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.

Eric Ehrke