The following are excerpts from a Hindi article written by Śrīla Bhaktivedānta Nārāyaṇa Māhārāja, published in Rays of The Harmonist, Amāvasyā, Special Edition (Originally published in Śrī Bhāgavata-patrikā, Year 12 (1966) Issue 6–7)
The cow, the very life of Indian culture
All of the world’s ancient cultures, civilizations and races have been completely destroyed, their names existing in the annals of history only. The sole remaining ancient culture is the Vedic culture of India [which dates back to Lord Brahmā]. And how many of the contemporary civilizations and cultures are on the verge of obliteration, even today, and counting their last moments?
Upon examining the root cause of the demise of these civilizations, it can be seen that their foundation was neither solid nor imperishable. India’s Āryan* culture, on the other hand, is founded on the exceptionally solid and imperishable eternal truth (sanātana-tattva).
Consequently, even though opposing powers have come to destroy or subjugate Indian culture from time to time, those forces have themselves been crushed.
Despite this, even today there are mighty assaults from all directions on the root of the core values of India’s ancient Vedic culture – both from those outside the country and those within it. Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (7.4.27) describes the very fundamental pillars of the ancient Vedic culture as follows:
yadā deveṣu vedeṣu
goṣu vipreṣu sādhuṣu
dharme mayi ca vidveṣaḥ
sa vā āśu vinaśyati
“When a person is envious of the demigods, the Vedas, the cows, the brāhmaṇas, the sādhus [Vaiṣṇavas], dharma, and Me, the Supreme Lord, he is quickly annihilated.”
The cow, the pillar of India’s economic prosperity
India is the land of ṛṣis and munis and it is the field of dharma. The pillar of India’s economic prosperity and its greatest asset is the cow. To donate cows is regarded as the most munificent form of charity. Since time immemorial, the people of Vedic India have regarded the cow as mother and the bull as father, the very form of dharma. It is understood that all of the demigods dwell in the cow.
It is our foremost duty to have faith in and serve the cows, brāhmaṇas, sādhus, Vedas, demigods, dharma and the Supreme Lord, the very pillars of our culture. A person, society, race or nation that acts with hostility toward these pillars is vanquished in no time. Nowadays, even in India, acts of aggression against them are being perpetrated. This is the utmost misfortune for us as well as for our nation.
Āryan culture is endangered
Our Āryan culture is currently endangered. Tremendous endeavours are underway to uproot the foundation of the above-mentioned pillars of our culture. Moreover, hovering over our nation is the embodiment of dreadful terror and devastation: the grave sin (mahā-pāpa) of cow slaughter. Each day, approximately 30,000 cows are being mercilessly slaughtered.
“Stop killing the cow!” The saintly, the pious and the honest who raise this cry, who remain far from foul politics, who are selfless and who always sincerely desire the welfare of the whole world, are being crammed into small prison cells. And those who are objecting to cow killing by going on hunger strikes are being totally disregarded. To kill the cow is to kill the nation. Stopping it is the first and foremost duty of the nation’s wise men.
Today, the sentiments of five hundred million people completely opposed to cow slaughter are being coldly disregarded, and mother cow is being killed. This grave sin, having assumed a most fearful appearance, is standing by, ready to consume not only the current government but the entire nation.**
It is for this reason that today, great souls (mahātmas) who are considering the welfare of the nation are making an endeavour to draw the attention of government heads by nonviolent protests and fasts, simply to alert them to the fact that their stubbornness is leading to a path of utter devastation. Devoid of success, those who are fasting are leaving their bodies. It is thus a cause of deep distress that “not even the wriggling of a parasite is reaching the ears”*** of the stubborn government heads, revealing their antagonistic mindset, which will herald an era of devastation.
Groundless logic in support of cow slaughter
Just recently, those involved in cow slaughter, along with their supporters, presented a defence stating that only a few non-secular or reactive people are demanding a ban on cow slaughter. Now, however, upon observing a surge of protests by innumerable people, they have adjusted their strategy and are presenting yet another justification.
Their main assertion is that already there is insufficient grain in India to fill the stomachs of the people, so by putting a halt to cow slaughter [and thus feeding the cows those grains] there will be a calamitous food shortage for the people.
This groundless and totally spurious logic is presented by the illiterate and uneducated. From such persons we could then inquire, “Is the wheat and rice consumed by cows taken from the portions of wheat and rice allocated to humans?” To this, they have no response. Truth be known, those fiendish men are not even aware that animal food differs from human food. Bhagavān created the animals and then made a wonderful arrangement for their adequate sustenance. About 5% of the plant, be it wheat, paddy, barley, millet and so forth, is meant for human consumption, whereas 95% of the plant (such as the stem, leaves, twigs etc.) is meant for animal consumption. Moreover, animals also fill their stomachs with grass, leaves and grains that are the leftovers of humans. Their assertion that putting a stop to cow slaughter would result in a grain shortage is absurd. They present yet another argument: the economy will stagnate if a stop is put to cow slaughter, because the number of animals will significantly increase. They say that food will have to be taken from milk-giving cows and given to cows that have no function at all, resulting in a loss of tens of millions of rupees. Furthermore, they say that because the milk-giving cows’ intake will be reduced, they will produce less milk. This logic is as groundless and spurious as the logic given above. A man endowed with good intelligence will never give credence to it. Those who do present such arguments, epitomize the mentality of choosing to drink the vomit of foreigners who eat cow flesh.
