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Self Reliant Cow Protection
By Madhava Gosh

I read with interest Garuda's article on Self Sufficient Cow Protection. I am happy seeing the topic discussed, even more so by someone making a serious attempt to reconnect with the Earth. I am moved to respond and will address aspects of 4 topics in this reply - cow protection, self sufficiency, mules versus oxen from the perspective of draft animals, and mules versus oxen from the perspective of cow protection. The hardest part will be to restrain myself from voluminous quoting.

Cow Protection

One quote and I'll let it go at that:

The brahmanas, the cows and the defenseless creatures are My own body. Those whose faculty of judgment has been impaired by their own sin look upon these as distinct from Me. They are just like furious serpents, and they are angrily torn apart by the bills of the vulture like messengers of Yamaraja, the superintendent of sinful persons.

The defenseless creatures, according to Brahma-samhita, are the cows, brahmanas, women, children and old men. Of these five, the brahmanas and cows are especially mentioned in this verse because the Lord is always anxious about the benefit of the brahmanas and the cows and is prayed to in this way. The Lord especially instructs, therefore, that no one should be envious of these five, especially the cows and brahmanas. In some of the Bhagavatam readings, the word duhitrh is used instead of duhatih. But in either case, the meaning is the same. Duhatih means "cow," and duhitrh can also be used to mean "cow" because the cow is supposed to be the daughter of the sun-god. Just as children are taken care of by the parents, women as a class should be taken care of by the father, husband or grown-up son. Those who are helpless must be taken care of by their respective guardians; otherwise the guardians will be subjected to the punishment of Yamaraja, who is appointed by the Lord to supervise the activities of sinful living creatures. The assistants, or messengers, of Yamaraja are likened here to vultures, and those who do not execute their respective duties in protecting their wards are compared to serpents. Vultures deal very seriously with serpents, and similarly the messengers will deal very seriously with neglectful guardians.

Ref. VedaBase =SB 3.16.10

Self Sufficiency

I don't like and don't use the term self-sufficiency in the context of farming projects. I prefer the term self reliant, but "self sufficient" is so deeply ingrained in devotee speak I decided to see how Srila Prabhupada used it. I read the 200+ quotes in VedaBase for "self sufficiency" and "self sufficient" and offer the the following samples. First I read the quotes in Srila Prabhupada's books. The following is representative of the great majority of quotes:

The Supreme Lord Krishna is described herein as atmarama. He is self-sufficient, and there is no need for Him to seek happiness from anything beyond Himself. He is self-sufficient because His very transcendental existence is total bliss.

Ref. VedaBase =SB 1.11.4, SB 1.11.5, SB 1.11.4-5

There are also a few uses as represented by:

Everyone, from the aquatics to the highest form of human being -- from the ant up to Brahma, the first creature of this universe -- is searching for peace. That is the main objective. Lord Caitanya said that a person who is in full Krishna consciousness is the only peaceful man because he has no demands.. That is the special qualification of a person who is in Krishna consciousness. He is akamah. Akamah refers to those who have no desire, who are self-sufficient, who have nothing to ask and who are fully peaceful. Who are they? They are the devotees who are situated in Krishna consciousness.

Ref. VedaBase =TYS 9: The Real Peace Formula

That use of self sufficiency here has to do with consciousness, not external arrangement.

Lastly (and I am consciously skipping the quote about a demon being self sufficient because I don't understand how it fits in) there are only a couple quotes about those wanting to be self sufficient:

By the grace of the Lord, each and every planet is created fully equipped. So not only is this earth fully equipped with all the riches for the maintenance of its inhabitants, but also when the Lord descends on the earth the whole earth becomes so enriched with all kinds of opulences that even the denizens of heaven worship it with all affection. But by the will of the Lord, the whole earth can at once be changed. He can do and undo a thing by His sweet will. Therefore no one should consider himself to be self-sufficient or independent of the Lord.

Ref. SB 1.16.24

Therefore the jugglery of science is gradually leading people to a godless civilization at the cost of the goal of human life. Having missed the goal of life, materialists run after self-sufficiency, not knowing that material nature is already self-sufficient by the grace of God. Thus creating a colossal hoax in the name of civilization, they create an imbalance in the natural self-sufficiency of material nature.

