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FARMING COWS FOR BEEF IS DISASTROUS FOR LIFE ON THIS PLANET

Arun Malhotra

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When Kamadhenu came out of the churning of the sea as one of the chaturdasa ratnam (fourteen jewels) and the saptarishi (seven sages) claimed her, little did we know of what lay destined for her in the existential scheme of things.

Humanity owes too much to the cow. Human civilisations and economies have been built because of cows. Agriculture, transportation, health, medicine, fuel and food—cows have provided for everything.

But, unlike other parts of the world, the cow has always been like a religion in India. Hindus who worship nature and everything in nature worship cows. They say if you kill a cow, it is equivalent to killing a Brahmin. Killing a cow is a great sin for a majority of Hindus who are vegetarians. Hindus were the first ones to build their culture and economy around the cow, which is evident in the high regard for gau dugdha (cow milk), gau ghrita (pure ghee), gau mutra (cow urine), gau maya (cow dung) and the power of bulls. In fact, bulls provided the only horsepower technology for tilling fields in India for centuries. They are still used for transport, running oil plants, irrigation and construction work.

Astonishingly, billions of bovine animals are also farmed for producing beef. It sends shivers down one’s spine to hear that bovine animals are being farmed for beef today at a speed and scale which have never been seen in the history of the world.  The explosion of the human population from 1.8 billion in 1910 to 8 billion today has led to an abnormally high number of beef eaters who are turning the earth’s landscapes into fields of blood.

For Hindus, killing a cow is the greatest sin and killing a cow for beef is a sin far greater. However, the Hindu ethos has been reduced to an oxymoron because of the fact that India is the largest exporter of beef in the world. A science magazine has said that, “You eat a steak, you kill a lemur in Madagascar. You eat a chicken, you kill an Amazonian parrot”. This is because the human appetite for meat is leading to biodiverse forests being turned to pastures. Similarly, killing bovine animals for food is causing rapid and permanent destruction to the environment, extinction of other species, and global warming, which is resulting in more natural disasters.

Animal farming for meat accounts for 51% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is three times more than all transportation put together, and one third of the world’s methane production, which is 85 times deadlier than CO2, which will make our world a permanently hotter place to live in.  Cattle farming for beef is responsible for 80% of deforestation, which is resulting in a decreased availability of oxygen, lesser rains and climate warming. 

Every year, 77 billion cattle, goats, sheep, pigs and other land animals are killed to produce meat. It takes 15,415 litres of water to produce one kg of beef (while a hamburger costs you 660 gallons of water), 8,763 litres of water for one kg of mutton, 5,988 litres of water for one kg of pork, 4,325 litres of water for one kg of chicken, 3,265 litres of water for one kg of eggs, 962 litres of water for one kg of fruits, and 322 litres for one kg of vegetables. This means that more than 50% of our agriculture production and 50% of water usage goes to the meat eaters. 

Moreover, the beef industry is growing fast and is running one of the biggest scams, bigger than the oil or sand mafia, bank frauds or public exchequer scams. Against the 8 billion human population that drinks 5.2 billion gallons of water per day, 1.5 billion cows drink 45 billion gallons of water daily. Meanwhile, against the 8 billion humans who eat 135 billion pounds of food every day, 1.5 billion cows eat just 21 billion pounds of food daily. This means that the beef industry is causing major imbalances in the earth’s resources of food and water, besides affecting the climate. The industry is paralyzing the earth for its so-called economies, and even though we hear a lot of noise from groups touting cowism, the beef industry is thriving in India.

Simply put, beef farming is unsustainable for the planet. Killing animals for the sustainability of food tends to make the planet unsustainable because animal farming will overproduce farmed animals, which shall create an imbalance in the ecological equilibrium of the planet and make other wild animals and plants go extinct by causing enormous deforestation and climate change. If someone says that sustainable farming of animals for meat is the answer, it is a lie, because to do that, we would have to shut down the world to feed billions of animals. The fact of the matter is that neither grass-fed nor farm-fed animal agriculture is sustainable for the earth. 

About 10,000 years ago, humans were less than one percent of biomass and the rest were wild animals. Today, humans and land-based vertebrate animals that humans breed for meat constitute 98% of the biomass, while only 2% are wild animals. The planet still grows as much food as is required for 8 billion people without disturbing the landscape and wildlife. But humans craving to devour that packaged slice of beef have grown disturbingly high in number, without realizing that a living animal stacked and branded as SKU in a supermarket is making this planet more unsustainable and threatening the existence of life. 

A revolutionary step would come with changing unsustainable food habits and shunning beef-eating to prevent the world from suffering an imminent ecological disaster. Thankfully, humanity is becoming aware of this fact and avoiding unsustainable habits of beef-eating. In Europe and countries like Israel and the US, people are turning vegan and getting hooked to healthier and more ecologically sustainable food options. 

