It’s a foggy morning at the Krishna Village Farm, with mist hanging in the hills of the caldera and the sun just rising to illuminate the top of Mt. Warning. A magical atmosphere of peace, quiet and meditational mantra chanting. Even peacock Nila has decided to add to the picture by gracing the Jacaranda tree with his colourful presence.
A few minutes’ walk from the Krishna Village retreat facilities, Venu and Karunamayi are getting ready for their first task of the day – milking the cows and caring for the calves. The Krishna Farm has a cow family of about 70, including mothers and children as well as bullocks and two steers. The peaceful Friesians and Indian Girs are grazing by the goshala (cow shed), and come up for a cuddle the minute we open the gate.
In India, cows are sacred and titled ‘go-mata’ – mother cow. Ancient Vedic philosophy states that cows are one of the most sattvic (= peaceful, harmonious, in the mode of goodness) animals, and are therefore to be treated with all respect and kindness. It is believed that on the path of reincarnation, life as a cow is one of the forms previous to human incarnation, and that a cow-turned-human is an especially peaceful person. Believe what you will about that idea – they are the kindest creatures!!
As Venu is going about his daily milking business, Karunamayi embraces a 3-day-old calf called Nandu and explains: “I’m vegan, but I drink this milk because it is ‘ahimsa’ – obtained in a non-violent way. Unlike mainstream dairies, we milk our cows by hand, and leave them with more than enough milk for their calves.” As we know but often choose to ignore, commercial dairies have to separate mothers from children to remain financially viable. Force-inseminated to have a calf every year, they are separated from their children the same day they give birth. If you have ever seen go-mata’s special bond with her newborn, you will realise that the mooing in the meadows doesn’t always mean joyous frolicking, but can be the most heartbreaking cry for their children.
In addition, given that male calves don’t give milk and usually don’t belong to a breed that’s being raised for meat, they usually get killed the very day they are born. A bloody business, that in Vedic tradition is to be seen to bring tremendous negative karma to the people involved.
Not so at the Krishna Farm though. Here, little Nandu has just wiggled himself out of Karunamayi’s arms and is now competing with Venu for his mother’s milk. It’s obvious that there’s no shortage and the two peacefully cooperate while mum patiently chews on some hay. Later they will be walked over to the paddock by the lake and will enjoy grazing, digesting and being admired by the retreat guests and volunteers who walk past on their way to breakfast.
A servant’s heart
When you spend time with the Krishna Farm cowherds you soon realise that this ‘mode of goodness’ thing is contagious. There is something about those people – like they have picked up the peacefulness and gentle demeanour from their bovine friends and are carrying it forth into the human world.
Ask them about their cows and they light up, sharing all these little personal stories, like when baby Madhurya Lila was born with crooked hooves last year, but they nurtured and cared for her, collecting donations for a surgery that ultimately allowed her to grow into a healthy one-year-old who happily jumps along with the others. Or how these days old Chandra, a bullock, is preparing to leave his body and they have erected a tent and are staying with him as he is passing, singing mantras for him day and night while caressing and caring for him.
The yoga of love at Krishna Village
It is a most humbling experience to observe how much love goes into the care of these beautiful creatures. The path of ‘bhakti yoga’ means seeking a link or connection (= yoga) to the Divine through loving and kind service – which ultimately means serving every spirit soul, whether it currently exists in a plant, animal or human body. Taking on this yogic path with full commitment means to live with an open heart and truly care, seeing the Divine spirit soul in every living entity.
With that also comes an intention of passing this love on to as many people as possible – which the cowherds gladly do. You will often find Krishna Village guests leaving their morning yoga class at 6am to sneak over to the cow shed and help milking. Or they just stand, watch, and try a sip of warm fresh milk – nothing quite like it!
Find out more about the Krishna Village: http://krishnavillage-retreat.com
Support the Krishna Farm cows: https://www.krishnafarm.net/cow-protection