Monday Morning Greetings 2017 #44 – What I Learned from a Cow and its New Born Calf: A Vaisnava View of Perfection

October 30th, 2017

We were sitting outdoors peacefully taking lunch in the garden hermitage of our host, my old sādhu friend Śrīdhara, when suddenly his ten-year old grandson entered. The young boy excitedly whispered something into his grandfather’s ear and our almost doting host bolted our company following his grandson’s lead running down the dirt entrance path of his garden dwelling. We all soon followed. When we reached the end of the path near the front gate we saw the cause of the commotion. To the left of the path where Śrīdhara Bābā keeps his few cows, Lalitā had just given birth to a calf.
 
I was surprised how big the newborn calf was. She was lying on his belly with all four legs spread-eagle. She was struggling to push his legs together to rise and, to my astonishment, in no time she was suddenly standing on all fours fervently searching for her mother’s teats for milk. The mother in return began to passionately lick her child all over her body. I had an epiphany.
 
This was a perfect analogy for a Vaiṣṇava’s view of perfection. In all schools of thought the goal or objective is to realize the ultimate reality as that school defines it. For a Vaiṣṇava that reality is God or Krishna and His energies. As Krishna is a being or personal, we have a natural relationship with Him. Thus when by the practice of devotion we become free from ignorance, we not only realize the ultimate reality, but also love that reality, which is only Krishna. This topmost love for God is called prema-bhakti, the goal or perfection of life.
 
I never really fully understood why realizing the truth in Krishna consciousness was defined as intensely loving the truth, until I saw the passionate exchange between the cow and its newborn calf. They had no previous conception or experience of each other, yet as soon as they saw each other spontaneous love flowed passionately, reinforcing the point that when there is natural relationship between any two beings there is innate energy between them called love, a spontaneous affection that requires absolutely no mutual introduction. Similarly, when we fully realize the Absolute Truth we will immediately and naturally love the Absolute Truth, especially since the Absolute Truth is Krishna, meaning All-Attractive.
 
Watching the relationship between that cow and calf was a beautiful thing to see and reflective of the innate principle of love guiding the universe. Still no matter how beautiful and inherent their mutual affection was, nonetheless it is limiting, being confined to a temporary body and somewhat superficial, as the body is ultimately not one’s real self. I don’t want to minimize the spark of divinity within each soul, but rather I want to show that the exchange I saw between the cow and the new born calf was so analogous to the love awakened spontaneously between the soul and God.
 
And that is the beautiful thing I learned from a cow and its newborn calf on a peaceful day in Vṛndāvana.
 
 

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