Srila Prabhupada explains why the Krishna consciousness movement promotes the protection of cows and brahminical culture.
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Lecture given in Los Angeles on December 4, 1968
The creation of a peaceful, prosperous human society requires raising a least a small percentage of the population to the spiritual platform.

chintamani-prakara-sadmasu kalpa-vriksha-
lakshavriteshu surabhir abhipalayantam
govindam adi-purusham tam aham bhajami

“I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, the first progenitor, who is tending the cows yielding all desire in abodes built with spiritual gems and surrounded by millions of purpose trees, and who is always served with great reverence and affection by hundreds of thousands of Lakshmis, or gopis.” – Sri Brahma-samhita 5.29

We are worshipers of the original Absolute Personality of Godhead, Govinda. Go means “senses,” go means “cow,” and go means “land.” And vindam means one who gives pleasure – the pleasure potency of these three things: senses, cows, and land.

In the Bhagavad-gita (5.29) it is said that the proprietor of all land, the maintainer of all land, the one who gives pleasure to the people of all lands is Govinda, Krishna. And He is the protector of the cows and is pleasing to the cows. You have seen many pictures of Krishna where He is showing love for a cow. Why is the cow loved by Him? Why not another animal? Because cow protection is the most important business of human society.

In the offering of obeisances to Krishna it is said, namo brahmanya-devaya go-brahmana-hitaya ca: “I offer my respectful obeisances unto the Supreme Person, who is the protector of the brahmanas and the cows.” The first qualification is that He protects the brahmanas and the cows. Next He protects the whole world: jagad-dhitaya. And krishnaya: He is Krishna. Then govindaya: He is Govinda.

The example is set by the Supreme Personality of Godhead that human civilization will advance only on the basis of brahminical culture and cow protection. As soon as there is falldown from brahminical culture, and as soon as there is discrepancy in the protection of cows, there will be no more peace in the world. Therefore it is specifically said, go-brahmana-hitaya ca: “Unto Him who protects the cows and the brahmanas.”

This Krishna consciousness movement is for the protection of brahminical culture and cows. When these two things are done, then automatically the peace of the world will come.

This is a characteristic of Vedic literature: pick up the essence of things, and then all other things follow. An example is the yoga system. Yoga indriya-samyamah. The yoga system is meant to control the senses. This is the primary factor in practicing yoga. We have five senses for acquiring knowledge and five working senses. Of all the senses the tongue is considered to be the most powerful sense. Vaishnavas therefore try to control the tongue. They do not allow the tongue to eat everything and anything. No. The title Svami or Goswami means one who has control over the senses. Generally, people are servants of the senses. When instead of becoming a servant of the senses a man becomes a master of the senses, then he is called Svami. Svami is not about the dress, the clothing. The dress is superfluous. Everywhere in ordinary life there is some uniform dress to understand “He is such and such.” But actually, Svami means one who has control over the senses. And that is essential to brahminical culture.

Brahminical Qualifications

Brahminical culture means truthfulness, cleanliness, controlling the senses, controlling the mind, simplicity, tolerance, full knowledge, practical application of knowledge in life, and faith in God. Anywhere people practice these qualifications, brahminical culture will be revived. It is not restricted to a particular country or a particular society. It is not that a particular class of men are brahmanas. No. Bhagavad-gita does not say that. Brahma-karma svabhava-jam (18.42). Svabhava-jam means natural activities.

This Krishna consciousness movement is for training brahmacharis. Brahmachari means practicing the brahminical culture. There must be a portion of the population well versed in brahminical culture. In a garden, if there is one nice flowering plant, such as a rose plant, with good scent, the whole garden becomes fragrant, scented. Similarly, we do not expect that the whole population of human society will take to this brahminical culture; but if even one percent of the population accepts this brahminical culture, Krishna consciousness, then the whole world will be peaceful. Not even one percent, less than one percent. It is so nice.

The Krishna consciousness movement is a very scientific movement. Unless you raise the population from the animal propensities, how can you expect peace? Do you think there is any peace in the dog society, in the cat society? No, it is not possible. You keep some dogs. They meet. As soon as they meet together there will be howling – “gow, gow, gow, gow.” So I you a create a dog society, then you cannot expect peace. You have to create brahmanas as a certain percentage of the population. Then there is the possibility of peace.

