Let It Begin #10-“You’re a Cow Herder Now, Young Skywalker” (Part Deux)

by Bhakta-Chris

15 cows. 4 cow-herders (Jaya-Prabhupada, Caitanya Das, Bhaktin Alycia, and myself). 5 miles of bonafide West Virginia hillside.

I am a self-confessed city boy, shamefully and shamelessly addicted to the many maddening modern comforts of the Western world. Still, I am drawn to the pastimes of the cowherd boy like the tidal pools under a full moon.

I am thinking my past life consisted of being a simple village boy in India, doing a lot of farming, a little devotional service, and one particular visit to Mumbai where I became so fascinated by the neon lights and mach-speed delights that when I left that particular body, I said “No thanks, my Lord. I wanna go to America!”

Therefore, there I went, and by the inconceivable mercy of Gaur-Nitai, I’m now here in the New V trying to pay my sweet penance for that choice.

Outside of my recent difficulty in just trying to move one cow, (Let It Begin #9) I have never ever been involved in any kind of organized exodus of a group of holy heifers. It didn’t begin well. Our first two initial efforts to get the guys and gals out of the Govardhana Goshalla grazing ground was met with indifference and a lot of insolence. Three times I pretty much fell knee-deep in the cold mud-dung combination that posed as solid ground.

Our boss-das Jaya Prabhupada was very confused about the udder lack of cooperation going one between man and animal. Usually, he has no problem getting the herd into the barn. Plus, the guys and gals were hungry for fresh grass and knew where to go. So, why the fuss? We blamed it on Alycia’s bright-yellow jacket, and with a rousing cry of “third time’s the charm!”, we gave it another go and got the herd out and on the march.

What I thought was going to be a mellow day under the blue sky quickly turned into a intense workout as the herd crossed the field towards the forest path. Sprinting, yelling, sweating, pleading. A number of the gals decided to go off in each possible direction and munch away at the feast at their feet.

Out of breath, but starting to feel an internal glow, I began to understand that we were not leading the pack, but following the hoofsteps. As the herd hit the path, I noticed two cows deciding to take the scenic route off the beaten path through the forest, so I took charge and care and followed.

After being led-through about three dozen thorn-bushes, we came to a very steep hillside that my bovine companions decided to scale, all of us doing this scaling with varying degrees of difficulty and determination. Here, I faced my mortality in a way I have never faced it before.

One of the young ladies was having a bit of a deal getting her four legs up the steep hill. I came near her and gave her some verbal encouragement, at one point standing directly behind her as she slowly made her way up.

For one small moment, I realized I was standing steeply downhill behind a 2000-pound cow, who if she slipped and came backwards, would crush my poor, useless body into mulch. I politely but quickly moved aside, and we eventually hit the path again.

After that experience, I realized that I had no choice in this matter and other larger matters. I must only put my faith in following Krsna and His cows, because they know where they are going, and I certainly have much less of a clue.

The task at hand eventually began to wash away some of the fatigue of the soul. The natural surroundings beckoned deep serenity, the old cabins and houses of past devotional scenes loomed with ghostly mystery.

A walking stick in my left hand, chanting Hare Krsna on my right hand, cows in front of and behind me, I whispered that now would be a perfect time to leave this mortal frame, but, alas, there is still a lot more work to do.

My pace began to match one particular cow, red-hair with a bad, cloudy eye. I took particular care to let her know we were almost there, suggesting to her to stop at nearby water puddles for what seemed like a much needed drink.

She didn’t heed, and simply marched forward. I checked off another lesson in staying on the straight-and-narrow path towards the goal of Godhead, not straying off into side roads for comforts I don’t essentially need.

We finally hit the Palace Road, and I watched in glee as a large dump truck had to slow its pace to near nil in order to accommodate the six or so cows moving at their own natural pace in front of it. Chalk up a small victory for the future I want to see.

Into the pasture behind Bahulaban, a few stragglers bringing up the rear. Sweet success for all. One of the perfections of devotional service this was. Actual practical hard-working Krsna-pleasing engagement.

One realization: A cow-herder is much like the sannyasi. Both carry a big stick. Both wander the wildernesses of this planet. The cow-herder herds cows to where they need to go. The sannyasi herds the lost human souls to where they need to go. Both jobs are quite difficult, but they are the essence of doing the needful.

As we walked and hitch-hiked back to the New V, Jaya Prabhupada regaled us with stories of his conversion to the Vaisnava sphere, saying he had once been a wandering craft-making hipster whose line to all others was that “I’m looking for a new planet.” One day, he picked up Easy Journey to Other Planets, and the rest has been golden for him.

He might agree with me here, but in the fine two-and-four step of herding Radha Vrindaban Chandra’s beloved holy heifers, there is nothing wrong with being on this planet at this particular time in the ol’ grand scheme of things.

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