Newsletter by Krishna Kshetra Swami, Issue #3 – July 8th 2019
The Mood of Ratha-yatra
As we know, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu is Krishna Himself but in the mood of Radharani. So, while attending Ratha-yatra and showing His ecstasy to the people is He in the mood of Radharani or in Krishna’s mood?
It is quite straightforward — that is the whole point of the pastime — yes, Lord Caitanya is in the mood of Radha, who is drawing Krishna back to Vrindavan. Because She is seeing Him in Kuruksetra and feeling very very awkward, feeling very out of place there. The residents of Vrindavan in general, the gopis, and Radha in particular, are feeling so out of place. They are seeing Krishna. Krishna is there, but in a different mood. He is all dressed up in princely opulence. It is everything but the sweet intimacy of Vrindavan. And yet it is Krishna! And so, in that mood Radharani and the devotees are pulling Krishna, drawing Krishna. Krishna… Krs, karsana means to draw. So, they are drawing Him who draws, Him who attracts. The Supreme Lord attracts all living entities and He is attracted by the devotion of His devotees. And these devotees, His best, His most exalted devotees, Vrindavana-vasis are now drawing Him back to Vrindavan. That is being re-enacted, so to say, in Puri, with the Ratha-yatra festival.
— From a lecture by Krishna Kshetra Swami, “Animals in Vaishnava Literature”,
Shravan Utsav, February-March 2019, Sridham Mayapur.
Cows in Srimad-Bhagavatam
I’ve been reading about cows in the Rgveda. There is a lot about cows in the Rgveda. There are some references to cows in the Upanisads. There are also references to cows in the Mahabharata, also Ramayana, and of course Srimad-Bhagavatam.
This morning I have started with writing about cows in the Bhagavatam, starting with the story of Maharaja Pariksit meeting Kali. Of course, what is happening is that Kali is posing himself as a king, dressed like a king and he has a stick in his hand, but he is a wicked person. Maharaja Pariksit meets this rascal (that is what Prabhupada would say). And what is he doing? He is beating a cow and a bull, a cow couple. The bull was white as a white lotus flower and he was in a very disturbed condition and he was trembling. He was standing on one leg. You may wonder: how does a bull stand on one leg?
I think we have to understand this in a metaphorical way, because in the previous chapter there is a conversation between Dharma in the form of a bull and the Earth in the form of a cow. And it says in the beginning that Dharma had only one leg and of course that is explained as the missing three quarters of religious principles, and there is only truthfulness remaining, even that not so much. I think we have to understand this in that way. And this sudra, he is beating the legs of the cow, and the cow is crying, she is hankering after some grass in the field. Then King Parikshit asks the aggressor with a deep voice sounding like thunder, “Who are you? You appear to be strong and yet you dare to kill within my protection those who are helpless. By your dress you pose yourself to be a godly man, a king, but by your deeds you are accosting the principles of the twice born, the ksatriyas.” In the verse before he says, “Since you are beating the innocent in a secluded place you are considered a culprit, a criminal, and therefore you deserve to be killed.” And then, he goes on like this, speaking to the cow and the bull, “Now for the first time, in a kingdom well protected by the arms of the kings of the Kuru dynasty I see you grieving with tears. O son of Surabhi, you need lament no longer now, there is no need to fear this low-class sudra, and o mother cow, as long as I am living as the ruler and subduer of all envious men there is no cause for you to cry. Everything will be good for you.” The king is making a promise to the cows, which is interesting, we do not see this happening today.
So this seems to be the primary symptom of the age of Kali. What does Kali do? The first thing he does is beating the cows and nowadays even killing them. Of course, Prabhupada is very strongly speaking about protecting cows and he wanted us to have cows and there has been some attempt. Maybe there can be more attempts. But, as we concluded yesterday in the discussion, we live in the city. And living in an apartment is a little difficult for a cow, but then the discussion went that maybe we can have some breed of cow which is smaller, miniature, dog’s size cow. Can you grow grass for the cow on the balcony?
— From a lecture by Krishna Kshetra Swami during a gathering at Povrsje, Sadhanasrama, Slovenia.
