Mahatma Gandhi Community Forum

Gandhi and Mother Cow

“Cow protection to me is one of the most wonderful phenomena in human evolution.”
–Gandhi (Harijan, January 1, 1925)

Cow protection. Why would Gandhi be concerned about this ancient duty to “Mother Cow”? Hint: it was about more than the cows. The practice, which he said he would “defend against the whole world,” represented, in essence, the height of ahimsa. Protection of the cow meant to him, really, the protection of all non-human life, of which the cow is only a symbol. But not an irrelevant one, given how much human beings seem to depend on her, even, he notes, more than their own mothers. But unlike our mothers, he points out, cows do not stop serving even when they die: their bones, skin, horns, intestines, every part, he notes, can be put to use. “I say this not to disparage the mother who gave us birth, but in order to show you the substantial reasons for my worshipping the cow.”
A gentle creature, Gandhi calls her, “the cow is a poem of pity,” because she relies on human goodness and care for her survival, and yet she cannot put up a protest against the demands that humans put on her, “expecting nothing but grass and grain in return.” He adds, “The appeal of the lower order of creation,” he said, “is all the more forcible because it is speechless.”
More than a superstition or passed-on folk belief, cow protection to him was one of “the most wonderful phenomena in human evolution.” All creatures can benefit from our increased sensitivity to the forces of consciousness that pervade all of life, which we come to know more and more through the daily practice of nonviolence. In the end we are as much the beneficiaries ourselves when we develop that fine sensitivity to the value of life around us.

Experiment in Nonviolence:
Apply “cow protection” to your own context. What would it look like?


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