In the sky the numerical strength of the stars is greater, but there is one moon, and that one moon is sufficient to illuminate the sky. Ekash chandras tamo hanti na cha tara sahasrasah. Millions of millions of stars are twinkling, but they cannot dissipate the darkness. You see. Only one moon, only one sun. So try to make some percentage of the population actually brahmanas.

Cow Protection

And protect the cows. Actually, we are taking so many advantages from the cows. We get milk, and from milk we can make hundreds of vitamin-rich palatable foods. Such a nice animal – faithful, peaceful, and beneficial. And if after taking milk from it we kill it, does that look very good? Even after their death, the cows supply their skin for your shoes. The cow is so beneficial. You see. Even after death.

While living, it gives you nice milk. You cannot reject milk from human society. As soon as a child is born, milk is immediately required. For the old man, milk is life. For the diseased person, milk is life. For the invalid, milk is life. Therefore Krishna is teaching by His practical demonstration how He loves this innocent animal, the cow. Human society should develop brahminical culture on the basis of protecting cows.

The brahmana takes milk preparations and develops the finer tissues of the brain. With a good brain you can understand subtle matters in philosophy, in spiritual science. No ordinary man can understand the scientific intricacies taught in a scientific college. Students require some preliminary qualification to enter the scientific college. They require some preliminary qualification to enter the law college, the postgraduate classes. Similarly, to understand the subtle or finer implications of spiritual science, one has to become a brahmana. Without becoming a brahmana it is not possible.

Classification by Quality and Work

Therefore in the Bhagavad-gita (4.13) it is said, chatur-varnyam maya srishtam guna-karma-vibhagashah. There are four classes of men created by God – chatur-varnyam. How are they divided? How is the classification made? Guna-karma-vibhagashah: by classification of quality and work. Not by birth. In India, of course, this classification of guna-karma-vibhagashah was originally planned from the Vedic age. But later on a class of men, without any qualification, without any practical work, claimed, “I belong to such and such class.” Therefore India’s falldown was inevitable. So Bhagavad-gita says, “Not like that.” Bhagavad-gita says that these classes of men, catur-varnyam – the brahminical class, the kshatriya class, the vaishya class, and the shudra class – are everywhere. Not only in India but throughout the universe. In every country, in every nation, in every society there must be some people who have the brahminical tendency. From your country we have picked up some boys and girls who are inclined to adopt this way of life. So this Krishna consciousness movement is simply picking up the brahminical class of boys and girls.

Not that we are taking account, “Oh, who is your father? Is your father a brahmana?” No. We don’t take account like that. His father may be anything; it doesn’t matter. But if he has the tendency to accept this Krishna consciousness, we immediately welcome: “Come on.” And we teach him this brahminical qualification – to become brahmachari, not to indulge in illicit sex life, not to take a nonvegetarian diet.

Vegetarian vs. Nonvegetarian

We don’t exactly recommend a vegetarian diet. We are vegetarian and we restrict from a nonvegetarian diet, but we recommend Krishna prasadam. We have no quarrel with the nonvegetarians, because the vegetable also has life. The plants, the grass, the trees, the fruits, the flowers, they also have life. They are not dead. So simply becoming vegetarian is no great qualification. Somebody is taking meat and somebody is taking vegetables; it does not make any difference. But we are taking vegetables not because we are vegetarians; we are taking vegetables as Krishna prasadam, remnants of foodstuff offered to Krishna.

Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita (9.26),

patram pushpam phalam toyam
yo me bhaktya prayachchati
tad aham bhakty-upahritam
ashnami prayatatmanah

“If somebody offers Me some foodstuff prepared from vegetables and fruits and grains” – grains are also fruits – “with love and devotion, then I eat.” Therefore we offer these things to Krishna. Here we have offered fruits, not because we are vegetarian but because Krishna wants this. If you invite a friend, you ask him, “My dear friend, what do you like to eat?” So if he says, “I like this,” you immediately supply it. This is the sign of love. Similarly, because Krishna says, “If somebody offers Me fruits, flowers, grains, milk, with devotion and love, I will eat,” and because we are pledged to Krishna, we offer these things to Krishna and then we eat. That is our process.

