Hinduism And The Sacred Cow Essay

Hinduism And The Sacred Cow Essay.

A look at the various cultures in the world indicates that each community has its unique practices. Most of those cultural practices are divinely inspired. Some traditional tribes for example worship the mountains believing they are the abode of the Gods. Others may revere snakes seeing them as angels sent to guard the earth. Such beliefs are not mere practices but owe their basis to the core of such a community’s origin. For the Hindus, their veneration of cows is well chronicled and has been studied over time.

An in-depth analysis reveals interesting aspects of this community and creates a better understanding of why not even the prospects of death can compel starving adherents to slaughter cows for meat. A close analysis of the sanctity of cows in Hinduism reveals that beyond religion, there are economic factors at play that makes cows to be sources of great reverence. A look at Hinduism reveals a religion that has remained adamant to the changes brought forth by the Christianity civilization.

It reveals a population that holds unique doctrines and cultural practices that have defied odds, being reinforced year after year and cutting across individuals in all walks of life. It is such uniqueness and resistance that continues to be exhibited today and reinforces the reluctance to embrace the idea that cows could be a source of food as opposed to an object of worship. Though there exist scanty details that link the worship of cows to the Hindu scriptures, the raging belief is that such a belief owes its origin to Hinduism and is considered to be a core element to this belief.

The extent of this reverence can be discerned from the religions tensions that have existed over time between Indian Muslims and Hindus, over the latter’s beef eating practices and the Hindus bid to have beef eating banned nationwide . With a religion that has been closely associated with vegetarianism, it is important to examine the roots of Hinduism, its reverence for cows and the ban of cows as a preferred delicacy. A look at Hinduism and its insistence on the banning of cow meet presents an interesting contrast. History reveals “that cow protection was not always the central fact of Hinduism.”

Although Vedic scriptures advocated for vegetarianism, they did not mention the protection of cows. Such practice became prevalent after the inception of Buddhism. Scholarly excerpts on this topic claim that the practice of cow protection was brought by Jainism which strictly forbids meat eating. The highest of the four castes in India, the Brahman, which is seen as the custodian of religions doctrines, did not initially agitate against cow eating in fact as Harris mentions “the Brahman caste’s religions duties centered not on protecting cows but on slaughtering them”

Cow meat in those early times could be distributed to the adherents’ and a means of paying off loyalty. It was also used to signify wealth. It has to be noted however that even then cow meat eating was only restricted to sacrifices. Meat eating was associated with religious rituals and ceremonies after successful battles. Vedic scriptures had provided for specification on the type of animals that could be feasted upon but as Claus et al (2003, 125) observes “there is little to indicate that cows were worshipped during the Vedic period.”

Instead, such practices can be traced to what has been referred to as the Upanishadic Era. A number of factors have been identified by Brown (1957) as leading to the start of this practice. These are “the importance of the cow and its products in Vedic sacrificial ritual, the literal interpretation of figurative uses of the word cow in the Vedas”, the insistence on the sanctity of the Brahman’s cow and the identification of the cow with the mother of the gods . Since then, Hindus have considered cows to be sacred.

This can be discerned by looking at the available literature or the description of cows. Hindu religious scholars offer saintly description of cows portraying a reverence which equates them to deities. A look around India reveals that immense care is exercised when handling cows. Hindus pamper them with concern and accord them respect and respect that befits that of a higher being, they even “try to place them in animal shelters when they become sick or old and can no longer be cared for at home.”

Hindu scriptures claim that cows are protected by the gods (Shira Krishna) and hence each and every product that comes from cows is seen as possessing mystic powers. This can even be discerned from the way cow dung, which in the western world is considered as filth, is revered and used in various religious rituals. Cow dung, milk and urine are used to prepare holy liquids for blessing the worshippers. Such perception of animal droppings as possessing mystic power is extended to the village doctors who use it in their trade.

In addition, this reverence is also inspired by the Hindus belief in reincarnation. According to Ken reincarnation simply insinuates “that one’s actions here on earth have a direct bearing on the form one will take in the next life, the highest form being a cow. ” This is also referred to as transmigration and the belief that cows are spiritual beings can be used to explain the reluctance of the hunger stricken Hindus to slaughter the animals. The widely held belief is that gods resides in cows and hence anyone who dares slay or mistreat them will reincarnate into a lower being.

