About this blog

I hope to offer some of the ideas of Vaishnava Vedanta which have particular application in revealing the bigger picture of life and the universe as well as many of the simple things of life.

Mother Cow

Nature & EnvironmentPosted by Akhandadhi das Thu, October 08, 2015 01:01:19

BBC Rdio 4 - Thought for the Day

25th June 1996

The pundits may debate if the cease-fire in the beef war really was a victory for the government, but it is certainly no victory for Britain’s population of cows. The steps to eradicate BSE by culling another million animals is a ferocious display of humans yet again pulling rank on our four-legged friends.

We are so confident of our superiority as homo-sapiens, that we assume a right to subject cows to questionable farming methods. We fed them the unnatural diet of offal which gave rise to BSE. And now we’re organising a mass slaughter to inspire European consumer confidence in eating their flesh. All for short-sighted economic gain.

Short-sighted, not just because of the expense of the cull and compensation, but because we may be missing out on our humanity. My faith and experience convince me that intelligence and consciousness are not the prerogatives of humans.

When I began my training of the Hindu priesthood, my first service was helping care for the ashram’s dairy herd. One of our cows called Surabhi demonstrated remarkable ingenuity. Every day as I followed her to the pasture, she devised a different plan for getting to the nearby cabbage patch. One day, she nonchalantly walked past the cabbages, unusually ignoring them. She stopped at the field gate 50 yards beyond. And whilst I was busy opening the gate for her, she suddenly turned and sprinted back up the track to the cabbages.

It’s not just cows. The Bhagavad-gita says that spiritual vision entails seeing the same vital spark which is the source of our consciousness and personality also present in all living beings. Hinduism, therefore, accepts all life as sacred.

But, the cow is especially important because of its symbiotic relationship with humans. In infancy, we are nourished by our mother’s breastmilk, then mother cow continues to provide for us. For centuries, the bull was invaluable for ploughing and transport. And their manure is still the best fertiliser available.

Where is our gratitude for a creature on whom we are so reliant? Rather, we respond to their benevolence by condemning cattle to an abrupt existence of brutality. Whether or not we accept that they have souls like humans, surely we must forego such ungrateful mistreatment for fellow species.

The language and belligerence of the beef crisis exemplify Mahatma Gandhi’s thesis that compassion and sensitivity are eroded from humanity when we exploit creatures who deserve our care and protection.

Our cow, Surabhi, passed away of old age at 28. Throughout her life she gave her milk abundantly. It was fitting that she spent her twilight years grazing peacefully with her children and grandchildren. I know she would wish the same life for her friends.

© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Thought for the Day” on the Today programme Radio 4.

Liquid Consumerism

Nature & EnvironmentPosted by Akhandadhi das Thu, October 08, 2015 00:57:50

BBC Radio 4 - Thought for the Day

22nd February 1996

Good morning. It is ironic that, in the same week scientists reported adverse changes to the Gulf Stream caused by global warming, we are then faced with another environmental disaster, also related to a Man and Nature clash. The sea, it seems, struck back - only to spite itself. Although the Sea Empress has now been rescued, its lost cargo of crude oil will do no good to the wildlife of the Pembrokeshire coast. And dispersing the slick by chemical treatment further exacerbates the questionable cocktail that was once salt-water.

The huge slick isn’t just oil, it is liquid consumerism. Oil is drilled and transported to fuel our insatiable cravings for more products and services, - and to have them now - in the belief that happiness is increased through endless material acquisition. Prahlad, a renowned Hindu saint, did not share this belief. He warned, “ideas devised by greedy and materialistic minds fail to satisfy our expectations of pleasure. Rather, such “solutions” to life’s problems bring more severe problems in their wake.”

We may look back to the dirty era of 19th century industry and persuade ourselves that our current technology is somehow more benign. Yet, we are doing more to desecrate the natural world - indeed, we have ample potential to make it totally uninhabitable.

We must certainly apply our intelligence to consider methods of lifestyle, industry, agriculture and transport which are truly sustainable. After all, if human brain-power can put man on the moon, why can’t it resolve our basic needs on earth without disrupting the eco-system for future generations? But, intellect alone is not the answer.

The satirical story of one young man eager to live simply and eschew materialistic life illustrates the tendency. This budding ascetic was advised to be satisfied owning a single loin-cloth. After a while, he thought that having a second cloth would be advantageous and, surely, no hindrance. However, this spare cloth was attacked by mice and so the young man got a cat to guard it; then he got a cow to provide milk for the cat; then a wife to care for the cow; and, before he knew it, he was back in his old job, paying the mortgage.

In an age when personal fulfilment is God, and economic growth the religion, self-control and an honest appraisal of our real needs are not virtues. Perhaps, it requires a revolution of our concept of happiness to plug the gushing flow of liquid consumerism.

Once, a king berated a brahmana youth for not taking advantage of his offer of land and wealth. The brahmana replied that “ if I were not content with the simple possessions I now have, how would I be satisfied even if you gave me the whole world? Contentment,” he said, “is internal satisfaction gained by an enriching of the heart, not endless acquisition at the expense of Mother Earth.”

© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Thought for the Day” on the Today programme Radio 4.