Offering Food in Sacrifice

We have no quarrel with nonvegetarian or vegetarian. No. Because the vegetable has also got life. And in the Bhagavad-gita (3.13) it is stated, yajna-shishtashinah santo muchyante sarva-kilbishaih. You have to eat after offering the food in sacrifice. Sacrifice means to worship the Supreme Lord. That is called sacrifice. So if anyone eats the remnants of sacrificial foodstuff, then he is freed from all kinds of sins.

The purport is that those who are vegetarian are thinking, “We are better than the nonvegetarians,” but it is not the fact. Either you eat vegetables or nonvegetables, you are liable to be punished because you are accepting something without offering it to the supplier. That is the law. We must acknowledge at least that “This foodstuff is supplied by the Supreme Lord and we are obliged to Him.”

In Christian Bible also they pray, “O God, give us our daily bread.” So one should accept that it is supplied by God. If one does not even accept this obligation, then he is sinful, certainly. One who offers sacrifice and then takes the foodstuff becomes freed from the sinful activities. In eating there is sinful activity. Bhunjate te tv agham papa ye pachanty atma-karanat: anyone who is simply cooking for himself is simply eating sins. (Gita 3.13) These are the statements of Bhagavad-gita.

Therefore it is our duty to offer foodstuff to the Lord and then take it. “My Lord, You have supplied such nice foodstuff for my maintaining my life, so You first of all taste it, and then I shall eat it.” It is very nice. This is Krishna consciousness. Krishna is not going to take away the foodstuff that your offer. But if you simply accept that He is eating it, then you become freed from the implication of sinful activities.

Killing with Every Step

We are in such a position that in every step there is sinful activity, every step. This world is so made. The Buddhist philosophy, the Jain philosophy, they advocate nonviolence. But how can one be nonviolent? We are walking on the street. There are so many ants and small germs, and they are being killed. We are breathing, and so many animals are being killed. We are drinking water, and so many animals are being killed. How is it possible to become nonviolence? It is not possible. Therefore in every step we have to act in Krishna consciousness, or God consciousness. Then there is indemnity from the sinful activities. That is recommended in the Bhagavad-gita (3.9). Unless you act in Krishna consciousness, or God consciousness, or as ordered by Krishna, or God, then you become bound up by the reaction.

yajnarthat karmano ’nyatra
loko ’yam karma-bandhanah
tad-artham karma kaunteya
mukta-sangah samachara

“Therefore, My dear Arjuna,” Krishna instructs Arjuna, “simply act for Krishna, or God, tad-artham, not for any other purpose. Don’t create your action; simply act according to the direction of the Lord. Mukta-sangah samachara. Then you will be freed from the reaction of your act.”

There are many examples. A soldier, when he is killing on the battlefield on the order of the higher authorities of the government and the commander-in-chief, is not liable for killing. He is, rather, rewarded. The same man, if he kills somebody on his own account, is hanged. Immediately he becomes liable to the law.

Simply Act for Krishna

Therefore our whole life should be so modeled that we shall simply act for God, or Krishna. That is Krishna consciousness. The activities in Krishna consciousness are called bhakti, devotional service. And how they are discharged is very nicely explained in many Vedic literatures and in the Bhagavad-gita. Especially in the Narada Pancharatra it is stated,

tat-paratvena nirmalam
hrishikena hrishikesha-
sevanam bhaktir uchyate

One has to become freed from all designations. What is a designation? “I am American,” “I am Indian,” “I am a brahmana,” “I am a kshatriya,” “I am this,” “I am that.” These are all designations. Actually, I am spirit soul. I have got this designation on account of my accepting this material body, but I am not this body. This is the first instruction in the Bhagavad-gita. Spiritual instruction begins from this platform, that “I am not this body.” Because the bodily concept of life is animal life. The dog thinks, “I am this body”; the cat thinks, “I am this body.” But if a human being thinks, “I am this body,” then what is the difference between that human being and cats and dogs? A human being must try to understand, “What am I?” This is called knowledge. He must come to the understanding aham brahmasmi, “I am spirit soul.”

