“Everyone can understand that we drink the milk of cows and take the help of bulls in producing agricultural products. Therefore, since our real father gives us food grains and our mother gives us milk with which to live, the cow and bull are considered our father and mother. According to Vedic civilization, there are seven mothers, of which the cow is one.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 17.154, Purport)
Friend1: We get this question a lot, and there is always a “stumpability” factor to it.
Friend2: Stumpability? Is that a word?
Friend1: I don’t think so, but it should be. Stumpability – the measure of a question’s value in terms of difficulty in resolving by an acknowledged expert.
Friend2: That’s pretty good.
Friend1: The question relates to the cow, specifically its importance within the Vedic tradition.
Friend2: What is the exact question?
Friend1: Basically, what is so significant about the cow? Why not assign the same priority to other animals?
Friend2: But we do. If you follow the Vaishnava tradition, there is ahimsa. Nonviolence, in the general sense. You still need kshatriyas, a class of people to protect against injury. To the best extent possible, don’t do harm to others, both physically and verbally.
Friend1: Okay, that is fine, but people often wonder why the cow is so prominent. Why is Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, so fond of that particular animal? Why not a goat or a bull? Why not a cat or a dog?
Friend2: What do you think the answer is?
Friend1: I’m not sure. Maybe because we follow Krishna, so whatever priority He assigns to a particular species, we have to accept.
Friend2: A primary reason is the equivalence with motherhood. The cow is one of the seven mothers in this world.
Friend1: What are the other six?
Friend2: Let me see if I can remember without looking it up. There is the earth. That’s a big one. Mother earth. She tolerates so much. She gives way every now and then through earthquakes, but she does not harbor any resentment for the burden she must carry.
Friend1: I have heard that before, the comparison to the mother. Makes sense to me.
Friend2: The wife of the spiritual master. Oh, the actual mother, the one who gives birth. And the nurse.
Friend1: You are up to five.
Friend2: I will have to look up the rest…Okay, the wife of a king and the wife of a brahmana. Basically, include any prominent wives that you would encounter in this world.
Friend1: I see. The cow is within that list, so she is special. But why the isolation? Why the extra protection, in comparison to the other animals?
Friend2: The cow can supply all of life’s needs, and for very little in return. She doesn’t ask much. The milk and milk products are the result of love. Just offer some protection and you will live happily. This is common sense. Vedic principles are actually pretty logical, to the extent that logic can guide us.
Friend2: But your original response is satisfactory, as well.
Friend1: What is that?
Friend2: That we honor the cow because Krishna says so. We can ask similar questions about other truths of life. Why is there death? Why do we have two eyes instead of one? Why do I have to fall asleep at night?
Friend1: Or use the restroom on a frequent basis.
Friend2: Just accept the principles at first. It is what it is. We are where we are. The entire picture will gradually reveal itself. Krishna is the one to follow for more than just His attractive smile. His teachings are substantial in how they transform life for the better. There is something special in His holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Not from protection excluded,
Since in list of mothers included.
To Shri Krishna so dear,
Images making clear.
That with milk products to give,
Man without issue can live.
The principle on faith first accepting,
And later validation detecting.