“When the gopis saw little Krishna fearlessly playing on Putana’s lap, they very quickly came and picked Him up. Mother Yashoda, Rohini, and other elderly gopis immediately performed the auspicious rituals by taking the tail of a cow and circumambulating His body. The child was completely washed with the urine of a cow, and the dust created by the hooves of the cows was thrown all over His body. This was all just to save little Krishna from future inauspicious accidents. This incident gives us a clear indication of how important the cow is to the family, society and to living beings in general.” (Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Vol 1, Ch 6)
“Something new I heard recently. It came up while discussing the topic of breastfeeding. I will avoid a tirade about the medical community and how their guidelines keep changing. I won’t remind people of the force that goes into their recommendations, how if you even so much as raise a legitimate question they will brandish you with the “witch” title, claiming that you are against science.
“The prevailing wisdom today is that breastmilk is amazing. It is the most important food for newborns to consume. Everything they need to survive and develop, to grow up properly in the critical early months, is found within the milk supplied by the mother.
“This is all by nature’s arrangement. No technical details involved. No specific exercise to complete or medications to take. The higher authorities have provided the otherwise helpless child with a direct lifeline in the form of the mother’s breast.
“A question that came up relates to cow’s milk. The claim is that human beings are the only species that drink the milk of other animals. The idea is that this is somehow bad. It might be inhumane, stealing what is intended for the calf. What is the Vedic point of view on such assertions?
“Why do people worship cows? Others might think that to be strange. Why the fixation on that particular animal? Why not just leave them alone? Isn’t it gross exploitation?”
Human beings are also the only species to hoard on a grand scale, to devise schemes for world domination, to kill innocent children within the womb, and to choose this perversion and that relating to sexual interactions.
Human beings are the only species to contemplate inevitable death. It is the only one that can inquire into the spiritual side, athato brahma-jijnasa. The human being can question the very reason for its existence, its place in the world, its meaning going forward, and what will happen after the inevitable end.
While the less intelligent or speculative view casts doubt on the validity of drinking cow’s milk, the Vedic perspective is one of respect. The cow is not merely another object of worship. Rather, the reverence offered is but one component in a deeply connected world that provides temporary shelter and sustenance to the population of creatures.
In properly aligned Vedic culture, the human being offers respect from beginning to end. The parents are known as guru, because of their importance. The spiritual guide is also guru. They are on the same level as the parents; such is the significance of spiritual education.
Rather than view the cow as another aspect of nature to exploit, there is appreciation and honor. The cow is so nice that it supplies milk for both the calf and the human society. There is plenty left over. A person is astonished to learn just how much milk a properly cared for and protected cow can produce on a given day.
There is respect for the sun, the trees, the rivers and oceans, and elders within the family. There is respect offered from the beginning of life until the end. The cow is within the category of mother. There are other related products of miraculous benefit. Cow dung, urine, butter, cheese, and ghee have immeasurable value to the human society.
गुणैः कर्माणि सर्वशः
कर्ताहम् इति मन्यते
guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ
kartāham iti manyate
“The bewildered spirit soul, under the influence of the three modes of material nature, thinks himself to be the doer of activities, which are in actuality carried out by nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 3.27)
The living entity is not the doer. Shri Krishna confirms this in Bhagavad-gita. Cows happen to be very dear to Krishna. He gives pleasure to them as Govinda. He protects them as Gopala. Mother earth takes the form of a cow to approach Lord Vishnu for help against the asura class ascending in power and strength.
In the course of His dealings with the demons visiting the Vrindavana of this world, young Krishna occasionally receives healing treatment from the mothers, who use items related to cows as their medicine. The examples are many, as are the benefits from a little kindness and respect, which travels up the chain to the origin of the universe.
Carries up the chain,
Reaching Krishna the same.
Respect from beginning to end,
To animal community to extend.
Cows in special category found,
Sacred even their dust on ground.
Mysteries too many to be known,
Importance from Vraja shown.