Cow protection is the dearest possession of the Hindu heart. No one who does not
believe in cow protection can possibly be a Hindu. It is a noble belief. Cow
worship means to me worship of innocence. For me, the cow is the personification
of innocence. Cow protection means the protection of the weak and the helpless.
As professor Vaswani truly remarks, cow protection means brotherhood between
man and beast. It is a noble sentiment that must grow by patient toil and tapasya.
Cow protection to me is one of the most wonderful phenomena in human evolution. It
takes the human being beyond his species. The cow to me means the entire
subhuman world. Man through the cow is enjoined to realize his identity with
all that lives. Why the cow was selected for apotheosis is obvious to me. The
cow was in India the best companion. She was the giver of plenty. Not only did
she give milk but she also made agriculture possible. The cow is a poem of pity.
One reads pity in the gentle animal. She is the mother to millions of Indian
mankind. Protection of the cow means protection of the whole dumb creation of
God. The ancient seer, whoever he was, began with the cow. The appeal of the
lower order of creation is all the more forcible because it is speechless. Cow
protection is the gift of Hinduism to the world. And Hinduism will live so long
as there are Hindus to protect the cow.
Our Rishis made the startling discovery, (and everyday I feel more and more
convinced of its truth) that sacred texts and inspired writings yield their
truth only in proportion as one has advanced in the practice of Ahimsa and
truth. The greater the realization of truth and Ahimsa the greater the
illumination. These same Rishis declared that cow protection was the supreme
duty of a Hindu and that its performance brought one moksha, i.e.
salvation. Now I am not ready to believe that by merely protecting the animal
cow, one can attain moksha. For moksha one must completely get rid
of one's lower feelings like attachment, hatred, anger, jealousy, etc. It
follows, therefore, that the meaning of cow protection in terms of moksha
must be much wider and far more comprehensive than is commonly supposed. The cow
protection which can bring one moksha must, from its very nature, include
the protection of everything that feels. Therefore, in my opinion, every little
breach of the Ahimsa principle, like causing hurt by harsh speech to any one,
man, woman or child, to cause pain to the weakest and the most insignificant
creature on earth would be a breach of the principle of cow protection, would be
tantamount to the sin of beef-eating, differing from it in degree, if at all,
rather than in kind.
A Hindu who protects the cow should protect every animal. But taking all things into
consideration, we may not cavil at his protecting the cow because he fails to
protect the other animals. The only question therefore to consider is whether he
is right in protecting the cow. And he cannot be wrong in so doing if
non-killing of animals generally may be regarded as a duty for one who believes
in Ahimsa. And every Hindu, and for that matter every man of religion, does so.
The duty of not killing animals generally and therefore protecting them must be
accepted as an indisputable fact. It is then so much to the credit of Hinduism
that it has taken up cow protection as a duty. And he is a poor specimen of
Hinduism who stops merely at cow protection when he can extend the arm of
protection to other animals. The cow merely stands as a symbol, and protection
of the cow is the least he is expected to undertake.
The motive that actuates cow protection is not 'purely selfish', though selfish
consideration undoubtedly enters into it. If it was purely selfish, the cow
would be killed as in other countries after it had ceased to give full use. The
Hindus will not kill the cow even though she may be a heavy burden. The
numberless goshalas that have been established by charitably-minded
people for tending disabled and useless cows is in a way an eloquent testimony
of the effort that is being made in the direction. Though they are today very
poor institutions for the object to be achieved the fact does not detract from
the value of the motive behind the act.
The philosophy of cow protection, therefore, is in my opinion sublime. It
immediately puts the animal creation on the same level with man so far as the
right to live is concerned.