A retirement project of love and compassion by Professor Sankar Sastri
A returement project of love and compassion by Professor Sankar Sastri
Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati teaches that living begins when one contributes something that will bring about more joy, more happiness, more light and more freedom; until then, one merely drags one’s life through old age and on to the grave. He teaches the essential nature of a human being is fullness and this wholeness finds expression when you are able to help others.
If we look across the animal kingdom, we will find that cows are the embodiment of the qualities of daya. They eat grass all day and in return give us milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, butter, dung as a fertilizer, and urine as a medicinal product. The cow is innocent (nirabharati) and all-giving (paroparakari). When you look at the eyes of a cow, you can see an ocean of mercy and compassion. The philosopher Sri Aurobindo wrote, “When I look at the eyes of the cow, I see thousand divine mothers looking at me with daya.”
After 30 years of service as professor of engineering technology at New York City College of Technology, I decided to take early retirement to start a project of love and compassion.
Since Go-samrakshanam seemed to me the perfect project of daya, I started Lakshmi Cow Sanctuary, Inc.” on a 42 acre farm near Arsha Vidya Gurukulam in 2000. Our sanctuary is a safe haven for cows that would otherwise destined for the slaughter house. Our mission is to protect these innocent animals and provide a free and loving environment for the cows to live in peace and happiness.
When I told Swami Dayananda Saraswati about this project, he asked the Ashram to donate a cow saved from slaughter to the sanctuary to bring good luck. Later, this cow, named Bharathi, gave birth to a calf with a question mark on his face (photo) as if he is asking “Who am I?” We are calling him Vedanta since many of Swamiji’s talks are based on the essential question “Who am I?” We are not the body, we are pure consciousness.
In the temple, the priests recite a prayer every day, Go Brahmanebhyo sukham astu nityam, lokaha samasthaha sukhino bhavantu: “If cows and brahmins are happy, the whole universe will be happy.” Kanchi Shankaracharya has said that service to the cows is considered to be supreme because the cow is considered to be God of Gods. He used to spend many hours in goshalas.
Sage Thirumoolar suggests 4 simple acts of compassion on a daily basis: It is easy for every one to offer a leaf to God, mouthful of grass to the cow, sharing your food with the needy and say a few kind words to one’s fellow beings.
To further understand daya and its relation to cows and other living beings, let us look at the words and deeds of various wise men (rishis) throughout history. The daya of a great saint from south India called Vallalar was described as such: “Whenever he saw a withering plant, his heart withered.” The great poet Bharathi was described as having tears of commiseration in his eyes because, “His brothers in the sugarcane field were dying.” Kanchi Shankaracharya wrote, “In the world of animals, there is no college, no library or printing press. They cannot speak. But, are they in a state of suffering? It does not appear to be so. They are not afflicted by diseases to the extent we are; they do not amass wealth; they have no worry about what they did yesterday and what they may have to do tomorrow. They too get their food somehow and manage to survive.” Thirukkural states “Find and follow the good path. For if various ways are examined, daya will prove the means to liberation”’
This is so true of our cows. They are not doings, but beings. It is our true nature just to be and not always need to become. To use a more recent example, Albert Einstein wrote, “Our task is to free ourselves…by widening our circle of compassion to all living creatures, the whole of nature and its beauty.” These examples indicate that practicing universal daya not only makes us better people, but frees us from the traps in which the desires we are so quick to feed ensnare us.
Ultimately, one sees that love and compassion are one in the same. When you love someone, the negative aspects are anger, hatred, jealousy, harsh words, and selfishness when love does not happen the way you want it to happen. How many people have you known who have gotten angry when their lovers have deceived them? The good aspects of love are patience, faith, compassion, kind speech, readiness to help at any time, so on and so forth. This love is actually an expansion of our own consciousness. Our true nature is love.
Unfortunately, we love only selected people. A mother’s love for her child is often considered the supreme, most unprejudiced form of love; however, even the mother looks at another child differently than she does her own. We have to expand our love beyond our immediate family unto the whole community, and furthermore, unto to all living beings. If we do that, we are living in accord to our true nature.
In this respect, cows have daya to all living beings. When you move with them and look at their eyes, you see an ocean of daya. When you show daya, fear empties from you, there is no more selfishness. You experience ananda. Cows are so loving and compassionate to all living beings. The author once saw a cow chasing away a chicken with her chicks one day. He went to see why the cow was chasing away the chicken and the chicks. When he went to see it he found out the hen was showing the chicks how to eat a worm. The cow did not want to see the suffering of the worm and therefore chased the chicks away. Cows show an enormous amount of daya to all living beings. Even when they eat grass, they only eat the top part of the grass without destroying the roots, unlike other grazing animals like goats and horses.
The Rig Veda states “The cow is like the mother of cosmic Forces, the daughter of cosmic Matter, the sister of cosmic Energy, the center of ambrosia. I address to men of wisdom – kill not her, the sinless inviolate cow.” Let us emulate the cow by showing compassion in all of our actions all the time. Love, desire, relationships, etc. must come out of compassion only. Compassion is the highest of all the feelings that circulate within us as humans.
When we deal with this world, let a supreme, indiscriminate compassion dominate in all of our actions. From now on, remember we do not need money, desire, power or any of the other things so valued and sought in the material world. If we have compassion in all of our actions, we will only have success. Compassion has no room for selfishness. It is the nature of God and it is our nature as well. Sage Thirumoolar wrote 3000 years ago, “Ignorant people say love and God are two separate identities. Many do not realize that love is God.When one realizes that love is God they will be sitting like Lord Shiva, giving love to all.
We invite all of you to come and see the sanctuary. If any one wants to start a cow sanctuary, the author will be happy to give any help that he can give.