of the tractor the vast majority of Indian farms in the villages still use the oxen to plow the fields and to transport the grains, produce, and sugar cane to the market. Punjab is the state that is most converted to the tractor. Uttar Pradesh (around Vṛndāvana area) is next. Tractors are more commonly found in India’s wheat belt and not as much in the rice belt, like in South India.
I was with Śrīla Prabhupāda on the Hyderabad farm when he said that “All the householders from LA should move to the Hyderabad farm, take three acres of land and keep some cows.” Of course, that never happened. But if it had they would have come to India to learn and not to teach. LA devotees don’t have much experience with the land, the cows, or anything organic unless it comes from “Trader Joe’s”.
It is also a fact that Śrīla Prabhupāda did not expect that every gośālā (unless it was a farm) would be able or have the necessity of “working the bulls”. He did however want this to happen especially in Māyāpura and in India in general. He wanted India to be a model for cow protection for the whole world. Unfortunately, that has not happened.
There is a reason for these things not happening and it boils down to leadership. The ISKCON leaders here in India pour massive amounts of money toward temple building, guest houses, restaurants, robotic dioramas and so on, but when it comes to farms and gośālās they are basically hung out to dry.
T____ Prabhu, who is one of the original farmers and cowboys in ISKCON India, has a farm a few hundred kilometers from Mother Cow Gośālā and even with the private financial assistance of A______ Prabhu, he has struggled from the day he started his project (10 years ago) until now because the GBC does not stand behind him in any way, shape, or form. But if he had a big collect and lots of new devotees, you can bet that the leadership would be the first to get in on it. As we speak, T_____ Prabhu is in Hong Kong collecting in the streets to support his farm.
Kurma Rūpa Prabhu is a wonderful devotee and he is very sincere and dedicated to the cow protection project in Vṛndāvana, but his success comes from his hard work and donations from C_____ Mātājī and some other devotees around the world. If it were based on the support of the GBC of Vṛndāvana, those cows would still be in the street.
3) Breeding programs focused on indigenous breeds in each geographical area of India.
A welcome concept. The exotic breeds in India (which Mother Cow Gośālā only has) actually started at the beginning of the 20th century here in Mysore. The King of Mysore is the one who introduced this program in India in conjunction with the British Raj. That King of Mysore is the same Raja who hosted Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta in his palace and was very appreciative of Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava siddhānta.
Now there is a movement in India to bring back all the indigenous breeds like Hallikar, Amritmahal, Gir, Krishnavelia, Ankol, etc. We have started our gośālā with the exotic breeds and we do see the negative aspects of that on the long run. Therefore, as of two months ago we have made a decision in favor of purchasing some indigenous breeds and starting a separate herd of those types. Land and money are the only things holding us up.
There is a unique feature of the exotic cows as opposed to the indigenous cows of India, which might have been a reason why they introduced those types of cows in India in the first place. The exotic cows do not require as much freedom of movement to be happy, peaceful, healthy, and satisfied as do the indigenous breeds. The indigenous breeds are highly strung and literally require more space to roam about. Land is always scarce in India, but Kṛṣṇa willing, after acquiring more land we can move ahead on our next stage of developing indigenous breeds.
4) Full utilization of cow urine and dung for medicine, fertilizer, gobar gas, and worship of Lord Kṛṣṇa.
As for fertilizer, gobar gas, and worship of Lord Kṛṣṇa we have that pretty much together or we are in the process (building our gober gas digester) but as for urine and cow dung for medicine that requires more effort that we do not have at the present. At present that endeavor is monitored by the government. In Gujarat there are licensed Ayurvedic companies now producing more cow related medicines. Medicine is actually a concern of the medical institution and not of the gośālā staff, although such would only be possible with enough financing and properly educated devotees to carry it out. We have considered these medical projects for Mother Cow Gośālā, but that is for the future.
5) Local farmers should be encouraged to not use tractors, petrochemical fertilizers, herbicides, or insecticides.
They should also be encouraged to use heritage seeds for their crops and not hybrid seeds. In this we must provide the example by training and working with our own bullocks and practice organic farming practices. We should develop programs so that the local farmers will come for training in these programs.
That is true, but we face a huge obstacle – economics. When industrialists push there products in the world like TV (how many devotees have and watch TV), movies, cars, airplanes, junk food, Kentucky Fried Chicken and so on, then lifestyle changes, even here in India. To meet that change of lifestyle, a farmer has to send his children to higher education and for that he needs MONEY. To get money he will adopt whatever means works best for his farm in the immediate – even if that means certain disaster in the future.
Actually what the Moghuls could not do in 1,000 years and the British could not do in 200 years ? MTV has done in 10 years, degraded India.
One of our main points is that the success in any cow project (unless it is fully supported financially with lots of money by a devoted community or society and thus independently wealthy) depends on a co-operative arrangement with other sectors of society. When that is absent, as it is in most western countries, and donations stop coming in, then the gośālā faces a real crisis. In India there is some relief since we still have some sectors of the government and private institutions that care and are willing to work with us and other gośālās to protect the cows.
6) Spiritual education to all sectors of society as to the importance of Holistic Cow Protection.
Śrīla Prabhupāda writes in the purport of SB 8:24.5:
“From the Lord’s personal activities, human society should learn how to give protection specifically to the brāhmaṇas and cows. Then the protection of religious principles, fulfillment of the aim of life and the protection of Vedic knowledge can be achieved. Without protection of cows, brahminical culture cannot be maintained; and without brahminical culture, the aim of life cannot be fulfilled…”
Great quote. Please visit our āśrama and see for yourself how we are attempting to fulfilling and following Śrīla Prabhupāda’s many instructions in this regard. Wherever you find a deficiency we are willing to work toward improving that.
