Submitted by Madhava Gosh das
Please accept my humble obeisances. All glories to Srila Prabhupada!
Srila Prabhupada used to say that keeping cows is the way to solve our economic problems: ‚Äúaccording to Vedic economics, one is considered to be a rich man by the strength of his store of grains and cows. With only these two things, cows and grain, humanity can solve its eating problem. Human society needs only sufficient grain and sufficient cows to solve its economic problems‚ÄĚ (SB 3.2.29) yet in almost every project for cow protection in ISKCON we see the request for donations.
It seems then that cow protection creates an economic burden that is put on our shoulders. It seems that people who see it, and devotees as well, will have such an impression and instead of seeing the whole thing the way Srila Prabhupada saw it i.e. as the solution, we will see it as burden and maybe decline to take to it. Could anyone comment on this, why is it so?
Gopala Acarya das
From Hare Krsna dd:
Here is my assessment of the matter.
By way of analogy, let‚Äôs think about air. Air is such a wonderful substance. Krsna even says, ‚ÄúOf purifiers, I am the Wind.‚ÄĚ It is the natural arrangement of the Lord that everyone should have as much healthy air to breathe as they want.
However, imagine some futuristic situation in which a landlord finds a way to create an apartment which has no air. He rents out the space, and in addition to the regular expense, the tenant also has to pay for an oxygen machine to provide for the air he breathes. The charges are very burdensome and difficult to maintain, but due to a housing shortage, the tenant has no other choice.
The Lord made a wonderful arrangement, but man altered it to become something onerous and burdensome.
Krsna has made the arrangement that cows and bulls can provide us milk and grains, by which we can live very easily. However, this arrangement fits into a larger program called varnasrama.
The brahmanas provide spiritual guidance and practical training for society; the ksatriyas protect the people in general; and *under the protection of the ksatriyas* the vaisyas protect the cows and produce food; the sudras provide service to help everyone else.
As described by Srila Prabhupada, it is the duty of the ksatriyas to make sure everyone obtains the training they need for their varna (ksatriyas make sure that brahmanas are maintained for this purpose), and the ksatriya also distributed land so that the vaisyas can protect cows and produce food for society.
However, in a modern capitalist society, the vaisyas are not protected by the ksatriya. The ksatriya does not provide free land as intended by Krsna. Quite the opposite, the land is obtained by gamblers and speculators, who sell it at a high price.
Thus, the farmer starts out with a gigantic debt. Even if he is fortunate enough to already have some land, speculation causes the value to increase so it is taxed at a high rate. In Maine, we find many farmers living along the coast can no longer afford to pay taxes on their land, because speculators have pushed the taxes so high. They lose their farms because of these speculators ‚ÄĒ and the government does not protect them.
In addition, Srila Prabhupada states that farming should be first to maintain the family, and then if there is any excess, it can be traded. He gave instructions on this in Mauritius, for example. However, under the capitalist mode, production is first of all for the market. All farmers produce more and more, driving the commodity prices down. The more they produce, the less their product is worth per unit. Thus they become poorer and poorer.
And, of course, in the current society, there is no rule against cow slaughter. Thus, it is very easy to see that in a competitive market, the farmer who kills his cows can sell milk for less that the farmer who maintains his old cows and oxen.
One example was given of a devotee who kept one cow and one ox and was doing very nicely. That is nice for the time being, but the first question that comes into the mind of anyone who has studied the social dynamics of cow protection is ‚ÄúWhat happens when the cow needs to have a calf to have more milk?‚ÄĚ Only 15 years into the program do we find out how sustainable it actually is.
In the current social context, selling the calf to someone else generally means there is a 95 percent chance that the calf will eventually be slaughtered ‚ÄĒ which is why our best cow protection programs around the world struggle to avoid selling or giving away any of their animals.
So, why doesn‚Äôt cow protection provide us the abundance that has been described? Indeed that was the Lord‚Äôs original arrangement, but because we are forced to practice cow protection within the context of a perverted social and economic context, the natural order has been turned topsy turvy, just as in the crazy example of the landlord who invented an apartment where the tenant would have to pay for his oxygen.
However, Krsna is watching the cow protectors and their supporters, and although the present struggle is very difficult, the spiritual success of the program is guaranteed. And even though we don‚Äôt have any ksatriyas to protect our farmers, a supportive community of devotees can at least partially make up for that lack so that the cows can be protected, even if they don‚Äôt provide a great opulence.
Hope this helps answer your question.
Hare Krsna dasi