Quote from a letter we received: According to my understanding Hindus worship cows because they were our livelihood.

Thank you for writing. If this were the case, then we would have other’s worshipping the horse, others worshipping the goat, others worshipping their jewellery, etc., according to their livelihood. The worship of the cow goes much deeper than the economic development we receive from her. Do the scriptures tell us to worship our mother, father and guru simply because they feed us? Or is there a higher purpose behind it?

Within the body of the cow reside all 33 crore devatas. Respect to the cow is respect to God, for where ever there is the cow, Lord Vishnu also resides. This is the scriptural statement. We should not lower our motives to the respect for money or livelihood. The Gita (8.6) tells us that the realized soul sees gold and stones equally, having no attachment for either:

kuta-stho vijitendriyah
yukta ity ucyate yogi

“A person is said to be established in self-realization and is called a yogi [or mystic] when he is fully satisfied by virtue of acquired knowledge and realization. Such a person is situated in transcendence and is self-controlled. He sees everything–whether it be pebbles, stones or gold–as the same.”

Thus when sages and saints such as Vyasa tell us that the cow is worshipable, it is not because of the economic benefit we receive nor because the cow provides us with our livelihood. There is a higher spiritual reason why we worship and show our respect.

It is said in our scriptures that by performing go-pradakshina all the sins one has accumulated are burnt up. The cow is so sacred, that even her dung is used, not only for ourselves, but for God. The cow dung and cow urine is poured on the deity of the Lord during abhishekam, along with the “pancha-gavya” – five ingredients from the cow used for bathing the Lord.

Quote from a letter we received: That is why cows are called “”Kama-dhenus”. “Cows yielding the fulfillment of all desire” as you said in your mail is the right answer as I understand.

The true kama-dhenus are the surabhi cows of Vaikuntha. The cows we have are not true kama-dhenus, though they may be referred as such poetically. Krishna makes this distinction in the Gita (10.28) dhenunamasmi kaamadhuk, “Among all cows I am the Kama-dhenu, desire fulfiller.” The Kama-dhenu is described in the Ramayana in the conflict between Kaushika and Vasishtha. The Kama Dhenu, being a spiritual entity, has the potency to manifest anything. It is not the common cow of this world. Otherwise why would the great king Kaushika fight a battle with Vasishtha for a common cow, sacrificing the lives of his sons?

Quote from a letter we received: Krishna became a cowherd because he was a Yadava. Yadavas were cowherds.

Yadavas are Kshatriyas of the lunar dynasty (chandra-vamsha), and have no connection with herding cows. Vasudeva and Devaki were yadavas who resided in the kingdom of Mathura, and who lived as sub-rulers. Thus Lord Krishna was a prince, not a cowherd.

Krishna’s adopted parents, Nanda Maharaja and Yashoda were cowherds from the village of Braj, or Vrindavana. The modern Yadava caste is not connected with Krishna’s lineage. The yadava’s were destroyed by Lord Krishna’s own arrangement before the advent of Kali-yuga.

Lord Krishna’s herding of cows has no connection with the family he took his birth in, as He is eternally herding cows in His eternal abode of Vaikuntha, Goloka Vrindavana. When he incarnated, He arranged that His devotees would also appear to take part in His lilas. Thus His personal associates as well as His intimate friends, the cows of Vaikuntha, also descended.

Despite being born in a Kshatriya family, being a prince of Mathura, Lord Krishna arranged that in His lila He would be brought to the village of Braj to act as a common cow herd. This was His own desire for performing pastimes with His devotees, including the cows.

svairam carantyo navasadvalani
chayasu vrndavana-padapanam
panthanam apuh nigamanta-gandhiny
aghrahya govinda-padani gavah

“Grazing at will on the gentle green beneath the shade of Vrindavana’s trees, cows find the path–having sniffed the scent of Vedanta in Govinda’s footprints.”

nikhila-surabhi-renun ksalayadbhir yasoda |
kuca-kalasa-vimuktaih sneha-madhvika-madhyai
stava-navam abhisekam dugdha-puraih karoti ||

“My dear Krishna, when You are engaged in herding the animals, the dust caused by the hooves of the calves and cows covers Your nice face and artistic tilaka, and You appear very dusty. But when You return home, the milk flowing out of the breasts of Your mother washes your face of its dust covering, and You appear to be purified by this milk, just as when the Deity is washed during the performance of the abhishekam ceremony.”