Spiritual concepts, abstract thoughts and conditions of grace often seem strange to the uninitiated. The thought that every two and four-legged creature has a soul has roots in many cultures around the world and provides the underlying rationale for many vegetarian societies and spiritual practices.
In the Hindu tradition the cow represents the qualities of mother earth, because they provide bountiful riches such as milk, butter (ghee) and yogurt. Since wood is scarce in many areas of India and coal pollutes, cow dung is dried and sold on the roadside to heat homes. Who hasn’t felt more peaceful and nurtured after drinking some soothing milk and sitting by a warm fire?
India has created an environment where each cow is worthy of respect, honor and consideration. The symbolism of treating each human similarly is thus provided daily to everyone. Putting up with cows sitting in the middle of traffic, eating farmer’s crops and pooping everywhere are seen as necessary facts of life because they are considered divine beings like every human. By accommodating each cow then every person can expect similar considerations. Cows are a nuisance sometimes block traffic, but they provide a daily template for tolerance and unconditional acceptance for what we cannot control.
People always provide tolerance challenges and every one of us need to find ways to accommodate annoying proclivities and obnoxious behaviors. In its treatment of cows, the Indian culture provides a wonderful example to the world of accommodation, nurturing without exploitation and spiritual acceptance no matter what happens.
Imagine the world developing a similar perspective for immigrates seeking sanctuary. By tolerating inconveniences merely because we have the capacity, America could demonstrate our commitment to humanity. Many countries and societies are facing a toleration crisis at this moment in history. Is intolerant behavior acceptable from our leaders? How often do we judge unfortunate souls without mercy who inconvenience us?
India has provided a living example of the qualities of acceptance, tolerance and accommodation of cows. It works because the country says yes to the spiritual concept of oneness even though it seems so impractical and without merit to the untrained eye. Every act of compassion and generosity, when expressed through the lense of materialism and capitalism without heartfelt connection to the weak and humble can be seen as foolhardy. However, if this planet is to survive and thrive in every way necessary, the sanctity and security of every species needs to be attended to with love and compassion. Then every soul will reach a place of contentment and security, which is so important to everyone’s survival.
I feel more love for cows now. They are growing fewer in Wisconsin. I spent a couple days milking cows at 4:30 AM a decade ago—the owners had names for 30 cows and talked to each. I am afraid that farm has closed now. More people do something similar with dogs now. Obviously, your experience has political ramifications. I would recommend that you read “Buddhist Ethics” by E. F. Schumacher— perhaps you already have. It sure could have a lot of implications for mental health care. Thank you for your effort, and I will follow your blog
Eric, thank you for sharing ‘COW’ experiences with me on Wednesday and now writing this brief blog. A few phrases are heartfelt, needed messages to contemplate over the next few day especially as I reflect on situations and personalities that surround me.
“… accommodate annoying proclivities and obnoxious behaviors”.
“… worthy of respect, honor and consideration.”
Earlier today a business friend sent me images of cow paintings by Colorado artist, Dakota Finn … hopefully I can attach one for your viewing.
The template for tolerance you described is poignant, though I doubt it would be seen that way in the middle of New York City! Tolerance is indeed a necessary skill to develop, though I think most people would find it much easier to be tolerant of a ‘dumb animal’ blocking traffic, than an obnoxious person verbally pushing our buttons. Unfortunately, patience is a large part of tolerance that seems to be declining at an exponential rate, here. On the flip side, for many (for myself) it is difficult to draw the line between tolerance and personal boundaries on a relationship level. That said, it is important as a nation, to be tolerant and accepting of those who seek refuge, or simply a better life, but how far can it go before the tolerant one is no more than a door mat. How do we develop a healthy balance?
Tolerance I find a very offensive word, I’ve heard that word so many times as an immigrant, to hear that someone tolerated me is alsmost as saying I dont like you, but I will put up with you. In my opinion, this is one of the ills of this society, that even when we try to be “good” we are merely being tolerant. I like the article, and I do find it interesting to think about the societal norms of India and how deep in spiritual basis they are, or if it’s just the way it is and that’s that.
Thanks Carlos, for your important feedback. I agree with your point entirely…having not not walked in your shoes…I fell into a short sighted perspective. Equality does not mean tolerance. I love my kids and accept everything that comes with parenthood…I don’t tolerate them. We need to return to America’s melting pot metaphor. For some small-minded, fearful people tolerance may be all they can muster. Is it good enough…no…America needs to do better.
By the way…the cows were not always welcome. Some of the shopkeepers shooed the cows away from their storefront to attract customers and prevent their wares from being eaten. Overall, I was deeply moved by the heartfelt warmness of their society. Is everything perfect there…hardly. But India’s sense of community when so many beings live so close together was wonderful to experience.
Eric, thank you, while I had a general knowledge, your insights resonate ….as it applies aspiratiinally as you suggest, I am reminded of this wonderful quote by Dr Leo Bascaglia…
“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
the thought of this result hopefully takes the risk out of tolerance for many….challenge is to somehow inspire folks particularly here in the USA to “ feel “ versus “ think / react “.
Thank you for your continued perseverance of peace.
With love, michael 💕
Eric, thank you for sharing your insights. I have fond memories of living among cows in Vermont. Their warm moist breath, their appearance of having been sprouted directly from the earth herself so grounded and connected they are!Their deep resonate moo echoing through the valley awakening me in the night and into my heart, not to speak of their nurturing, solid nature. I see all animals as teachers of mine.We are all of this Earth bound by an unspeakable knowing so lost these days. It’s so important to take the time to stop and connect with our fellow inhabitants of Mother Earth,take time to See,Feel and Appreciate. Certainly, the cow saunters along and gathers the richness of her environment and then gives it back in many forms.My prayer is for humans to stop and feel themselves, connect to the beauty and divine intelligence of the animals, Mother Nature and reawaken our hearts.Those in India appear to understand this sacred trust and faith in the spirit of All Things.
Thanks Gigi…your reflections remind me of the peace I felt at dairy farms. When I was a teenager I volunteered to clean stalls and spread manure in the fields for a short time. I had a great time and learned that you can adjust to anything.
Thank you for sharing this blog. Not long ago, health authorities have placed the human consumption of beef into the same carcinogenic category as Asbestos.
What I find interesting about respecting the soul of the cow is that it leads to respect for our own physical being. Said more simply, extending the cow’s life….extends our life. We are all connected.
Thanks Dan, I appreciate your comments about respect and human/soul connection.
The following links talk about the increased carcinogenic risk of eating processed beef/meat products. I think asbestos lives on another planet of risk.