Cow Katha

by mrupa

I’ve been following Laksmi’s progress and was encouraged a few days ago when it looked like she might recover. That she had such a rally is a miracle in itself. I am sure it is due to the care she is receiving. I was also struck by your comment about seeing ‘that’ in agriculture; meaning the cycle of life and Krsna’s mercy. And how the two go together with Krsna always trying to bring us Home and closer to Home.

It has made me flash on my time in the old barn at Bahulavana; not the one that’s falling apart from fire damage and age there now, the original one that came with the property.

I can still be adrenalinized if my dreams flash across the time I walked into the barn to do some service, and a pack of wild dogs were having a feeding frenzy on the body of a recently deceased cow just out behind the barn. Usually when a cow died, her body was taken out into the woods, but this mother had passed and was at the back yard entrance in to the stalls.

When the brahmacarinis moved down from Vrindavana Farm, I was given a lot of service in the barn. One reason told to me, was because it was felt that the association of the cows would help me with the difficult adjustment I was having to the ‘new’ environment. I wasn’t a Brahmin yet and couldn’t go on the altar, but an equally good place to experience the nectar of Vrindavana was in the barn in the service of Krsna’s cows.

Right after Tulasi arotike I would go out to the barn by myself and start shoveling out the stalls, put down grain and sometimes help fill the water trough, and brush cows or sometimes feed calves. There was always a soothing sense of atmosphere there early morning with the cows: some would be laying down, some standing. Something about the sound of their breathing, their occasional exhaling oofs, and movements, combined with their own general attitude of calm patience and endurance, their warmth and even their smell seemed to create a sort of time warp or consciousness-warp as you stepped across the threshold into the household of the cows. The sounds they made were as comforting and steadily encouraging as the early morning japa in the temple room.

You really get to know animals as persons, spirit soul, when you serve them. And it is especially so with Krsna’s cows. You experience their different personalities, and characters, each one’s differing traits like sound and timber of voice, gestures, even expressions of eye and glance, and natures. And you learn pretty quick that cows aren’t just plodding always docile cud chewers. They have a wide range of emotions, desires and moods.

One morning Kaliya (our first cow) really didn’t much want to be bothered with me mucking around in her stall. Normally, she was very co-operative about pretty much whatever anyone was doing for her. But this morning she clearly didn’t want to be bothered. I went about the shovel-out as gently as I could, but Kaliya’s stall was right at the end of the line where you shoved out all the stool and urine through the little doorway onto the cow dung pile outside the barn. It would usually take me a few runs through the trough to get the whole night’s deposits shoveled out through the wall there directly behind and just beyond Kaliya’s stance.

Well, with each pass she was obviously less than appreciative, and just wanted to be left alone. Kaliya wasn’t a ‘kicker’; like say Surabhi was. She was a lot more subtle. She expressed her distaste with my annoying presence at first with her tail, whipping it across my face as I came behind her with an uncannily accurate aim for not looking directly at me.

Finally, with the last pile up at the little door, I was standing directly behind Kaliya and noisily shoveling the dung out when all of a sudden there was a very warm cloying feeling in my left boot. I looked down into a steaming freshly filled and overflowing bootfull of Kaliya dung. I looked up at her, and I swear she had turned her head around at me and was the closest to smiling I have ever seen an animal be.

Once; the whole community was eagerly anticipating the approaching calving of our biggest milker at the time, Sarasvati. She wasn’t as big as Himavati, but she had produced record amounts of milk for Radha Vrindavana Chandra. Generally, when a cow is about to give birth, she lays down. But this particular morning when I went in, Sarasvati was still standing up in her stall. I went about my duties trying to especially make the expectant mother’s place cozy. But after I went into the back part of the barn, I heard a strange voice.

At first I thought one of the cows was kind of disgruntled about something and I came back into the front section of stalls to see if I could help. And there was Sarasvati still standing, with a calf half out of her bawling for all they were worth. I charged over to the temple to tell the cowherd boys and get Devaki and Amburish. Devotees were just coming out of the temple room onto the porch by then. When I came running up shouting “Sarasvati’s having her calf!” The whole morning program relocated to the barn.

I recall a period when one exceptionally loud and demonstrative devotee was severely criticizing the cowherd devotees and the running of the herd practically every chance they got and to whoever they could; from board meetings to Istagosthis, to darshans. For the most part the cowherd boys most targeted this way were very patient about it. But I remember Amburish responding once, “What do you want me to do? I can’t stop birth and death!”

Information and Links

Join the fray by commenting, tracking what others have to say, or linking to it from your blog.

Reader Comments

I am a regular reader of Madhava Gosh’s writings about the cow. He once mentioned to me that one of many goals was to create awareness about the cow and he sure has succeeded with me. Thank you Madhava Gosh!
I always read the old NV stories, especially related to the barn, cows, Bahulavan, etc with a sense of envy – an envy that I could not be part of that wonderful time. Reading every write up on these posts sends home the realization that my own contributions to cows are not remotely good enough.
Kudos to all of you for your selfless contributions to the cows and Krishna for so many years.
Hare Krishna..Sridhar

sorry it took so long for your comment to post. All comments are moderated and I took a respite from the cyberworld yesterday and never turned my computer on.

Those days were then, and certainly were amazing on many levels, but today is the dawn of a new era and you are on the ground floor of that. Someday they will be talking about this period the same way, albeit a distinctly different flavor.

We stand on the cusp of the cow endowment fund era, where cow protection will be financially stabilized and preserved at New Vrindaban when the cow program itself was slowly winding down. It will also be revived at other ISKCON farms in America, and expanded to where it has never been yet.

This is also an exciting and enlivening time, even if a good part of the austerity of this era is the seemingly slow pace that it is unwinding at.

Someday devotees will look back at this time and say, “Wow, they used to have to fund the programs out of cash flow!”
Anyway, that at least is the vision and hope. 🙂