With cows hence being held in such a high stature among the Hindus and the common belief in their spirituality, they have become a common property with estimates placing their numbers to around 330 millions. This is roughly a cow per homestead. It is a common property even amongst the paupers as no one wants to be left behind from owning such an object of spiritual pleasure. It is hard then for such people to contemplate slaughtering cows even on the blink of death. The cow is seen as an object of providence whose milk flows to quench and nourish the world.

Many just watch helplessly as cows die either of hunger or old age and cannot play a role in the hastening of their deaths. Pictures of fattened cows among wizened and emaciated Hindus have been circulated in the west with a purpose probably of belittling one of the religions that has refused to die. The cradle of the matter however remains Hindus out of their religious beliefs would rather die of hunger than slaughter a cow, for this is considered to an act of great abomination. Not all however share the belief that religion alone has helped perpetuate the culture of cow protection.

Though the origin of this practice is heavily engendered in the historical rituals conducted in the early times, the economic angle has helped this culture transcend years of western onslaught. To understand this aspect of thinking, it is important to analyze the economic foundation of the Hindus and how it has sustained the practice of cow protection. The economic complacency behind the rearing of cows is by the Hindus may not be easily grasped by western scholars, but the truth of the matter is that cows are seen as the source of livelihood to a community whose income barely allows anything beyond mere existence.

India may be the 12th biggest in the world in terms of the GDP closely behind the developed nation but its economic background is characterized by huge inequalities. Agriculture has played a big role in the economy in addition to the manufacturing sector. However, the low productivity in the agricultural sector has been exacerbated by a number of factors key to them the inefficient small scale farming and the unwillingness or the inability to embrace modern methods of farming.

The peasant farmers still practice century’s old methods of farming which greatly depends on the monsoon providence. This is a fact that has helped sustain the practice of cow protection. The centrality of agriculture as the backbone of the Indian economy is undeniable; core to this is cow breeding which has become a source of national pride. Unlike in the western nations where majority of the people reside in the urban areas the reverse is the case in India with reliable estimations putting the percentage of Indians living in the rural areas to 75.

A further interesting fact about India’s peasantry farming is the use of cattle driven plows instead of tractors as is the case in modern farming. This reluctance probably emanates from the limitations in the size of the pieces of land available to each household making it uneconomical to switch to tractors. An analysis of the situation on the ground for the peasant farmers reveals that the high stature through which cows is unlikely to wane any time soon. This is because there is always a huge demand for traction animals. According to Harris “there is indeed a shortage rather than a surplus of animals.”

The amounts of land that require plowing far outstretch the available traction animals. In addition to cows, oxen are highly valued for farming. This may explain the obsession for cows in the belief that a large number of cows will lead to more oxen. For those that may not exceptionally view cows as being much of spiritual beings, their reliance on farming as the only source of livelihood hence means that one must be preoccupied with the need to preserve and protect cows in the belief that they will keep on multiplying the number of oxen.

This hence is a self preservation measure as the death of cows and oxen will hence undeniably mean the end of the small farms. Harris also examines further the issue of oxen and the inexplicable Hindus attachment to cows. A shortage of oxen is likely to result to debts to the farmers as they are likely to turn to renting to cover for the shortfall before the monsoon season is over. Sharing of oxen for example has being an unwise idea as most of the farmers during this period are busy preparing their farms. To avoid this each and every homestead ensures an adequate supply of cows and oxen.

India is home to a population that goes beyond 700 million people, as aforementioned, 70% live in the rural areas but that still leaves a sizeable chunk of people scurrying the urban center for jobs. For the 70% portion of the population cows are seen as a source of livelihood that must be protected at all costs, this is because the urban centers offer no respite. As Harris notes, the suffering caused by unemployment and homelessness in India cities is already intolerable and hence any influx towards the urban centers will create an imbalance and outstretch the available resources leading “to unprecedented upheavals and catastrophes.”

In comparison to the developed nations where agriculture is carried out in large scale, India’s agricultural sector can only be regarded as cottage and has exhibited the reluctance to embrace modernism; this extends too to the farm inputs. Westerners long ago neglected the idea that animal droppings could be used to nourish the lands and instead have resorted to organic inputs. This is not the case in India where farmers rely on manure for farming in addition to other uses.