Animal Ethics, Nature and Their Connection to Krishna
There is a subject of philosophy known as ethics. Sometimes we may translate ethics as dharma. In the West they have a very developed tradition of philosophizing about what is right and how to act properly. And since very recently in the West there is increasing talk on the subject of ethics for human beings in relation to animals. We see a strange phenomenon, especially in the West, but now also in India — we see many people in the West having pet animals. Especially dogs and cats. These are not those common street dogs that you see here in India, these are refined breeds of dogs. We see people walking their dogs along the beach. And they give a lot of attention to their pets. Not just attention, a lot of money also.
So, this and something else is happening simultaneously. And what is that? That animals are produced, bred for food. Billions and billions of animals are slaughtered each year for human consumption. On one side we have people showing a lot of care for certain animals and at the same time for other animals no care at all, rather: let us eat them. But there is an indication that people are starting to think now that this is a contradiction. There is a small institute in Oxford in the UK called Oxford Institute for Animal Ethics where many scholars come from around the world and have conferences and publications on this subject. Now I’m also involved in preparing a book which is called Cow Care in Hindu Animal Ethics. And therefore, I’m thinking a lot about cows and more generally about animals and human ethics. And I’m thinking about this in relation to our tradition.
Let’s think a little bit more generally about animals. There are different ways of categorizing animals. One major category is predator and prey. Animals that are eating other animals and animals that are eaten by other animals. Animals that eat other animals are called predators. And the other category are animals which don’t eat other animals, they eat vegetables but they are potentially the food of the predators. Maybe a simpler way to put this is that some animals are carnivorous, they eat meat. And some animals are vegetarian.
You have all heard of the Panchatantra, a collection of stories about animals. Panchatantra is a series of stories that are meant to give lessons in niti. And if you study this book you’ll find that these two categories of animals are there. For example, the story you probably all know about the scorpion who wants to cross the Ganga. He approaches an alligator and says, “Please, let me get on your back and you take me across.” The alligator says, “Are you crazy? You are a scorpion, you’ll bite me.” The scorpion says, “I’m not so stupid, I wouldn’t sting you. If I sting you then you will be destroyed and I will be in the middle of the Ganga, I will drown.” The alligator thought, “That makes sense. Okay, I’ll do a little pious activity for the scorpions.” So, he is swimming across the Ganga, the scorpion is on his back, everything is very nice. Suddenly, the alligator feels a sharp pain in his back. Sting! The alligator begins gasping, the poison is already affecting him and he says to the scorpion, “Why did you do this? You promised you wouldn’t sting me! And now you stung me and we are both going to drown!” And the scorpion answers, “What can I do, I’m a scorpion. It is my nature.” So much of the Panchatantrais about how natures of different beings do not change. It is what it is and you have to deal with the world on those terms.
Our Vaishnava literature is actually just the opposite. Krishna is speaking in the Bhagavad-gitato Arjuna. Why is He speaking to Arjuna? Because He is giving him an opportunity, He is showing the way to change. The whole Bhagavatam is showing us how we can change our quality of life. How we can transform it into spiritual life.
There is another distinction of two types of animals — there are wild animals and there are domestic animals. In Sanskrit, a wild animal is called a mṛga and domestic animal is called a paśu. The word paśu referring to domestic animals, indicates animals which are tied with the rope (pāśa). The animal (paśu) is bound, and that condition in a general sense represents conditioned life.
The mṛga is also a word for deer. What does the deer do? They wander, and if you follow the deer you’ll see there is a mārga, there is a way. So, we follow the bhakti-mārga. By this we are not made wild and we are also not domesticated. Rather we are liberated from all bondage of animal mentality such that our natural love for the Supreme Person can unfold.
— From a seminar by Krishna Kshetra Swami, “Animals in Vaishnava Literature”, Shravan Utsav, February-March 2019, Sridham Mayapur.
Poland: 12-7-2019 till 7-8-2019
Gaineswille, USA: 11-8-2019 till 25-8-2019
Argentina: 26-8-19 till 26-8-2019