By Sanjaya Gohil (Bhaktivedanta Manor, UK.)
“When Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa incarnated Himself at Vṛndāvana, He took pleasure in becoming a beloved son of such a vaiśya family. Nanda Mahārāja was a big protector of cows, and Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, as the most beloved son of Nanda Mahārāja, used to tend His father’s animals in the neighboring forest. By His personal example Lord Kṛṣṇa wanted to teach us the value of protecting cows.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda (Light of the Bhāgavata, Text 9)
Over the last few years, we have seen a huge increase in the awareness of food production, animal husbandry and its links to ecology and changes in our planetary climate. There has been an exponential rise in the veganism movement, and a greater spotlight has been placed on our ISKCON movement regarding cow protection.
Here at Bhaktivedanta Manor we understand there is a sense of urgency regarding this topic. It was Śrīla Prabhupāda’s great desire to show the world the meaning of cow protection through our movement and be a beacon of inspiration with regards to simple living and high thinking. With that in mind, Bhaktivedanta Manor is mobilizing. The temple is increasing its cow protection preaching efforts alongside planning for an increase in goshala herd size to meet its ahimsa dairy requirements. On top of that, there has been a clear shift towards education as Bhaktivedanta Manor will soon be formally teaching students about cow protection through a six-week introductory course.
The ultimate and ideal goal of cow protection preaching efforts must be to inspire people to take up the responsibility of caring for cows themselves. As the grips of Kaliyuga strengthen, there is an immediate need for devotees to take up this common Vaisnava duty. Perhaps now is time to turn our attention towards thinking practically about developing small cow sanctuary projects up and down the country, wherever you are. Śrīla Prabhupāda’s cow protection vision and the teachings of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam regarding Varṇāśrama is not something to just think of as a utopian but unrealistic way of life. We must see it as sublime and something to actively strive towards. We often keep cow figurines as altar paraphernalia and we heartwarmingly think of the Lord’s sweet pastimes in Vṛndāvana with His cows. This remembrance of Lord Kṛṣṇa is integral for our spiritual development and now is the time to transform this remembrance into action for the descendants of Surabhi.
We learn that the killing of cows is hugely detrimental to the peaceful progression of society and the karmic reactions from such a gross activity is immense. Through reading scriptures such as the Bhagavad-Gītā and Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, we know cows need to be protected and cared for if society is to be spiritually uplifted.
The concern here is that your nearest temple that has a Goshala can only do so much for the cause before reaching its own saturation point. It is likely that their cow shed facilities and pasturing land have reached full capacity and thus no more cows can be accommodated for. It is also highly likely that the temple’s finances and available manpower may not stretch far enough to extend their cow protection program. The temple management team could also be focusing their efforts on other vital fronts, such as prasadam and book distribution.
So a change in culture needs to happen swiftly if we are to see more cows and bulls being saved from senseless slaughter. In the Western world it has long been seen as a temple’s responsibility to look after cows but as we study the topic of cow protection further, we know that this belief is not correct. The dharmic duty of caring for cows is common to all and must be adopted by all.
The majority of us have been conditioned to accept a fast-paced city life as opposed to an agrarian one. It is clear that alongside structured education on the topic of cow protection, devotees leading more self-sufficient lifestyles will be an important factor in the development of this essential part of our dharma. With the proper knowledge, land and community support, devotee families can lead more self-sufficient lifestyles where some fruits and vegetables can be produced, and a cow or two can live peacefully and in harmony with the family. There is an increasing culture of taking up smallholdings just outside of the big cities, particularly amongst non-devotees looking to untangle from the rat race. However, it is the Vaisnavas that are primed to lead this emerging smallholding culture with Vedic knowledge as the wind in their sails. As we become more conscious of our lifestyle choices and more knowledgeable on the topic of sustainability, smallholdings should be taught about and encouraged amongst our Krishna Conscious communities. For those who do decide to give such a lifestyle a chance, the congregational community should rally around them to provide support and encouragement; this will be most important. Over time we may become inspired by those who are successfully living a simpler lifestyle in harmony with cows that it sparks the fire in others to do the same.
Knowledge is no doubt the key to unlock the potential within us to take positive steps forward in this mission of cow protection and over time, our temples will lead the way in providing structured and methodological education on this topic. We are lucky to have an active GBC department focused on the subject of cow protection and agriculture, and we are certainly progressing in the right direction. Hare Krishna!
“Human society needs only sufficient grain and sufficient cows to solve its economic problems. All other things but these two are artificial necessities created by man to kill his valuable life at the human level and waste his time in things which are not needed.”
Śrīla Prabhupāda (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, 3.2.29, Purport.)