“There are seven kinds of mothers according to Vedic injunction: the real mother, the wife of a teacher or spiritual master, the wife of a king, the wife of a brahmana, the cow, the nurse, and the mother earth. Because Putana came to take Krishna on her lap and offer her breast’s milk to be sucked by Him, she was accepted by Krishna as one of His mothers.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 6)
Not chosen randomly. Not merely a corresponding regulation, similar to what other spiritual traditions follow, with just a different animal put in place. Not a spot reserved for protection, rotating based on the time and circumstance.
The protection of cows in the Vedic tradition is based on a simple identification. Due to the cow’s importance from providing milk, it is treated as a mother. Any civilized person would protect their mother. They would never think of killing her, and in this light there are seven kinds of mothers according to Vedic injunction, each worthy of protection.
1. The real mother
Like her or not, she gave birth to you. That wasn’t easy, even if the surgical route was taken as opposed to natural childbirth. Keeping a living being inside of you for nine months is no picnic. Then there is the love and attention provided immediately after. The newborn only knows one way to communicate dissatisfaction: crying. They wake up constantly, need to have their diapers changed, and require feeding.
The real mother should be respected. That is the way of civilized people. There may be arguments or disagreements, but that is only natural in a family. The seed-giver is the father, and the mother provides the space in which to grow. The parents are the first teachers; hence they are also known as guru.
2. The wife of a teacher or spiritual master
In ancient times school took place at the home of the spiritual master, who is known as guru because of the weight of teaching and example they carry. Children would stay with the teacher and carry out daily responsibilities. Life was rather austere, but children can handle such situations better than adults.
The guru belongs to the brahmana order of life. This is the priest or intellectual. They are realized in Brahman, which is the impersonal spiritual energy visible everywhere through the very presence of life. The second of four stages of life in Vedic culture is marriage. It is possible for the guru to be in the grihastha-ashrama, living with a wife. That wife should be treated like another mother.
3. The wife of a king
In America she is called the First Lady. It is an honorary title, a way to give respect. The President is considered the most important person due to their responsibility. They have to protect the entire country, even people that disagree with them on the issues. The wife of such a ruler is considered a mother due to the close proximity to leadership.
4. The wife of a brahmana
The application is similar to the example of the guru. The spiritual master is a brahmana, but not all brahmanas are officially recognized as teachers of students. They may follow a different engagement, such as performing sacrifices, reading the Vedas, or teaching others how to perform sacrifices. The wives of such saintly people should be viewed on the level of mother, as well.
5. The cow
An animal identified to be different, unique and auspicious specifically by the Vedic tradition, the cow should be both respected and protected. The justification is obvious based on the output alone. Milk and milk products are enjoyed by vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Is it proper to repay that kindness by killing unnecessarily, when so much other food is available?
The cow produces this milk out of love. It is said that in the holy land of Vrindavana, during the time of Shri Krishna the cows would produce so much milk simply upon seeing Him. He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, after all. Several of His names reference His affection for cows. He is Gopala; their protector. He is Govinda, the one who gives them pleasure. In so many pictures He is seen with cows. There is never a thought to kill them unnecessarily. It is said that in places where brahmanas and cows are protected auspiciousness and happiness abound.
6. The nurse
Though in modern times with the identified occupation the gender may not always be female, the idea of respect remains the same. The nurse provides vital assistance, and many times without appreciation. The patient can be grumpy, grouchy and non-cooperative, but the nurse has to push through with their responsibilities.
During Shri Krishna’s time on earth, the identification of nurse could go to someone who provided milk from the breast. There is the example of Putana. She came to Vrindavana in disguise to feed poison to baby Krishna. She was able to enter the house of Yashoda because the people were generally very kind to each other. It must be assumed that it was not out of the ordinary for mothers in the community to nurse children who were not their own.
Though she was actually a witch, and though she came with ill-intent, Krishna still gave Putana liberation. She was killed because Krishna sucked the very life out of her, rendering the poison smeared on her breast ineffective. Since she died while conscious of the Supreme Lord, she attained liberation. Thus there was indeed respect shown to the nurse, who is on the level of mother.
7. Mother earth
Known as Bhumi Devi, the earth is a goddess. That is to say there is an intelligent being presiding over the planet consisting of material elements. Equating earth to a mother is not exclusive to the Vedic tradition, as it is not out of the ordinary to think that the earth, which gives everything, should be respected. She is the symbol of tolerance, as she accepts so much suffering and yet still provides ample output of grains. All the seeds necessary for continuing life come from the earth, so in this way she is a life-giver on the level of mother.
Not just the mother birth giving,
Also teacher’s wife of spiritual living.
In earth found every seed,
Cow highest animal indeed.
Also one to ruler of kingdom married,
Nurse like Putana who poison carried.
Liberation to her Krishna to send,
Showing way respect to extend.
Categories: krishna pastimes