Srila Bhakti Raksak Sridhar Dev-Goswami Maharaj clarifies the position of cow protection.
Student: How can we convince human beings of the presence of the soul in the animals? In the West, people kill animals so much, especially the cow.
Srila Sridhar Maharaj: I am not a member of the ‘save the cow committee’. I am a member of the Krishna consciousness movement. I am to deal with that. There are so many associations. The Jains and so-called Hindus may be very eager to form associations against cow-killing and proclaim, “Don’t kill the cow.” We belong to another plane. What is the question of killing a cow? Krishna says in Gita that there is a position in which one can efface the entire universe, including all the cows, brahmans, and sadhus within it, and still receive no reaction1. There is such a position. Try to attain that position. That position is not the highest position either. But through that you are to pass to the plane of pure self-abnegation.
Don’t allow yourself to be a member of this physical world, the world of physical good and bad. Try to be aloof from physical relativity and be a member of the nirguna [transcendental] plane. All calculation of good and bad here is false. Both good and bad are false. So, only engage yourself in distributing Krishna. Don’t lose your energy, invest your energy, in any business of lower profit. Always try to distribute Krishna.
You are to connect with Krishna. Your connection is with Krishna. We are to undergo birth and death thousands of times if that will connect us with Krishna. To reconnect with Krishna we shall embrace that. Mahaprabhu says,
koti-deha ksaneke tabe chhadite pariye
“Sanatan, if by giving up this body one can get Krishna, then in a second I am ready to die crores of times.”
But we cannot connect with Krishna through such foolish sacrifice. It has got its own way: shravan-kirtan, sadhu-sanga, Vaishnava-seva [hearing and chanting about Krishna, association and serving His devotees]. Krishna cannot be reached by sacrificing the body. That is a ksatriya tendency, a brutal tendency, “I kill my own body. I am a very big man.” No. It is a foolish attempt. It may amaze a worldly man but in Krishna consciousness a worldly hero has no value.
Trying to stop cow-killing may be the duty of someone in a particular plane of life. If anyone comes to me, I may say, “Oh! Don’t kill.” So much I may say. But I shall not go to fight and die for that cause. My time is so valuable, it is there to attain Krishna consciousness. I can’t waste my time in material struggle.
The Lord’s interest is so great that Abraham was going to kill his son Ishmael for Him. Abraham heard that Allah wanted him to sacrifice his son, and he was ready to do that. To satisfy the sweet will of Krishna, not Krishna, but some conception of the Lord, he was required to kill his son, and he was up to that test: “Yes. I am ready.” So, Krishna is so high. In comparison to Krishna’s service, to save the body of a cow or other things cannot become a concern. Such things are a much lower propensity. Krishna’s service is so high.
Everything can be sacrificed for Krishna. His service is so valuable. Nothing can be compared to it. It is so valuable, so urgent, so necessary, so pure. We should not cheat ourselves. To feel that we are engaged in Krishna-katha, that we can try to serve Krishna, that is so high, so valuable. An ordinary man immersed in maya’s good and bad, in sattva, rajah, and tamah [the modes of material nature], will try to stop cow killing, protect brahmans, and so on.
Also, cows are revered here because Krishna loves cows there [in the spiritual world]. Here there is a perverted reflection of that. Cows are a favourite of Krishna but His cows are not the cows of this world. Still, there is some perverted reflection of that here, and seeing cows killed will bring about an undesirable sentiment within a sadhu.
hatvapi sa imal lokan na hanti na nibadhyate
“One who is free from false ego, whose intelligence is not entangled (in the mundane), neither kills nor becomes bound by his actions, even if he destroys the entire world.”