“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)
ब्राह्मणे गवि हस्तिनि
शुनि चैव श्व-पाके च
brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni caiva śva-pāke ca
1. A dog
“Man’s best friend. In certain parts of the world you would think these are the kings and queens of society. They are treated better than royalty. One man may absolutely despise his neighbors, the other members of the community, the flag of the nation and so forth, but be willing to sacrifice life and limb for his dog.
“Likely the most attractive trait in the dog is loyalty. It will not yell at you for coming home late. It will not complain about the size of the apartment or the brand of cereal you purchased from the supermarket. It is simply happy to be in your association.
“It can understand to a significant degree, but there is the great barrier in communication. It cannot talk, no matter how much instruction it receives. It can help so many people, but at the end of the day it is still an animal.”
2. A dog-eater
“Don’t scoff at the idea. In certain parts of the world people do indeed eat dogs. You might think it’s ridiculous, but is it really much different than what gets produced in the slaughterhouses? You are making the comparison based on acceptable behavior in society, but I am saying that everyone has been degraded for many generations now.
“Yes, the dog-eaters are considered low class. They do not have a high stature, for if they had more money and means they would probably be eating a more expensive type of meat. Anyway, the law of nature says that one living entity is food for another. Who are you to judge?”
3. An elephant
“The man who makes internet videos for children was explaining how heavy elephants can be. Such a massive weight that gets effortlessly moved through the jungle. In certain marriage ceremonies the respective parties arrive at the event seated on elephants. The elephant is so powerful that just by walking through an area it can destroy it; without malicious intent.”
4. A cow
“In certain parts of the world this animal is considered sacred. The reverence dates back thousands of years, in fact. The modern day principles of free market economics were described long before in Vedic literature, using the cow as a reference point.
“The context is in having sufficient wealth in a kingdom. Rather than raising taxes at every moment of difficulty, create an atmosphere where the producers will be free to go about doing business. The comparison is to the cow and how it produces much more milk when cared for and allowed to roam about the fields, without fear of violence.
“From a little attention and love the cow produces so many items useful to the human society. Obviously, there is milk. Then there are the milk products, such as butter, cheese and yogurt. Cow dung can be used for fuel and cow urine has tremendous healing properties. All of this from a single animal, who doesn’t demand much in return.”
5. A learned brahmana
“The root definition refers to someone who has realized Brahman. This is the spiritual energy. Undivided, though seemingly divided and dispersed throughout the creation. Realizing Brahman is not easy. There is corresponding work. In this way the brahmana is both a status and an occupation.
“A learned brahmana is respected throughout society because of their ability to relate to every kind of person. They can offer advice to people in other occupations. They can see the bigger picture, since they understand the Brahman energy. In this way brahmanas are known to be seers of the three time periods: past, present and future.”
At first glance, a person would have to be considered crazy to think that these five are equal. They are completely different in the way they look, the way they behave, and their potential for action. No one would go up to a tiger and ask questions about shastra. No one would approach a brahmana and ask them to go fetch a tennis ball across the field.
Yet this is the power of the spiritual vision. It sees that these five are living entities at the core. They are equal, as confirmed by Shri Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita. This knowledge is essential for meeting the ultimate objective of liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
Not that I will necessarily treat these five the same, but I will lose any feelings of superiority or inferiority. I will offer the same kind of respect, manifesting especially in the protection of life. There is no reason to kill another living entity without cause or just for satisfying the taste buds. To the best of my ability I should respect all forms of life, as they are sparks from the Divine, equal in quality.
The spiritual vision is easier to maintain when understanding the source of spirit. The bhakti tradition automatically incorporates lack of cruelty based on the loving sentiments offered to the all-attractive one, who is connected to every living entity but is especially fond of the cows.
With every being a bond,
But of cows especially fond.
Which at core equal to me and you,
To humans and other species too.
At first glance difficult to see,
Since others not as intelligent to be.
Through wisdom of shastra detecting,
And then automatically respecting.
Categories: the five