To Hindus, economic profitability of a cow is not a factor, what matters is such a cow continues to meet the purposes that it has been set out for. This explains why even barren cows are still valued despite the urgent need for milk. This is because the economic viability of a cow is not only measured through the quantity of the milk that it produces but also its other products such as cow dung that bear agricultural, cultural and spiritual purposes. The aspects of cow worship aside, cows in India are not viewed from an angle similar to that of the western world.

The benefits accrued too the Hindus are not only limited to milk, in fact they are rarely kept for milk; water buffalos are reared instead. Harris agrees with this noting that “the ox is the Indian peasant’s tractor, thresher and family car combined; the cow is the factory that produces the ox. ” It is important to explore the importance if cow dung to add to the spiritual importance that had been mentioned before. Where western nations do not have a current experience with cow dung as a source of heat, Hindus prefer it for a variety of reasons.

To the Indian women, cow dung is not only a representation of simplicity and an experience of spiritual pleasures but it is also seen “as a superior cooking fuel because it is finely adjusted to their domestic routines. ” Indeed economic importance of cow dung to the lower caste Hindus cannot be over-emphasized. It is used in all manner of places and there are people that make a living out of it. In addition to being used as a floor finishing providing a smooth surface, it supports households that make a living by collecting the animal droppings in the urban centers.

To understand how feasible this is, it is important to look at the nature of the existing public policies in regard to cows. It is hence worthy noting that due to the revered status of cows, they have been allowed freedom of movement that can only be equated to that of human beings. In fact they are a major cause of traffic snarl ups in some of the urban centers in India. Their droppings hence have to be collected by the street sweepers. The huge demand placed by the house wives for cow dung makes it a feasible economic commodity.

Hinduism And The Sacred Cow Essay

Compare and Contrast Hinduism and Christianity Essay

Compare and Contrast Hinduism and Christianity Essay.

A. Christian and Hindu

Hinduism is one of the oldest religions of the world. Its followers are called Hindus. Its largest following is found in India. Hinduism traces its roots to the Indus Valley civilization about 5000 years ago. It is an intermingling of the    religion of the nomadic Aryans (indo –European tribes) called Vedism and the more sophisticated indigenous Indian native beliefs and practices, often referred to as “Indus valley culture”(Famighetti, 1996, 654). It has no single founder or creed but drew on many traditions as it evolved.

In spite of the fact that it was subject to many influences (a little Islam practices are incorporated into it) it stayed flexible enough to be the dominant faith of most people of India (Hammer 1982).

After the Aryans, Hinduism went through many developments and in 1200 AD the religion was officially named “Hinduism” by the Muslim invaders. There is a minimal organization in Hinduism and an absence of creed particularly because Hinduism operates more as culture than a religion.

The religion is so diverse in scope that it does not fit well into the western concept of religion but rather it leans more to a commitment to or respect for an ideal way of life, known as Dharma: eternal order, righteousness, religion, law and duty (Hammer 1982).

In a much later time, a new kind of religious movement, Christianity, was founded around AD 30. Christianity is based upon the teachings of Jesus, a Jewish carpenter who resides in the Roman province of Palestine. He was a popular figure in that part of the world because he was known to perform many miracles of healing. His life and his teachings are found in the Bible– the first four gospels of the New Testament; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These gospels were written by diverse authors (excluding Jesus).

Jesus Christ is believed to fulfill the prophecy of Messiah (a redeemer of the world) in the Old Testament. In fact, the main teaching of Christianity is that Jesus died on the cross to reconcile sinners back to God. He offers unconditional love and forgiveness to those who accepts him as Lord and Savior. He gained many followers especially after his “resurrection” and before long, amidst persecutions; Christianity became the official religion of the many provinces of the most powerful Empire in that era, Rome. At present, Christianity is embraced by many countries of the world (Crofton, 1991, 312-313).

B.  Two characteristics of each religion

The Christians believed in a Triune God; God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ) and God the Holy Spirit. Although they are three, they are also considered as one (monotheistic). The Christian concept of Trinity is that God is one but manifested himself   in three ways, each with separate function. As God the father, he expresses himself as the Supreme Creator of everything, whether seen or unseen, as God the Son he expresses himself as God born as man (incarnation) with a mission to reconcile man back to God by dying in the cross as a sacrifice for sin, and as God the Holy Spirit he expresses himself as a spiritual Being who indwells Christian believers to impart to them the power and strength to overcome the trials and temptations while living on earth(Boettner , 1976 , 80-81 ).

