Stories of the Animals
Lakshmi – the first Cow at the sanctuary
When I retired as the acting Dean of Engineering Technology at NYC College of Technology of CUNY in 1999, the Trustee of CUNY, Mr. Thomas Tam, asked me about my retirement plans during my farewell dinner. I told him that I bought 42 acres of farmland in Bangor Pennsylvania to start a cow sanctuary. After I bought the farmland the work was overwhelming because the farm was neglected for over 15 years and all the fields were filled with bushes, briars, and trees.
On March 21, 2000 Thomas Tam showed up with two cows named Qyo Ho and Qyo Chung. He explained to me that his 75 year old Buddhist temple monk in Chinatown NY always tells his students to buy live chickens in the market and let them go free. He also encourages them to buy live fish and release them into rivers since saving a life is considered a good deed. When Mr. Tam told his monk about my project the monk told him that he always wanted to save cows but did not know who will take care of them. He asked Mr. Tam to take all the collections of the day and buy two cows and food for one month and take them to the sanctuary.
Qyo Ho was the first cow to come to the sanctuary. I started a not-for-profit organization called Lakshmi Cow Sanctuary Inc. with the State Department of Pennsylvania named after Ramana Maharishi’s cow who is supposed to have attained moksha. Lakshmi Cow Sanctuary Inc. is a safe haven for cows that would have otherwise been destined for slaughter. Our mission is to protect these innocent animals and provide a free and loving environment for the cows to live in peace and happiness and teach the public love and compassion for all beings.
We also gave Qyo Ho the name Lakshmi in addition to her Buddhist name. Lakshmi is very intelligent and she knows how to open the gates. She always is the first one to greet visitors and sometimes the visitors did not understand her greeting of nudging her head. She is so loving that when I go near her, she will lick my head. She gave birth to a beautiful calf called Nanda in 2003.
In 2003 I noticed her udders getting large one day and I asked my nearby farmer for advice and he told me that she is pregnant and will deliver any day. The next day Lakshmi was missing and I asked that farmer what to do. He told me not to worry because she is probably giving birth to her baby. Sure enough, when I went around the fields looking for her more carefully, I found her with a beautiful baby all cleaned up of the placenta, sitting next to her in an isolated northwest corner of land. She selected a quiet place free from intruders.
I picked up the beautiful calf, named Nanda, which looked like a deer and walked to the barn with Lakshmi following us as a proud mother. All the other cows greeted the calf and mother Lakshmi with love and compassion by looking closely at them and also nudging them.
Nanda is ten years old and a very handsome ox. Lakshmi and Nanda are still very attached. Lakshmi is getting old and she has arthritis and hip problems. The vet says he has no medicine for her and advises to give aspirin. She can not put any weight on her right rear leg and she is limping with a cracking noise. She frequently takes rest. She is probably 22 years old which is approximately 110 in human years. Let us all pray to Ishwara for her good health and happiness.
Durga – the cat of the sanctuary
The story of Red, also known as Vishnu
Ms Joyce Gilmore of Kutztown, a retired schoolteacher and co-founder of One By One No Kill Cat Shelter, used to jog near her home where she found a calf and a mother in a nearby farm. She bought them on her birthday to save them from slaughter Two weeks after she bought them the mother gave birth to a calf. She named the calf Misto.
Since the farmer was selling his cows in 2000 Joyce moved them for boarding. His mother died after four years and his older brother died two years later in 2003 Misto was in his own pasture and barn while the other cows were in the adjoining pasture.
Red, a four month old calf, was bought at the Leesport auction by a farmer and was taken to his farm. The cows where Red was were sick and in many died. Red was so sick that the farmer didn’t want him there although Red gradually recovered.
Misto was boarded in same farm. He saw Red in next pasture which was separated by a fence. Misto was alone and lonely. He just lost his mother and brother. Misto fell in love with Red and could not stop looking at him. He wouldn’t leave him and was literally drooling over Red. Joyce decided to save Red from slaughter so he could be a companion for Misto and asked the farmer to board Red and Misto together.
Misto wouldn’t go into the barn unless Red went too. Misto’s owner Joyce stayed with Misto but he didn’t come when called, being so distracted by Red. When Red and Misto were together they walked leaning shoulder to shoulder. Misto still drooled over Red. They had to be within eye view or calling distance of each other. They lived happily in the farm together for three years.
