Today is Gopashtami, it is the day when Nanda Maharaj worshipped cows and also gave Krishna and his elder brother Balaram the responsibility of herding the cows in Vrindavan. Devotees of Krishna celebrate this day by bathing and cleaning the cows, they do go – puja (Cow worship) and also visit Gosala. However the sacred cow revered as mother has become a subject of much controversy so much so that her life itself is in danger. For Hindus cow is sacred so they want to protect her. But some sections of the society especially non Hindus such as Muslims want the right to kill her and eat her flesh. Left liberal intellectuals known for loathing Hindu tradition and culture are gleefully advocating the killing of holy cows.
Amidst all this cacophony the sufferer is the poor cow. Cow eats raw grass provided abundantly by nature and converts it into milk. Now there would not be any individual who would deny the fact that they have been nourished by cow’s milk and milk products. Cow is serving us selflessly just like our noble mother who throughout her life serves us without any expectations. And so the Vedic literature asks us to treat cow as our mother and asks us to protect cows and care for her just like a child is expected to take care of her mother. In Bhagavad-gita (18.44), cow protection is recommended (kṛṣi-go-rakṣya-vaṇijyaṁ vaisya-karma svabhava jam). Krishna is even called Gopal and Govinda. Gopal means one who takes care of cows and Govinda means one who gives pleasure to the cows.
Now why the Vedas give emphasis to serve the cows and not other animals. To understand this let us understand the purpose of the holy books. Be it Vedas, Koran or Bible, all these sacred books underline the process by which we humans can gradually elevate our consciousness. And so Vedas assert that as humans we should try to have a sense of gratitude towards those who serve us and care for us. Since mother cow serves us by giving milk, so we should take care of her. Ideally we should have loving attitude towards all the children of God including animals and plants but at least we have to begin somewhere and slowly reach the stage where our heart is filled with love and compassion for all. So we should strive hard to cleanse our heart of all ungodly qualities.
A person’s greatness is not measured by how cruel he is. If this would have been the criteria then likes of Hitler and Aurangzeb would have been eulogized today. It is the character of compassions which makes a person really human. And all the religions of the world, be it Hinduism, Islam or Christianity, speak the language of peace, brotherhood and most importantly tolerance. Because there can be no peace without tolerance.
We all know the story of a sage who was taking bath in a river and saw a scorpion drowning. He picked up the scorpion to save his life but the scorpion bit him and fell again into the river. The sage again picked the scorpion and again got bitten by the scorpion. The sage again picked the scorpion. A person who was observing all these was shocked to see, he thought the sage to be insane and so asked, “Why don’t you let it die. It is not responding to your generosity”. The sage said, “Scorpion’s character is to bite others and put them in pain. But the dharma of a sage is to protect all and show compassion to all. The scorpion is not ready to give up his nature, so why should I.”
Hindus and Muslims have to decide whether they want to be like a scorpion troubling & biting each other or like a sage loving and caring each other. Muslims will not become lesser Muslims by respecting the religious beliefs of the Hindus and Hindus will not become lesser Hindus by respecting the beliefs of the Muslims. Killing cows is not mandatory for Muslim as per their religion. In fact there is no glory in killing cows and eating her flesh. Many noble Muslim brothers have given up this business. But if some Muslims want to get out of this business but because of poverty is not able to do so, then the Hindus should financially help them to get out of such business.
Also, the emotionally surcharged statements like “I love eating beef” or “Muslims will be punished for eating beef” made by crazy sections of both the communities should be avoided. We should create a violence-free society where there is no bloodshed and where Hindus & Muslims live together peacefully without hurting and humiliating each other and without killing or maiming each other.
By Purushottam Kumar