Ref. VedaBase =Adi 5.51

So reading the books, one could easily come to the conclusion that use of "self sufficiency" is not appropriate when talking about socio-economic arrangements. However, I read on, into the more time and circumstance oriented letters and talks. As would be expected, there are again numerous references to Krishna as being self sufficient, and to what true self sufficiency is for individuals:

Dhananjaya: [break] ...isn't self-sufficiency... Prabhupada: Self-suff... There is no self-sufficiency. Self-insufficiency. Always remember that. Unless you become perfect in Krishna consciousness, there is no self-sufficiency. All self-insufficiency. Hare Krishna.

Ref. VedaBase =Morning Walk - September 3, 1975, Vrndavana

Then how does the term enter devoteespeak? When Srila Prabhupada was in America, the alternative culture movement was strong, with an emphasis on independence from the mainstream military/industrial complex, and this was in the minds of many devotees joining the movement.. Frequently it is the devotee who first mentions self sufficiency and Srila Prabhupada then responds to that usage:

Siddha-svarupa: Actually there is.... There is two factions in the Chinese schools now. One is saying to.... They're both materialistically based, but one is trying to stay on a position of self-sufficiency economically and not take from other countries or even trade, and the other school is to industrialize. And they're always fighting with their... Prabhupada: Oh, there are two schools? Siddha-svarupa: Yes. Prabhupada: Yes. Siddha-svarupa: And the school who is more for self-sufficiency in agriculture, they also have brought out the.... In the last eight years or so they've brought to the surface more spiritual ideas. Prabhupada: Hm. So there is a section who'll support. Siddha-svarupa: Yes. Prabhupada: Who can support our movement. Siddha-svarupa: Yes. Prabhupada: So we have to capture them.

Ref. VedaBase =Morning Walk - March 15, 1976, Mayapura

Still a good idea. Where once alternative culture movements were fueled by anti Vietnam War sentiment, today they are spearheaded by environmentalists, many of whom see the struggle as being one against globalization. Self-reliant localized devotee communities could be centers of spiritual and material inspiration for this growing movement. Even Al Gore is positioning himself as the environmental candidate. Using "self reliant" here, I am not disputing that Srila Prabhupada used "self sufficient" to describe agrarian based societal organization. He does, as in the following quotes, one of which also warns against the danger of ISKCON rural communities becoming merely suburban in texture:

But I can understand the financial position of New Vrindaban so the best thing will be to stop any more influx in New Vrindaban until the place is self-dependent. The whole idea of New Vrindaban is that men who are living there should produce their own food, of which milk is the principal thing. Unless that position is achieved it will not be advisable to ask anybody to go there. Better to ask them to go there if they are willing to work and produce their own food. Otherwise, nobody should be advised to go there.

Ref. VedaBase =Letter to: Kirtanananda - Los Angeles 31 July, 1969

Prabhupada: Yes. (break) ...encouraging in our society to take to agriculture to support this center. I am purchasing land in Vrndavana and Mayapura to become self-sufficient. Whatever production you make, you be satisfied. Little vegetable, little grain and little milk. That is sufficient.

Ref. VedaBase =Highlights: Perform sacrifice and become self-sufficient...king grants land, taxes are in-kind and based on production...

If only it ended there. Read on:

Regarding your points about taxation, corporate status, etc., I have heard from Jayatirtha you want to make big plan for centralization of management, taxes, monies, corporate status, bookkeeping, credit, like that. I do not at all approve of such plan. Do not centralize anything. Each temple must remain independent and self-sufficient. That was my plan from the very beginning, why you are thinking otherwise? Once before you wanted to do something centralizing with your GBC meeting, and if I did not interfere the whole thing would have been killed.

Ref. VedaBase =Letter to: Karandhara - Bombay 22 December 1972

So here he is clearly talking about temples, not farm communities. It gets even more complicated:

In this part of the world also, we have got several buses, which are going all over your country and doing nicely. Yesterday I have seen one Sankirtana bus presented by Rupanuga Maharaja, complete with kitchen, shower, and deity room. It is completely self-sufficient and can keep 8 to 10 men. Their program is to remain on the road going from town to town and village to village.