The farmer asked Joyce to move the cows. Joyce had saved a news article about the Lakshmi Cow Sanctuary and made arrangements for Red and Misto to join the sanctuary in 2006. Red and Misto were afraid during their move to the sanctuary so they circled the field a few times until they were comfortable.
Red had a very sweet and gentle disposition. We renamed Red as Vishnu and Misto as Narayana because of their large size (Viswam) Both Vishnu and Narayana were happy here and remained very close for several years while making cow and human friends. This was the best place for Vishnu and Naraynan to be and they were always close with each other.
From the beginnning Vishnu was a fat baby and Dr. Sastri used to tell him to eat less and lose weight. He never listened yet we all loved him for he was such a lovable baby. As our ancient scripture Srimad Bhagavatam says,
“Animals are like children. They should be loved and taken care of, not killed and eaten.”
Everybody who visited the sanctuary loved Vishnu for his gentleness and his childlike love. On July 12, 2014 Dr. Sastri found Vishnu lying on the ground with his two back legs spread horizontally which is usually not a good sign. He tried to get him up but he could not. Immediately he called his neighbor farmer Charlie. He came with a tractor and lifting device to get him up. We attached the device and tried to get him up but it did not work.
Edye chanted the Mrithyunjaya mantra 108 times to help him with a divine prayer.
We put some water on him and brought him food but he did not eat. Since it was already 8 pm We decided to leave him there and call the vet the next morning. When Dr. Sastri checked on him at 9 pm Vishnu had already departed this world.
We think Vishnu had a heart attack and fell down. We called Joyce to tell her about the demise of Vishnu. When she heard the news she was crying out loud because she treated Red and Misto as her own sons. We buried him the next day after offering flowers and chanting Mrithyunjaya mantra. We wish Vishnu all the best in his next life.
“Kindness and compassion towards all living things is a mark of a civilized society. Conversely, cruelty, whether it is directed against human beings or against animals, is not the exclusive province of any one culture or community of people. ”
― César Chávez
The two roosters and their rooster coop
Bharathi – Cow donated by Swami Dayananda Saraswati
She was purchased at a slaughterhouse auction. She was approximately 8-10 years old. We do not know where she came from but presume she was from a dairy farm, where she was repeatedly impregnated in order to keep her milk production at maximal level. Her offspring, male would have been sent to the veal industry and females would have been kept on the dairy farm so they could follow in their mother’s footsteps. Either way, her babies were taken from her within minutes of birth. After enduring this lifestyle for years, when she was no longer able to maximally produce milk, she was sent to the slaughterhouse and sold to the highest bidder. Her fate was to be converted into a poor quality “food” product in the most merciless manner, however a pair of kind and good-hearted people purchased her. Dr. Sastri and his friend, Kamala Motihar, won the auction with a bid for $1,300.00. That is what Bharathi’s life was worth to the beef industry.
Bharathi was immediately brought to Lakshmi Cow and Animal Sanctuary after her purchase. She was very scared and timid upon her arrival, she had learned to mistrust and fear humans. Bharathi spent most of her time at the back of her stall and only came out to feed. Eventually, after about 6 months, Bharathi grew to trust the humans at the sanctuary and she started to feel safe. She observed how content and calm the other cows around her were and, slowly, her confidence and sense of security grew. Bharathi and the other cows roamed freely in the pastures and, almost like Dr. Sastri’s former students, they promptly arrived at meal times and stood in their self designated spots, patiently waiting for their food to arrive. They enjoyed being groomed and the special treats Dr. Sastri gave them – apples, bananas and occasionally biscuits.
A year and half after her arrival, Bharathi gave birth to a calf, a boy named Vedanta. This time, Bharathi remained with her son. She was able to fully bond with her baby and experience the strong maternal bond cows are known to feel towards their calves. Bharathi and Vedanta spent all their time together, as most mothers’ do with their infant child. They slept in the same stall, they shared their meals and roamed and played in the pasture together. Vedanta was a very luck calf indeed; he has known pure love since his birth.