What had begun as Kamadhenu and Nandini, who fulfilled the hunger of the seven sages engaged in meditation, has turned into mega-beef factories. With billions of dollars in investment, the best management and technological, scientific and medical practices, humans have learnt to grow the production of beef to an optimal enormity in order to gratify their greed in the name of human needs. History shows that during the regimes of Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar and Emperor Maharaja Ranjit Singh, killing a cow was a crime punishable with death to deter people from rearing animals for producing beef. India and the world should wake up to the truths of beef farming and ban the practice.

To end with a beautiful story: When Ramana Maharishi would sit in communion with his disciples, one of his disciples was a cow named Lakshmi. This remarkable cow would reach right on the time, so much so that people would set their clocks at her arrival. On many occasions, Lakshmi would keep looking into Maharishi’s empty eyes, shedding tears, and Maharishi would declare that Lakshmi had gone into samadhi. When Lakshmi died, she embraced death in the state of samadhi, which meant that she left the cycle of life and death. 

The author is a spiritual coach and an independent advisor on policy, governance and leadership. He may be contacted at arunavlokitta@gmail.com.

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Spiritually Speaking

PRACTISING SILENCE BRINGS UNTOLD BENEFITS

Dadi Janki

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There is a part of you that is perfect and pure. It is untouched by the less than perfect characteristics you have acquired by living in a less than perfect world. It is filled with divine qualities, so it is in a constant state of resourcefulness and well-being. Its total absence of conflict and negativity of any sort makes this part of you a still point – a deep, enriching experience of silence.

Make time to practise reaching this inner place of silence. It will bring you untold benefit.

First, it allows you to manage your thoughts better. You will find, for example, that there is no need to think as much as you do; that simply sitting in silence will bring out, effortlessly, much of all that you need.

Second, the experience of silence releases you from the grip of your negative programming and conditioning. You will more easily experience the truth of your inner peace and dignity. This further aids the mind in remaining focused and capable.

Third, the power of silence can be shared. As you increase your experience of silence, your power can help those without power to continue in their efforts of self-development and the experience of peace. Your stock of silence plus an additional stock of true, powerful thoughts will help others go beyond the limited into the unlimited and the divine.

 It feels so good to ‘go beyond’ in this way; to leave behind thought and speech and become quiet for a little while. It is so refreshing and nourishing; it is habit-forming. Love for spiritual introversion, solitude and silence complements our life in such a beautiful way.

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Spiritually Speaking

FOR QUICK PROGRESS, STOP WASTE AND REDUCE YOUR ‘WEIGHT’

B.K. Dr Savita

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Why is it that those following the same principles, with the same goal of self-improvement, achieve different levels of success?

There are two main reasons for this: they waste their resources, and they carry surplus ‘weight’.

Just as excess body weight leads to physical illness, a soul that is heavy develops spiritual illness. An unhealthy diet harms one’s health; similarly, when the mind consumes stale things, that is, things of the past which one need not think about, it has a deleterious effect on the soul.

Seeing the defects of others, thinking and gossiping about them, is akin to consuming rotten food.

If we like fries, they tempt us a great deal, and we eat them against our conscious wish, knowing very well that they are not good for our health, they will do harm. Similarly, listening to and sharing gossip is damaging – it fosters dislike among people. We may find it interesting, even entertaining, but it can cause others great sorrow.

When the intellect consumes such things, we put on weight, that is, the mind becomes heavy. Just as someone who is overweight cannot run or climb, one with a heavy mind cannot go ahead fast, spiritually.

Overweight people also have to stop every so often as they move along, and they need support from others. In the same way, we become tired of working on the self, and are unable to overcome the obstacles that come on the way. We also depend on others to make progress. Forgetting that the Almighty offers the best support, we turn to others for help, and if that is not received, we are unable to continue.

To lose physical weight, one needs to exercise. The same is true on the spiritual path, where we have to exercise the soul. The best way to do that is meditation. If we meditate for a few minutes from time to time during the day, we will stay light; our heaviness will disappear. Our confidence and enthusiasm will increase and we will begin to move forward fast. We will no longer need anyone’s assistance, as we will constantly experience God’s support.

Apart from exercising and being careful with our diet – no unnecessary or negative thoughts or talk – we have to ensure that we do not waste anything.

How do we waste things? When we do not recognise the real value of something, we squander it. Not using time in a worthwhile way is to waste it. If we have resources and we do not use them or let others benefit from them, that too amounts to waste.

Knowledge, good wishes, and pure feelings are all resources that enrich the self and others, and when not used, they go to waste. The result is that we do not progress as fast as we could have.

Once we stop the waste and reduce our weight, we will forge ahead.

B.K. Dr. Savita is a senior Rajyoga teacher at the Brahma Kumaris headquarters in Abu Road, Rajasthan.

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Spiritually Speaking

THE POWER TO STEP BACK BRINGS CLARITY

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Thoughts are the power of the soul. Within each thought there is a feeling that drives that thought and this creates the mental attitude in life. When we begin to access the power of our virtues and qualities, we are empowering our thoughts with a higher quality of energy, so our impact is greater, and the expenditure of energy is less.

I am often asked: “How do I take my power back?” The power to take a step back is very relevant for the answer to this question. To take a step back means to stand apart and regain perspective from the inside out. To recalibrate and find a position to maintain to be able to manage what is happening.

