Sannyasis and Cows
By His Holiness Danavir Goswami
[The following is an excerpt from a letter by HH Danavir Goswami]
All Glories to Sri Guru and Gauranga!
November 14, 2002 Krishna Era 5230
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada.
I have read your statement about Vaisnava swamis whom you accuse of not being truly committed to cow protection.
The tests you give to prove the accusation are:
“1) When he initiates a disciple, he uses only ghee produced by protected cows who are the mothers of working oxen. And the grains which are thrown in the fire have been planted by oxen. That would be the ideal test..
2) At least he would be working to build the social structure where that could happen. That’s what Srila Prabhupada was doing, he was building a social structure in which cows could be protected.”
Regarding test number 1—yes, that would be ideal and your zeal to see that day come is laudable. However, it is not correct to say that using ghee from unprotected cows is improper or sinful. If cows are mistreated, that is wrong and should be rectified certainly. But milk products are beneficial to man’s health, intellect and spiritual advancement and thus should not be dismissed. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
The culprit is the personality of Kali who influences people to eat meat and kill cows. But Kali will laugh twice when he succeeds in convincing devotees and thus the public, to reject unprotected cow’s milk products. Exploited creatures can also be engaged in devotional service. Krsna’s own mother, Devaki, was incarcerated, mistreated, abused, and six of her newborn babies were mercilessly slaughtered, but she still delivered Krsna from her womb. Unprotected Gomata’s sincere offerings of milk to Lord Krsna should be encouraged since everyone should be engaged in Krsna’s service.
Two distinct practices are at work; 1) extracting liquid religiosity from the cows in the form of milk which is good and 2) slaughtering cows and bulls for meat-eating which is bad. The first activity does not cause the second since for thousands of generations citizens of India milked cows without slaughtering them. The argument that milking cows is encouraging slaughter of cows is illogical. Consuming modern milk products does not contribute to animal suffering and to suggest that it does contradicts Srila Prabhupada who encouraged us to do so.
“In your country you have got enough nice grains, nice fruits, enough supply of milk, butter. So there is no question of accepting any other food. You can accept foodstuff within this group and become healthy and good brain, good conscience.” (Lecture: December 24, 1969 at Harvard)
Undoubtedly the preferable milk products are those produced by protected cows on ISKCON farms. Currently, however, as it was during Srila Prabhupada’s personal presence, such milk products are difficult for most to obtain, especially those who live in cities. Does Krsna like or accept the offerings made with modern commercial milk? Yes.
“I am so glad to hear that, because the sales manager of Darigold dairy is sympathetic to our Krishna Consciousness movement, you are being supplied 20 gallons of fresh milk weekly and free of charge. He is a good friend so keep him posted of our activities and encourage him sufficiently.” (Letter from Srila Prabhupada: July 4, 1971)
Srila Prabhupada often commented on how the whole atmosphere in Kali-yuga is polluted and thus everything is adulterated. Assessing the situation from all spiritual angles of vision, he established standards suitable for a Vaisnava society to flourish in the West. The standard he set for use of commercial dairy products was that, in the absence of such products produced on ISKCON’s own farms, commercial milk, butter and ghee should be used by devotees in offerings to the Lord at ISKCON temples and at devotees’ homes. Such offerings are pleasing to the Lord and the Lord accepts them happily despite the pollution inherent in the western world. Even the air we breathe, the water we drink and the vegetables and fruits everyone eats are affected by some pollution.
“Now, if you have got sufficient foodstuff—a state I see in America. You have got sufficient grains, sufficient fruits, sufficient milk, milk products.” (Lecture by Srila Prabhupada: April 26, 1969)
Regarding test number 2—“At least he would be working to build the social structure where that could happen. That’s what Srila Prabhupada was doing, he was building a social structure in which cows could be protected.”
Yes, that social structure is ISKCON and every ISKCON sannyasi is working to build a better society by educating the populace in the principles of devotional service and to encouraging the demonstration of cow protected farm communities. Bhakti Raghava Maharaja has mentioned some names of ISKCON sannyasis who are directly connected with cow protection while others who were not mentioned are also dedicated to protecting cows and bulls. It is the duty of the sannyasis to travel and preach about cow protection and they do that. It is the duty of stationary householders to demonstrate the ideal.
Of course, I realize that you are encouraging all ISKCON sannyasis to do more in this regard and that is welcome. Specific areas of neglect should be addressed appropriately yet such a blanket condemnation of all sannyasis seems unwarranted to me.
Hoping this finds you in the best of health,