Ref. VedaBase =Letter to: Madhudvisa - New Vrndavana 7 September 1972

So does self sufficiency mean self contained as a traveling bus, or producing foodstuffs living on the land? You couldn't have two more mutually exclusive lifestyles. One tied to the land, the other completely untied. You see the problem; not with the concepts involved, but the usage of the term. Srila Prabhupada's points are crystal clear if taken in context in case by case. It has more to do with the insufficiency of the language; in English the same term can be used differently at different times. In any case, it is not the concept of sustainable Earth based economics that I am uncomfortable with. I am with Srila Prabhupada cent per cent on this. It is the term itself that is so fraught with cultural baggage and spiritual inexactitude. Was Srila Prabhupada himself attached to the term? Not really, as is seen in the following quotes where he discusses the concept but uses another label:

Prabhupada: Yes, increase farm projects. It is very nice project. Self-dependent. Very good. Krishna personally, He lived in village, farm, cows, calves, land, Govardhana Hill. It is very nice. Land, in America, you have got so much land. Produce vegetable, grains, milk, eat sumptuously, no economic question. Prepare very nice product.

Ref. VedaBase =Garden Conversation - June 14, 1976, Detroit

Keep amongst yourself and produce. Produce food grain, produce cotton, mustard seed. Self-dependent, no use... And we don't require motorcar. Bullock cart is sufficient. There is no need of going anywhere.

Ref. VedaBase =Highlights: Energy problems will be solved as soon as we are localized...oxen will solve problem of transport...ISKCON should be id

So an alternative, " self dependent" is used by Srila Prabhupada that could serve equally as well. So why do I prefer the term self reliant? In a nutshell, because it is used by proactive environmentalists. I was visiting a community that has earth-sheltered housing, windmill generated electricity, geothermal heating, organic gardens, composting toilets, etc. They expressed to me they don't like the term self sufficient because it implies cutting yourself off from others, and they feel they have a responsibility to the rest of the world. They are also preachers of a sort, and I believe that Srila Prabhupada would want us to continue interacting with world, not just cut ourselves off from it. Book distribution for instance. The localization he refers to is economic localization, not social isolation. After two decades of failed farm projects, there is just too much cultural baggage with the "self sufficient" term and I would prefer a fresh start, using a term that it already being used by some in the section of population Srila Prabhupada suggested attracting.

Mules Versus Oxen As Draught Animals

This has debate has been going on for a long time. America was settled with oxen. Horse and mule power became more prominent with the rise of industrialization. Following is an article of excerpts from the Farmer's Barn Book by Clater published in 1843. It covers most points. I got it out of The ISCOWP News Volume 10 Issue 3.

Mules Versus Oxen from the Perspective of Cow Protection

Mules are fine if someone is a vegan whose only interest is draft power. However, as soon as you start drinking milk in a self-reliant community, cows need to be breed and calves will be born, 50% of them oxen. Actual protection includes feeding them, whether they are worked or not. Which makes a mule an extra mouth to feed. What to speak of a mule, also needed is a breeding mare and a jackass. Mules are sterile. They are the offspring of a donkey sire and a horse dam. More mouths to feed. If you buy them from outside, then where is the self reliance?.

Garuda cites the not distant enough mess that occurred in New Vrindaban's cow program as the tainted fruit of tractor usage. I agree. Tractors represent the intrusion of industrial society into rural communities, making them dependent on industrial production for survival. Due to my well known interest in sports, a devotee suggested I watch a recently released video called "The Cup.” It is in Tibetan with English subtitle. It is the story of a Tibetan monastery in India and how they cope with change in the modern world into which they have been thrust by the Chinese. The cup in the title is a reference to the World Cup, the once every 4 year world wide tournament of National soccer teams. It is a plot device used to show what happens when young monks are not totally isolated from the mainstream.. Notable is when the monks go to get the satellite dish and TV to watch the finals (sorry, sort of ruining the suspense here but have to in order to make my point), they use a tractor to haul it. This is heavy symbolism by the film makers in that without tractors replacing renewable energy in the farms, there wouldn't be the excess energy floating around society to produce television. Also interesting was the Lama's reference to the rice that the Chinese are bringing into Tibet. This is the real genocide - religious persecution is one thing, but displacing agrarian workers by cheaper oil produced rice is a death blow to the root of society.

Getting back to New Vrindaban, the question would be how did the project leave aside oxen and go with tractors? The major step was replacing oxen with horses and mules, idling the oxen. The minor step was from mules to tractors. So while I appreciate Garuda's interest in carrying forward Srila Prabhupada's vision of farm communities, I hope he would reconsider his conclusions concerning use of mules. Even his statement about Amish style Krishna communities bears rethinking. I have great respect for horse and mule powered Amish farms, and acknowledge we have an abundance we could learn and emulate from them, but it is difficult to ignore that part of their profit comes from the slaughter of nonproductive cows and oxen. Devotee farms will not only be lacking that income, but will have additional expenses in maintaining those very animals.