You may or may not know that your program of breeding for milk production and giving your bull calves away has caused a stir. We have seen all over ISKCON the downfall of breeding just for milk production. Not just in ISKCON, but in practically all gośālās this is a problem.
Point of clarification here. We do not breed just for increasing milk production. We allow all our cows to dry up and sometimes they do not give birth again for several years. We treat our cows with Kṛṣṇa’s interest in mind and not as animals that can simply earn us a profit. Actually there is no profit, it is a labor of love.
We started our gośālā ten years ago with only one cow, Śyāmarāṇī. Now we have twenty-six cows and eleven calves. So in ten years we have actually only increased moderately and not excessively. As for the bulls – I have pointed out that a co-operative arrangement with various aspects of society is necessary in any workable Vedic model. We have that arrangement for our bulls with the Pinjrapole gośālā and the bulls are kept there healthy, safe and sound.
A Vaiṣṇava can give his daughter’s hand in marriage and she will go to another house to live and be cared for. So why then are devotees struggling with the concept that our bulls can go to another gośālā to live and hang out with 2,000 other bulls who are all being protected? It seems to us that it is only intelligent on our part and Kṛṣṇa’s arrangement to have this arrangement with Pinjrapole. It is only some devotee’s opinion that it is wrong, but their opinion is not universal.
Actually there is an interesting point here. The giving of a cow in charity is called go-dāna, ‘go’ means cow. If you give someone a cow in charity then you are giving them wealth, but if you donate a bull to someone (despite the bull being dharma) you are giving them a burden, unless the recipient is a farmer. You should give a brāhmaṇa a cow, a kṣatriya an elephant, and a vaiśya (farmer) a bull or an oxen. A śūdra should never be given in
charity unless he is a Vaiṣṇava.
But it is a fact that without breeding then there is no milk. Once Śrīla Prabhupāda mentioned in relation to lazy devotees in temples that, “Better an empty barn than cows that don’t give milk.” So milk production is essential and when there is a Kṛṣṇa conscious society around you with all aspects of social order as it once was in India, then gośālās do not face even half the problems that they do today in modern Kali-yuga.
In the gośālās I have visited, the problem is the same, what to do with the bull calves now that the majority of the village farmers are using tractors or want to use tractors. In India now the tractor is becoming very common and the bullocks are becoming displaced. In many places one hardly even sees a team of bullocks. This is very dangerous. One of the ways in which Kali-yuga is manifesting is through the tractor which in essence is facilitating the beating of the cows and especially the bulls which are the representative of dharma.
Well spoken, but at the same time I know that in America the only really successful devotee farmers, like R____ Dāsa in Efland, NC, use tractors to work their land. Rāma Dāsa is a successful organic farmer and highly respected by all who know him (devotee and non-devotees alike). His farming is preaching and he uses a tractor. He would be out of business without the tractor and in the lots doing the pick, or at events selling hats and bumper stickers.
We do not have enough land to plow at Mother Cow Gośālā, but ultimately even if we did use the oxen to plow, we would not insist that every devotee attempting to live out of the land do the same thing. Actually we may not use a tractor, but devotees use every other aspect of material nature to serve Kṛṣṇa and this I think looks odd to any third party. We refuse a tractor, but ride in an SUV or pick-up truck.
If I were a man of unlimited financial means then I would love to support an ideal farming community model – at least to show the world the ideal way of old Vedic life according to Śrīla Prabhupāda, but I’m not. I am a small individual like so many others who struggles to put into practice the many ideals of the Vedic way of life. Anyway, we are trying our best at Govindajī Gardens and Mother Cow Gośālā.
I think that ISKCON leaders should encourage their wealthy members like A_____ Prabhu to donate millions of dollars to ISCOWP rather than building costly temples in Māyāpura that becomes a place of business and politics. I am not one to tell you how to run your project or how to approach your leaders, but as a third party observer I can see that it is obvious that until the society of ISKCON as a unified movement and its leaders actually get into cow protection as a priority, then nothing of any greatness is ever going to manifest. Failed leadership is at the root of all troubles of the world today.
I hope this will give you some food for thought. I look forward to conversing with you so that we can put together a very strong and progressive program of Holistic Cow Protection for the whole world to adopt.
Indeed you have. I do not know about the whole world but I know about Govindajī Gardens and Mother Cow Gośālā where we live. We will be very happy if on your next visit to India if you will come here and share your wisdom that Śrīla Prabhupāda has empowered you with and help us to develop an ideal model for HOLISTIC COW PROTECTION.
We also have a cow conference with about 80 members all over the world. With your approval I would like to put our dialogue on the conference so that everyone may put their heads and hearts into the development of Holistic Cow Protection.
As you wish, we are your servants.
I have copied several others on this matter in this letter as I feel they can be very productive in pushing forward with these topics.
We are willing to work with you on these topics and although firm in our position, we are at the same time willing to conform to any model or paradigm that promotes the cause of KṚṢṆA CONSCIOUSNESS AND COW PROTECTION.
I hope you are well and I look forward to your reply. Next time I am in India I would very much like to visit your gośālā
We are looking forward to that day with great anticipation.
Śrī Hari-jana-kiṅkara –
Swami B.G. Narasiṅgha