The Hindus, on the other hand believed in a supreme being (Brahman) who is thought to be present in all creatures and that, at the same time, creatures are also considered as part of him. They believed in many different gods and goddesses, but all are considered to be symbols and expressions of Brahman. Each deity can appear in many forms or incarnations. Their most important expressions or manifestations of Brahman are Brahma the creator, Shiva the destroyer and Vishnu the preserver (Crofton, 1994, 304).

Although the west may consider the Hindu faith as polytheistic, Hinduism can be viewed as Trinitarian, one God in three major manifestations: Brahman, Vishnu and Shiva. However, Hindus can be accurately described as henotheistic; they adhere to the belief that gods and goddesses are facets, forms, manifestations, or aspects of the one supreme God (Perry, 1988, 230).

The Christians also believed that man lived only once on this earth and after he dies he is destined to two places, Heaven or hell. Heaven is for those who lived a godly life on earth, who ask for forgiveness of their sins and acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Together with God and his heavenly beings the “saints” will live a life of bliss forever.  Hell is the destiny of those who persisted in transgressing God’s established Law, revealed to man through the Bible, and to those who did not acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

They will be with the Devil forever and be tormented without end. Wherever he may end up, death eternally liberates man from a life on earth (Crofton, 1994, 312-313). The Hindus, on the other hand, believed that after a man die he would be reincarnated into another life depending on Karma. Karma can be understood most simply as the accumulated good and bad acts of man’s previous lives, which consequently determines his type of birth, length of life and kinds of experiences in the next life. Hindu concept of reincarnation is the continuous transfer of one’s soul from body to body.

Hindus believed that good Karma assures a person of being reborn into a better life. A person with bad Karma may not be reborn in a human body, but perhaps as an animal or insect. In Hinduism, the goal is liberation from an endless cycle of rebirth (Perry, 1988, 230).

B. Similarities and Differences between Each Religion’s Concepts of each of the two characteristics,

Both religions are similar in their belief of a Triune God (although in Hinduism it cannot be accurately stated that they believe in Trinity because there are other lesser gods and goddesses that vie for worship).  In the two religions the first and second and third persons of the Trinity are similar; as God the creator, God the preserver and God as the destroyer.  However there are obvious and important differences in their characters or functions.  Brahma is considered a very impersonal God because he should not be disturbed by man in fulfilling his duties and obligations as a creator (Cory, 1986, 10).

God the Father on the other hand longed to have a personal relationship with man and in fact many verses in the Bible expressed his desire to be man’s provider, sustainer and protector.  He even promised man that whenever man calls him, he would answer him (Thompson, 1983, 812). In the case of Vishnu he is so different from God the Son because of the fact that whenever dharma on earth is threatened Vishnu travels to earth in ten incarnations including as fish and tortoise (Crofton, 1994, 304). God the Son for his part traveled to earth only once to settle the issue of sin (which threatens whatever is good on earth) and to accomplish this mission he was born incarnate as full God and full human in the person of Jesus Christ only.

Unlike Vishnu (who lived in milky waters of Vaikunth surrounded by thousands of hooded serpent) he lived a truly human life subject to all of its trials and temptations (McDowell, 1991, 271-276). Lastly, Hindus knew Shiva as a destroyer in a positive way; he destroys imperfections, illusions, desires, attachments, impurities and ignorance for the welfare of the world and those who inhabit it (Perry, 1988, 304). Although God the Holy Spirit can be an agent to dispense judgment on errors like Shiva, he is different from Shiva in the sense that his primary function is to empower men to live a godly life by indwelling in them so that they themselves will overcome whatever is negative in this earth (Thompson, 1983, 1112).

Unlike the Brahman who can manifest himself in various forms and in innumerable gods and goddesses, the Christian God does not manifest himself aside from the three mentioned above (Thompson, 1983, 76). Also, while in Hinduism it is believed that all things are part of Brahman, in Christianity God is distinct from his creation. He does not in anyway appear as a fish or tortoise but may use his creation to advance his purposes through the exhibition of his power (Thompson, 1983, 646).

With the case of the doctrine of the afterlife, both religions believed that there is life after death and this next life is made possible because of the existence of the immortal human soul. Both religions also believed that whatever man’s state will be in the afterlife is determined by the actions he had while living on earth. However, similarity ends here for both religions because surrounding this doctrine are many obvious differences. In Christianity, there are only two destinations, the good to heaven, and the bad to hell.