Even with their competitive economic advantage over cow protectors, the Amish are struggling to maintain their farming heritage. In our area they have saw mills and do logging operations, sell baked goods and make crafts for tourists, and are the labor pool for prefabricated modular housing. The fact is that at present 50% of Amish are no longer involved in farming. They can't make enough money from agriculture to pay for the their farms. If even the Amish can't make it these days, how can devotees protecting cows expect to? And how can devotees living in urban and suburban environments, who realistically won't be moving to farming communities, support cow protection? That is a whole other article, but here is a hint:

You say we must have a gosala trust, that is our real purpose. krsi-goraksya-vanijyam vaisya karma svabhava-jam, [Bg 18.44]. Where there is agriculture there must be cows. That is our mission: Cow protection and agriculture and if there is excess, trade. This is a no-profit scheme. For the agriculture we want to produce our own food and we want to keep cows for our own milk. The whole idea is that we are Iskcon, a community to be independent from outside help.

Ref. VedaBase =Letter to: Yasomatinandana - Vrindaban 28 November, 1976

" The Advantages to Be Derived from a More Extended Use of Oxen" Excerpts from an essay found in the Farmers' Barn Book by Clayter 1843 From the ISCOWP News Vol. 10 Issue 3

The Farmer's Barn Book appears to have been a very standard agricultural reference book, both in the U.S. and Great Britain, throughout the 1800s -- it was not just some minor, little known work -- but rather a book that was a highly regarded authority at the time, as evidenced by the fact that it was published in numerous editions both in the U.S. and Great Britain. It is still included in the libraries of many agricultural schools.

In answer to the argument against oxen now under consideration, and the one which has had most influence in restricting the use of them, we now offer the views urged by the illustrious Madison (one of the early presidents of the USA) whose pen simplified and enlightened every subject it touched, as could not but happen with a mind so pure and so bright.

The objections generally made to the ox are 1st, that he is less tractable than the horse; 2nd, that he does not bear heat as well; 3rd, that he does not answer for the single plough used in our corn fields; 4th, that he is slower in his movements; 5th, that he is less fit for carrying the produce of the farm to market.

The first objection is certainly founded in mistake. Of the two animals the ox is the most docile. In all countries where the ox is the ordinary draught animal, his docility is proverbial. His intractability, where it exists, has arisen from an occasional use of him only, with long and irregular intervals; during which, the habit of discipline being broken, a new one is to be formed. The second objection has as little foundation. The constitution of the ox accom-odates itself as readily as that of the horse to different climates. Not only in ancient Greece and Italy, but throughout Asia, as presented to us in ancient history, the ox and the plough are associated. At this day, in the warm parts of India and China, the ox, not the horse, is in the draught service. In every part of India the ox always appears, even in the train of her armies. And in the hottest parts of the West Indies, the ox is employed in hauling the weighty produce to the seaports. The mistake here, as in the former case, has arisen from the effect of an occasional employment only, with no other than green food. The fermentation of this in the animal, heated by the weather, and fretted by the discipline, will readily account for his sinking under his exertions; when green food even, much less dry, with a sober habit of labor, would have no such tendency.

The third objection also is not a solid one. The ox can, by a proper harness, be used singly, as well as the horse, between the rows of Indian corn; and equally so used for other purposes. Experience may be safely appealed to on this point.

In the fourth place, it is alleged that he is slower in his movements. This is true, but in a less degree than is often taken for granted. Oxen that are well chosen for their form are not worked after the age of about eight years, (the age at which they are best fitted for beef), are not worked too many together, and are suitably matched, may be kept at nearly as quick a step as that of horses we see at work, who, on account of their age, or the leanness occasioned by the costliness of the food they require, lose the advantage where they might have once had it?

The last objection has most weight. The ox is not well adapted as the horse to the road service, especially for long trips. In common roads, which are often soft, and sometimes suddenly become so the form of his foot and the shortness of his leg are disadvantages; and, on roads frozen or turnpiked, the roughness of the surface in the former case, and its hardness in both cases, are inconvenient to his cloven foot. But where the distance to market is not great, where the varying state of the roads and of the weather can be consulted, and where the road service is less in proportion to the farm service, the objection is almost deprived of its weight.

In cases where it most applies, its weight is diminished by the consideration that a much greater proportion of service on the farm may be done by oxen than is now commonly done, and that the expense of shoeing them is little different from that of keeping horses shod.

