Sacred For a Reason
A lot of folks here in the good ol’ United States of Fast Food Hamburgers & Grillin’ don’t really understand why the people of India let all those delicious animals roam around free and clear. “Surely someone, somewhere has a grill?” they ask to anyone willing to listen. Well, now you know why.
Why would you ever hurt such wonderful creatures so willing to give us the milk we need to make sweet tasty ice cream!? Why, I ask you?
The proper response is to let those glorious bastards lay about in the middle of roads and just say thanks. Thanks, cows. Thank you for this ice cream…also all the cheese, raw milk, and like a bazillion other things we can do with that stuff. But yeah, mostly the ice cream.
Now, I’m not really an expert on India or the religions of the area, but I have been trying to do some reading on things like this (and maybe one day I’ll be well enough and wealthy enough to actually go and talk to people!). So if I get anything wrong here feel free to correct me!
One of the interesting facets of the culture that I’ve always wondered about is the sacred cow. I’ve heard and read all sorts of things about it, from Hindu people outright worshiping cows as gods to cows simply being animals that are viewed as taboo and not to be eaten. It’s pretty clear to me now that like most things in Hinduism, it’s more complicated than all that.
The cow is clearly a very spiritual animal to many Indian people and one that is seen as a kind of representation of divinity. The cow gives its milk and service to mankind and asks for nothing in return. There are some texts and individuals that liken the cow to a mother for having these qualities. In the Mahabharata one figure states that cows are the ultimate representation of sacrifice, for without cows, there would be no clarified butter or ghee with which to make sacrifices. There are even rituals and prayers dedicated to cows for the sake of their spiritual qualities.
But the cow is more than just a focus for spiritual needs. See, today’s comic is actually somewhat true. Cows are very practical animals around the world, but particularly in India. To have a cow is to have a friend that can help plow fields or do other work and cows give up their milk for more than just spiritual sacrifice. All kinds of products can be made from milk and these gentle animals give it up freely. It is because of this, as well as for their spiritual benefits, that cows are not to be killed or harmed in Hindu culture.
It’s very interesting to see this interaction of the spiritual and practical as well as the gradual evolution of beliefs regarding our bovine companions in India over the great span of time that Hinduism has existed. It’s a very different view than we have here in the United States where cows (and many other animals) are generally seen as inferior creatures with nothing better to do than give us their bodies for meat. While I may not, personally, subscribe to the spiritual beliefs, it’s kind of refreshing to see a worldview that has paused and examined something as seemingly mundane as the cow and seen fit to respect and elevate its purpose and life.
It is very easy to fall into the mental trap where everything is taken for granted, particularly when many of us have such easy access to food and the necessities of life. Sometimes, though, it’s good to stop and ponder what we do and how we treat not only ourselves but also each other and the creatures and plants we share this earth with, however silly that may seem in our consumer culture.
Because personally, I don’t know what I’d do without cows. It’s officially summer and all I know is that I need some goddamn ice cream.
Thanks cows. For reals.