“Thirty-three years ago, I first came to India. I was about 19 years old. I am just now remembering my first day in this great country.” – Radhanath Swami
In the evening, I was walking down the street in Old Delhi, Chandni Chowk area; and one very polite gentleman approached me on the street and asked me, “Where are you from? Why have you come to India? What is your educational qualification?” And then he asked me, “Have you had any food?” So, he brought me to a restaurant. As we were waiting, he ordered for me because I did not know anything about India.
Just a few feet away from me on the road – it was an open restaurant – there was a mother cow and her baby calf. I had never been so close to a cow in my whole life, because in the United States of America, the closest a normal person comes to a cow is seeing them in the pasture grazing, some distance away, while you are driving down the highway.
This cow was so beautiful. Her eyes were shining, so big, like lotus petals! So graceful! And her little calf was one of the most beautiful people I have ever seen in my life. So innocent! So life-loving! The calf was playing and the mother was so very carefully and lovingly taking care of her little calf: feeding her milk, licking her. It was really a relationship of love.
I was thinking that this love between the mother cow and her little calf was as intimate and as real as any relationship between a human mother and her baby, may be not with the same intellectual capacity. But from the heart that mother would do anything to protect and satisfy her calf, and that calf was completely dependent on the shelter of the mother.
I was really enjoying this wonderful experience. The food came and I was still looking at the calf and the cow. My host asked me, “Would you like to know what all these preparations are?” I said, “Yes”. He said, “This is bread. We call it roti. And this is sabji, vegetable. And this is soup, dal. And this is rice, and what is on the rice is meat.” For the first time in my life I made the connection – to eat this meat means a cow like this – that loves her life and who loves her children – is killed. I was shocked! I was twenty years old.
I never made the connection before. I began to cry. I couldn’t eat. My host looked at me, like I was crazy. He said, “What’s wrong?” I was speechless. I began to reflect – this is the power of habit.
“Good people, caring people, are indulging in activities that is causing blood-shed, killing, and pain to innocent, life-loving animals, who are people also. Why? Because of habit!” – Radhanath Swami
Years later when I came back to America, I was explaining to people, my relatives, my friends, “Don’t you see the connection?” They could see the connection, they could understand it.
It is just common sense. You love your dog as much or more than your other family members; if a dog of an American dies, or a cat, they weep and cry for days in separation, because a person that they love is dead. Can’t you see that the cow and that calf is a mother and a child, who love their life and love their family as much as you and me? They could understand. It is a common sense. But due to habit, it just would not sink in. They have been conditioned from birth to this eating meat.
“Srila Prabhupada said that one must be clean in heart and habit, in order to understand spiritual truth. Man is a creature of habit and we can change our habits with practice.” – Radhanath Swami