The human soul is transported to these places and will permanently live there forever. There is no way that his eternal condition can ever be reversed or change. Also his death is the final liberation of human existence, there is no way that he will ever be born again either as man or in any other form. Moreover, his destination will determine whether he will be finally liberated from any human suffering or continue to live with it in eternity. If he ends up in heaven, then he will be liberated from suffering but if he ends up in hell, suffering will be his lot (Crofton, 1994, 312).

In Hinduism, however, after the physical death, man is going to be reborn either to a better life or to a worse one depending on karma. Good karma enables him to be reborn to a better life, perhaps from a peasant to a king, or for a bad karma to a worse one from a peasant to an insect. Departed soul search and find out a body, where it can continue doing what ever it left off in the last life. The Hindus believed that as long as the ‘soul’ engages in egoistic and desire ridden actions, considering himself to be the doer of his actions, he will be forever subject to the cycles of birth and deaths and the laws of nature.

The only way to be liberated from this endless cycle is to perform selfless desireless actions for humanity and to offer to God detached devotion and sacrifices, acknowledging him as the doer of all (Hammer 1986). This Hindu belief expresses the idea that a person can make up for whatever wrong he did while alive on earth and eventually end up liberated, unlike Christianity where a person can never undo what was done while his was on earth and the consequences of his actions in the afterlife can never be changed.

D. Origin and Contemporary Expression of Each Characteristic.

Tertullian was the first one to use the word Trinity in 215 AD when the early Christian church was facing a lot of doctrinal errors concerning the existence of God, as various heresies circulated (Cairns, 1967, 122). Although the word Trinity is not stated directly in the Bible nor explained thoroughly nevertheless it was amply implied. Trinity in fact was subject to controversy as it was humanly impossible to understand a “one God in three persons”. Early Christian scholars were forced to give this doctrine a careful thought and consideration through studying of the Biblical truths.

The doctrine of the Trinity is widely accepted by the Christians of today, in fact, it is considered to be central to the Christian faith (Ryrie, 1972, 29).Today Christians make a statement of faith in Trinity through reciting the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Celebrating the Trinity takes place the first Sunday after Pentecost. Christians expressed their faith in the Trinity by making the sign of the cross “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (“cross”, 2007, 1). But it must be remembered that the Christian concept of God is a monotheistic one.

In Hinduism, the vague concept of Trinity is expressed in the Vedanta, a section of the Vedas (foundational scriptures of the Hindus). Vedas is believed to be revelations of God and its teaching are handed down from generation to generation through the gurus. Written Vedas were made around 500 years ago. But generally, the Hindu religion as a polytheistic one derived its concept of many gods also from the Vedas. Contemporary Hindus today visits Hindu temples to worship major Gods and local shrines to worship their local gods and goddesses (Perry, 1988, 230).

The origin of the Christian doctrine of life after death, in Hell and Heaven is taken from the Bible. The writings, which eventually were gathered together and came to be known as “The Holy Bible”, were written over a period of 1500 years by more than 40 different authors living on 3 different continents (Asia, Africa, and Europe). The first book of the Bible were believed to be written by Moses around 1450-1400 BC (Crofton, 1991, 312). The Christians today, just like those who had gone before them, do not expect their loved ones to live again after death except in the final bodily resurrection when Christ returns for the second time. They knew that the physical separation was final. They bury their dead (usually enclosed in a coffin) in a cemetery and visits regularly to pay their respect to the dead (Crofton, 1991, 311).

The endless cycle of rebirth is known as Samsâra by the Hindus. The precise origin of the Indic belief in Samsâra is uncertain. However, it is a fact that the ancient culture of India celebrated cycles of nature and human –earthly fertility rhythms. The concept of rebirth may be derived from this. Nevertheless, no matter how samsara originated, the doctrine of rebirth became popular in India in the sixth century B.C. The contemporary expression of their belief in reincarnation can be seen in the cremation of their dead. It is believed that as the skull of the dead cracked upon burning in a funeral pyre, the soul of the dead is released for its rebirth in the next life. The ashes of the dead are cast upon the sacred waters of the Ganges River. Also, the Hindus never set a monument for the dead for the person continues life onwards; it is not shackled to the past (Perry, 1988, 231).

Compare and Contrast Hinduism and Christianity Essay