Years went by and Bharathi grew older. She became slower and wiser. The other animals on the sanctuary recognized her calming nature. The chickens, cats and other cows were often seen with her – sitting, walking or just spending time together. One day last week, Bharathi came for her evening meal. She feasted on grains and Dr. Sastri had apples for all the cows. She savored her meal, enjoyed her apple and then went off to the back of the pasture. Jesus, Edie (regular volunteers at the sanctuary) and Dr. Sastri noticed the other cows were gathered around something. They went to investigate and as they approached closer the other cows dispersed; they found Bharathi lying on the ground…motionless. She had a blank stare in her eyes and her chest did not move to show any signs of respiration. She had left this world. Dr. Sastri, Jesus and Edie prepared to cremate Bharathi’s body, as they started the cremation, the other cows mooed and continued to audibly express themselves for about 10 minutes till they quieted down on their own. They were mourning the loss of their companion.
There is so much we can learn from these large, gentle giants. They have the ability to express and feel an extremely deep sense of love, they socialize and form friendships, they love to problem solve, they have complex thought patterns and they mourn the loss of a member of their society. Cows are known to stay with each other at times of sickness. When one cow is dying, all the other cows are known to gather around the dying member to provide comfort. They are so similar to humans and yet we treat them so inhumanely. Bharathi’s early life was probably not a happy one but her last 10-11 years were filled with immense love, respect, joy and peace…what all beings desire to feel.
Dear Bharathi, you continue to live in the hearts and memories of all members of Lakshmi Cow and Animal Sanctuary.
“Poor animals, how jealously they guard their bodies, for to us is merely an evening’s meal, but to them is life itself.”
― T. Casey Brennan
Naming Vedanta, the son of Bharathi, the cow with the question mark
When I was a graduate student in Columbia University in 1980’s, I started coming to Pujya Swami Dayananda Saraswati’s classes in Saylorsburg. One day Swamiji explained the Gita verse, “karmanyevadhikaraste ma phalesu kadachana” (2:47). Swamiji explains this verse by saying your choice is in actions only never in the results thereof. Do not think you are the author of the results of action. The results of action can never be predicted and it can be any one of the four results:
(1) the result is in keeping with your expectation;
(2) you get more than your expectation;
(3) you get less than your expectation;
(4) you get just the opposite result.
Karma I can do, but karma-phala is something that takes place because of the laws that are the Lord.
Many scholars have misinterpreted this sloka and say that “you have to work without expecting any results”. Who will do any work without expecting any results ? Also many scholars when explaining always bring in a feeling of guilt whereas Swamiji is the only one who removes these feelings of guilt and hurt completely. This alone prepares the mind to see the true nature of oneself which is satchitananda. I can list so many slokas where Swamiji explains the subject matter, very clearly.
I have listened to many lectures by various Swamis but nobody explained Gita as Swamiji does. Swamiji is a scholar in Sanskrit and also a great teacher, who cares that his students should understand and assimilate the teaching.
Also Swamiji teaches everyone to be a contributor in addition to being a consumer. Swamiji has so many disciples who are great teachers and contributors to the society. I was also captivated by Swamiji’s lectures and I started a cow sanctuary to protect the cows, our mother divine, from abuse and slaughter. When I mentioned to Swamiji about the start-up of Lakshmi Cow Sanctuary, Inc. he immediately told the ashram to save and donate two cows to the sanctuary because cow protection is indeed a great need.
Swamiji named the first cow Bharati. After two years at the sanctuary, Bharati gave birth to a male calf with a big question mark, complete with dot, on his forehead. I was fascinated when I saw this beautiful calf. It felt like he was asking the question “Who am I? “
So we decided to call him Vedanta and I always share this anecdote and the teaching of Swamiji that we are not the body and we are the atman to all our visitors.
Swamiji gives his time freely and helps every one as Bhagavan would. Pujya Swamiji’s compassionate work for the underprivileged in India through organizations like AIM for SEVA inspired me to start a compassionate project in America for abused cows destined for slaughter. In our Lakshmi cow sanctuary, we care for 18 cows, our mother divine, 11 cats and 3 chickens. Caring is love and that is what we have, loving cows in our sanctuary. The sanctuary is located 13 miles east of Arsha Vidya Gurukulam.
-Dr. Sankar Sastri
“Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” – Albert Einstein