The next most serious charge against the ox is constitutional slowness of motion, which, as many suppose, no course of education can overcome, but which, may be set off in comparison with the greater speed of the horse, as Aesop illustrated the difference in the long run between the pace of the 'tortoise and the hare! "The greater haste the less speed," is a proverb suited to this case as to that.

It has already been seen that ox-teams travel over the ever-verdant pampas of Buenos Ayres, at the rate of thirty miles a day, for a month together. Twenty years ago, the writer of this held correspondence with Commodore Jacob Jones, himself a practical farmer, and an habitually close and judicious observer, and then commanding our squadron in the Mediterranean, on the subject of Andalusian horses, cattle, and other animals, with a view to the importation, under authority from the Albermarle Agriculture Society. Of such as might be deemed we now quote from his letter as applicable to the questions both of speed and susceptibility to eat:

"The cattle that I have seen in Spain appear to be nothing superior to ours, nor have I seen anywhere on the coasts of the Mediterranean any that appear better than those in America, except a race of white cattle at Naples used for the draft. I was informed by a gentleman who, in supplying the government with timber, had used thirty yoke of them for two years, that during that time they had constantly traveled from twenty to twenty five miles a day. They are generally fifteen hands high; their bodies long, thin, and deep; legs long; small light head; sharp muzzle resembling deer; color entirely white, except black nose, ears, and tuft of the tail. They are most frequently worked in the thills of the cart, and are as spirited and walk as quick as a horse, and appeared not to suffer from heat more than a horse."

To show, however, that we are not dependent on any foreign stock, it may be stated that the small, pale red field ox about Salisbury in Maryland will travel twenty five miles in a day, with heavy loads of lumber going, and returning empty, over the sandy roads of that region; while it may be affirmed, after particular inquiry, that the distance made by the heavy-bodied, grain-loving, Conestoga horses on the national road between Cumberland and Wheeling averages not over sixteen miles, six horses with loads of from six to eight thousand pounds.

"Just at the close of the war, in the summer of 1783, I recollect being at the house of an agricultural gentleman of Princeton, in New Jersey, where Congress was then sitting, and that Charles Thomson, the Secretary, was present. One of Arthur Young's Agricultural Tours in England lay on the table, and gave rise to a conversation on the use of oxen for the draft, particularly when geared with collars, hames, and traces, like horses; and Mr. Thomson related the following fact, now, for substance, perfectly in my recollection.

Traveling in that part of Chester county in Pennsylvania which lay between Lancaster in that State and Newport on Christiana creek, Mr. Thompson fell in with a team of a novel character in that country, being composed of one pair of horses and one pair of oxen: and the latter were accoutered with harness like horses, only with the collars turned upside down. His curiosity being excited, he stopped and made some inquiries, and received from the driver an account as follows: that he and a neighbor, each having a horse team and wagon, had entered into a contract to transport a quantity of flour (I think in a given time) to Newport; that in the midst of the work one or two of his horses failed, (felled sick or died), and he was not in circumstances conveniently to procure others; but he had a pair of oxen, and he concluded to try whether they would supply the place of his horses that he made the experiment and succeeded. He told Mr. Thomson that the oxen were more useful to him than horses; for after some fall rains, when the roads had become miry, he continued to carry his full complement of barrels of flour, while his neighbor's horse team frequently getting stalled, (the familiar term in Pennsylvania when a team gets set fast in a slough), compelled him to lessen his loads. But he added, that in returning from Newport with their wagons empty, his neighbor had the advantage in speed, although none in the actual performance of the contract."

A writer in the Memoirs of the Massachusetts Agricultural Society, speaking to a community who neither could nor would be deceived on a matter so well understood by, and so deeply interesting to them, says - "The principal argument of the advocates for the cultivation by horses in Maryland seems to be the superior speed of the horse. With this must proceed from an imperfect training of the cattle. With us our cattle will plough an acre of ground much better, and in as short a time, as a pair of horses would do it, unless they can trot their horses in the plough, so they will get in a ton of hay in as short a time."

Here we are well persuaded the sagacious writer hits the nail on the head, when he suggests that the objection on the score of speed must arise from an "imperfect training of the cattle." He must possess an imperfect knowledge of the difference between the habits of the New England and the Southern plough man who is not prepared to admit that in nothing is that difference greater than in their treatment of all their cattle, and more especially their oxen. I this very difference, in fact, is to be found the solution of the question, and this brings us to the point for making the suggestions we propose on the breed, gearing, training, and general treatment of the ox.


© CHAKRA 30 January 2001

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