On a mailing list I’m on, a teacher of Hinduism from the Vivekanda Centre in London sent out this message about the recent furore around the cow Shambo. I thought it was worth reading.
Hinduism places a great deal of emphasis on the idea of reverence for life. The conclusion of esoteric Hinduism is that what religions are seeking for as an invisible being (God) in an invisible plane is actually very visible here and now.
It is God (or spirit) that sparkles as consciousness in the eyes of every living thing. It is this God that has become the universe and becomes more visible as all living things. The most transparent manifestation of this God is men and women. This is called spiritual humanism.
This is a marvellous concept that becomes encapsulated in the term: Ahimsa meaning: Not to hurt, harm or kill. That is the theory, now comes the practice. Here, Hinduism reveals its maturity by saying that ideas of reverence for all life can and should be put in to practice after taking in to account the over-all situation. There is no simple prescription that fits all situations.
The bull that tested positive for bTB falls in to this special situation category. If there are any sure-fire quarantine arrangements or bovine hospitals that can isolate and treat this animal and if the temple body felt that they had the funds and inclination to use huge amounts of funds to isolate and treat this animal, they were welcome to do so.
Though a more sober view may be to use the same funds to save a much larger numbers of cows that die in India because they live off dumps and swallow plastic bags which blocks their digestion system leaving them to die in great agony. Now, we understand, that two more animals in the temple complex may also have caught the bTB infection, we wonder who will take responsibility for this further needless loss of life.
Hinduism insists that we do not switch off our rational faculties when dealing with religious issues.
The rationality of this situation was that there was a clear possibility that the life of this one bull may endanger other lives in the temple complex as well as outside, hence something had to be done. The temple body responded by saying that the bull was isolated in the temple grounds.
This is hardly a sure-fire quarantine arrangement! They also suggested that the bull did not have bTB. That too is seen as wishful thinking as the post mortem revealed. There were further comments that this bull should have been transferred to India. Transferring live animals suspected of bTB across international borders is hardly an option.
Since a strict regiment of culling animals suspected of infectious disease was introduced in the UK, the cases of TB in humans fell dramatically. All citizens enjoy TB free milk products. The regiment is very strict because it errs on the side of caution. If any Hindu body was questioning this strict regiment of culling all UK animals or was prepared to fund more research to find remedies for stopping the spread of bTB, they would have our sympathy.
If they were fighting the issue of poor treatment of animals bred for human consumption, they would have our support but that does not appear to be the agenda. These Hindu bodies are only fighting for special privileges for animals at Hindu temples!
Save the bull campaign did not save the life of Shambo and in the process it undermined the credibility of this majestic Hindu religion by offering over-simplistic interpretation like: All life is sacred hence killing Shambo is sacrilegious (without any thought for lives of other animals that were being endangered)! It then made a great deal of fuss about the Welsh assembly desecrating the temple.
They could have easily led the bull to the temple boundary and handed it over as the law required but they preferred a bunch of policemen to go stomping on the temple grounds so that they could scream ‘desecration of the temple’ and curse the Welsh Assembly.
What should be on line is not lives of some poor animals suspected of infectious disease but the credibility of Hindu Forum leadership that wound up this local issue in to an international campaign. It did not succeed in saving the life of this bull and in the process has damaged the credibility of Hinduism.
To give you an example, the BBC driver who took me to the studio asked, ‘Are you people kicking up a fuss because you worship bulls?’ It is understandable if the man on the street now thinks that Hinduism is a bull-worshipping religion!
The BBC Wales interviewer also said, Mr Lakhani we know little about Hinduism and this issue will show it in a distorted light’. Not only has the image of Hinduism been damaged, tens of thousands of Hindus who were persuaded by Hindu Forum and the Skanda Vale complex to sign petitions to save the bull will feel let down, they cannot be blamed if they think that the Welsh Assembly is somehow anti-Hindu! Hardly a prescription for community cohesion.
Yet, the secretary of Hindu Forum works for a Government commission that is supposed to foster community cohesion! What is at stake is the credibility of Hindu forum to represent a Hindu view despite all their hype. It has not only managed to dupe the Hindus in to supporting a misguided campaign it seems to have duped the Home office and the Media in to thinking that they are fit to represent Hinduism.
Undoubtedly he hits the nail on the head. What usually annoys me about some religious people is when they reduce usually benign and compassionate ideals to stupid, dogmatic rituals. And the furore around the culling of Shambo was a perfect example – Hinduism reduced to worshipping a possibly infected cow. These people have no brains.
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