Socrates realized this. When he was asked by the judge, “Mr. Socrates, how do you want to be entombed?” he answered, “First of all, capture me; then you entomb me. You are seeing my body. You have no vision that I am the soul.”

This is the right vision. Bhagavad-gita (5.18) says therefore,

brahmane gavi hastini
shuni chaiva shva-pake cha
panditah sama-darshinah

Panditah means one who is learned. He sees everything equally because he does not see the body; he sees the spirit soul. Somebody may be very high, or somebody may be very, very low, or an animal. But panditah, one who is learned, sees the spirit soul. Panditah sama-darshinah. He knows that this body is only a dress.

Suppose a gentleman has come to this meeting. If he is not properly dressed, that does not mean he should be hated. Similarly, one who is pandita, learned, does not discriminate between man and animal because they have got different dresses. No. As far as maintenance of the body is concerned, the animal eats, the man eats; the animal sleeps, the man sleeps; the animal mates, the man also mates. The quality or degree of mating or eating may be different, but eating is there, sleeping is there, mating is there, and defending is there. But what is the difference between man and animal? Man knows, at least he should try to know, “What am I? What is God? What is this world? What is our interrelation?” This is man’s business. This is called athato brahma jijnasa. In the Vedanta-sutra the first sutra, aphorism, is atha atah brahma-jijnasa: “This human form of life is meant for inquiry about the spirit, the Supreme Spirit, Brahman.” That is the beginning of spiritual education.

Spiritual education means first to understand what I am, then what God is, what this world is, what our interrelation is, what God’s position is, what my position is, how I shall deal with God. These things are spiritual education, and human life is meant for that purpose. Nature gives a chance to the living entity in this developed consciousness of a human being to understand these things. And if one is fortunate enough to understand that he is spirit soul, that he is Brahman, then the Bhagavad-gita (18.54) gives the definition of such a man: brahma-bhutah prasannatma. As soon as he comes to the understanding of the spiritual platform, then he becomes joyful, immediately freed from all anxieties. Joyfulness means freedom from all anxiety. Brahma-bhutah prasannatma na shocati na kankshati. He has no more hankering and no more lamentation. Samah sarveshu bhuteshu: and he sees everyone on the spiritual platform, equally. Then the life of devotion, service to the Lord, begins.

Cleansed of Designations

This is the process of understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The process recommends that one should become freed from the designations because accepting designations means ignorance. We have to transcend this position of designations.

Sarvopadhi-vinirmuktam tat-paratvena nirmalam. By reviving our lost relationship with the Supreme Lord, we become cleansed. That is the brahminical stage. Nirmalam means cleansed. And when your consciousness is cleansed, then only can you render service to the Lord. Hrishikena hrishikesha-sevanam. Otherwise not. As long as our consciousness is not clean, as long as our consciousness is polluted, there is no possibility of rendering service to the Lord. Hrishikena hrishikesha-sevanam. Hrishika means senses purified by being freed from designations. When one is purified in connection with activities of Krishna, or God, then one can render service to the Lord, Hrishikesha. That is called bhakti.

Bhakti is nothing artificial. It is the activity of the healthy stage. When a man is diseased, his activities differ from those of a man who is cured and healthy. To make someone healthy does not mean to kill the patient, but to cure him of the disease. That is real treatment.

The whole treatment of human society should be like that: to cure the person from the disease of forgetfulness of his relationship with God. Then, when he is cured, when he is in a healthy state, there will be no more trouble in the world. Peace and prosperity can be established when people are no longer in the designated stage, when they are free.

It is not expected, however, that cent percent of the population of the world will be free from all contamination. But if even only a certain percentage, a most insignificant percentage, is free of contamination – one percent, or less than that, one in millions – then the face of the world will change.

This Krishna consciousness movement is just trying to turn the face of the people towards the Supreme Lord. This process is not a sectarian process. Just as students can be picked up from any society, similarly a person inclined to understand the science of God can be picked up from any society. There is no question of designation. It is not that it is meant for the Hindu or meant for the Christian or meant for the Buddhist. Anyone who is interested in the science of God is welcome in this Krishna consciousness movement.

Thank you very much.