Is it not inhumane to massacre and devour the cow – who, like a mother, has given milk to drink year in, year out – once her milk supply has come to an end? Even a cow that does not produce milk is still useful. Such persons are ignorant of this fact.
[For example:] Cow dung is superior to all other types of dung. Nowadays, it is even converted into gas for various uses. Cow urine successfully remedies numerous medical conditions. Even Western physicians, who are the gurus of the faulty logicians mentioned above, accept this. Poor villagers, unable to purchase coal or wood, burn cow dung to cook and perform other tasks, and thus sustain their lives. All said and done, however, the cow is not immortal and is bound to die. O brother, she will die anyway, sooner or later, having given her whole self to you. Why, oh why, kill her before her time? You will have to carry the burden of committing this great sin upon your head.
Such persons propose a third argument, also: The cows of India are frail, lean, and haggard. Why keep them alive?
What, however, has caused this poor condition? National poverty resulting from governmental incompetence. The economy has not seen a glimmer of improvement in twenty years. Instead, it has only declined. If this is the logic behind cow slaughter, why doesn’t the government apply it to persons who are feeble, incapacitated, penniless and unable to accumulate enough foodstuffs to fill their bellies? Or would such action be at odds with human ethics?
There are some who even contend, “Why not put an end to the old cows? Because the fodder is consumed by them, there is less for the cows that do give milk and consequently, those cows give less milk.” Who, however, is at fault for this?
Is cow slaughter not inhumane?
Nowadays, [even for humankind] there is a shortage of grains. Why, then, don’t we say, “Slaughter the useless old persons – or all the elderly mothers and fathers”? Or would this diverge from humanity?
We are surrounded by hoards of people, many of whom do not work but subsist on what is obtained by others. In addition, there are numerous lepers and people suffering from tuberculosis, those who have been blind since birth, those with other disabilities, and those slowly decaying from transmittable illnesses. Tens of millions of rupees are allocated to give help to such persons and to give pensions to the elderly and those who have retired from government service. Why? Don’t the persons presenting the above arguments know that these acts of kindness are indicative of a sense of humanity?
This is what differentiates humans from animals. Human feelings include gratefulness, compassion, wisdom and, above all, a sense of dharma in the form of worshipping and serving Bhagavān. Animals have no sense of dharma. Dharma marks the division between a human being and an animal, which spends its days eating, sleeping, defending and mating. To pass one’s days in animal functions is to be an animal in a human body. This conclusive truth (siddhānta) is the backbone of our Indian culture.
sāmānyam etat paśubhir narāṇām
dharmo hi teṣām adhiko viśeṣo
dharmeṇa hīnāḥ paśubhiḥ samānāḥ
“In regard to eating, sleeping, mating and defending, animals resemble humans. Human beings, however, have the capacity to practice dharma. This is unique to them. Thus, a human that has no dharma is but an animal.”
Therefore, those who try to reason in support of killing cows are regarded as animals [since they lack dharma]. In fact, even the so-called useless cow is superior to people with tuberculosis, leprosy and other disabilities. They do not transmit their ailment to another, nor do they plunder, usurp government control, kill, abduct girls, or drink a man’s blood. Why then are cows not given protection? And why aren’t suitable arrangements made for their maintenance?
Repercussions if cow slaughter continues in India
If Pakistan can pass a decree to end cow slaughter, and if Nepal can make it illegal, then why does India not have a law to do the same? If, simply on the basis of their beauty, horses in America, kangaroos in Australia, and peacocks in India are national emblems and the respective governments ban their slaughter, then why aren’t rules in place in India prohibiting the slaughter of the cow, who is the repository of all virtuous qualities, with whom traditional Indian culture is inseparably bound, who is not only our mother, but the mother of the whole world? Why is this country’s administrative body not passing a decree outlawing the slaughter of the cow?
Currently, Śrī Śaṅkarācārya in Purī and Śrī Prabhudattajī Brahmacārī in Vṛndāvana are fasting to death to stop cow slaughter. Their lives are in danger, as they are close to death. The lives of Śrī Rāmacandravīra and hundreds of others who are devoted to the cow are also in danger; thousands have already been incarcerated and thousands are in the process of being incarcerated. The agitation initiated by members from all parties by forming the Cow Protection Grand Protest Society is running everywhere with great force. Response to this can be seen all over India. The Congress Party’s central action committee has also advised the government to put an end to cow slaughter. Despite their attempts, this enormous sin is being perpetuated. This is a matter of great misfortune.
In such a situation, it is incumbent on this country’s government to immediately declare a complete ban on cow slaughter. They must do so out of regard for the staunch attitudes displayed by the people of India. If they do not, those great souls who are the object of our dharmic people’s faith shall actually sacrifice their lives. It is also incumbent on the people of India, along with all their respectable leaders, to effectively and peacefully intensify their pressure on the government to stop slaughtering the cow. If they don’t, the nation as a whole, not just the government, is bound to suffer horrendous consequences.
* “Āryan” (Sanskrit) literally means honourable, noble or excellent. It refers to the ancient Vedic culture coming from the dawn of time. The foundation of Vedic culture is the advancement of spiritual life, personal and collective, which determines societal laws and values. The author has not used the word “Āryan” in connection with World War 2 Germany.
*** This is a Hindi idiom. “Not even the wriggling of a parasite reaches his ears”, means that although a person is told something again and again, he remains inattentive and completely unaffected, and thus he takes no action.
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