Sometimes we ‘withdraw’ in this way because we cannot bear the situation anymore. We feel unable to face what we actually have to, and need to, face. We often find ourselves involved in things that waste our time and energy.

We may be caught up in situations of stress and difficulty where there are a lot of emotions from others or even within ourselves. If we overreact in these situations over and over again, we begin to feel powerless.

We may be involved in overly dependent relationships where someone is possessive of us, and our time and energy, and we feel drained of power; where we find ourselves constantly trying to please someone, but nothing we do is ever sufficient. There is the overwhelming feeling that we will only be happy when we finally make that one happy. But, in fact, that one is never happy with whatever we do.

There is a beautiful analogy for the power to take a step back, or withdraw, and it is that of the tortoise. It has the ability to withdraw all its limbs away from any present danger or threat. In the same way, we can withdraw all our fearful and worried thoughts and take them within, and from that place, fill the consciousness with the deep and natural quality of peace.

To develop this power, we need to spend time generating peaceful thoughts and, in meditation, connect to the ocean of peace, the Supreme Parent, who, like a Mother, will gently calm our fears and our racing thoughts.

In this way, even though we still have to do what we have to do, and fulfil our responsibilities, we can do these things from a feeling of safety. We can cultivate the art of being a detached observer of what is happening around us and within us; we can observe the thought patterns and dynamics inside and then exert this power of peace over all we can observe.

The power of peace, behind the power to take a step back and observe, brings real power to manage our lives in such a wonderful way that there develops a great sense of well-being, and this in turn affects not only the self, but also those around us.

Gopi Patel is a spiritual educator and senior Rajyogi meditator with the Brahma Kumaris, specialising in spiritual pragmatism in all areas of life.

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HOW TO LIVE A COMPASSIONATE LIFE

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To live compassionately is to direct the flow of our energy to support and care for both, others and ourselves. We are nurturing and loving, as well as protective and strong. I describe this as the “yin and yang” of compassion and self-compassion.

The challenging times we are living through call on many of us — especially healthcare workers — to draw deeply from our inner reserves. We need a special wisdom and sense of perspective, and a method to prepare ourselves, to face daily challenges.

As a consultant psychiatrist and Chair of the Janki Foundation for Spirituality in Healthcare, I have long understood that healthcare professionals especially need these capabilities. At the Janki Foundation, we have developed an app — Happidote — to support them. It provides tools, such as short meditations, to help users stabilise and prepare to face difficult situations by taking brief periods of time to withdraw into peace and silence, and recharge.

Our empathy for people who are suffering demonstrates sensitivity to, and feeling for, others; but as we resonate with their pain, we risk being caught up in a draining emotion that can affect us negatively.

By contrast, compassion is a positive energy that uplifts and helps others to come out of their suffering. Brain scans show that when we practise being compassionate, letting the energy of this feeling flow from ourselves, we are engaging a different part of the brain from that involved in feeling empathy.

Self-compassion is essential to our well-being. It is the same energy that we can give others when they are suffering, but directed inwards to nurture and comfort, provide protection and build strength for ourselves. When faced with others’ suffering, it may guide us to set limits as to what we can do for them, and to work through our own feelings of fear and pain.

Learning how to turn love and compassion inwards also helps to calm the “inner critic”. This internal voice can trigger the same neurophysiological responses as external stress factors. The more we create a habit of self-criticism, the more we add to the risk of developing physical signs of stress, including high blood pressure and ulcers.

Meditation guides us to observe and understand our inner conversation — the tone of voice, the words we choose, and the energy with which we respond to our pain. While we can learn to alter our thought patterns through cognitive behavioural therapy, the way to transform them is by meditating deeply.

It is a way to recognise our thoughts and feelings, without denying or suppressing them. Observing in silence, creating a distance from what is going on in my mind, I decide which thoughts to let go, and which to pursue. The more I practise, the deeper I can go, tracking back to a place of safety and peace.

I understand that I am a soul with everything I need within, connected with the Supreme Soul, an energy I come to know, love and recognise is always there to help me in my life. I am peaceful, loving, powerful and clear — this is the real me.

Dr Sarah Eagger, a long-time practitioner of Rajyoga, is Chair of the Janki Foundation and a retired consultant psychiatrist formerly at Imperial College, London. Her book, Stillness in the Storm – 7 tools for coping with fear and uncertainty, was published recently.

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HAPPINESS IS OUR TRUE NATURE

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

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Once there was a congregation of fish that got together to discuss who among them had seen the ocean. None of them could say they had actually seen the ocean. Then one fish said, ‘‘I think my great grandfather had seen the ocean!’’ A second fish said, ‘‘Yes, yes, I have also heard about this.’’ A third fish said, ‘‘Yes, certainly, his great grandfather had seen the ocean.’’ So, they built a huge temple and made a statue of the great grandfather of that particular fish, saying, “He had seen the ocean. He had been connected with the ocean.’’ In life, our search for happiness is like that.

 What are you waiting for? Instead of preparing to be happy, be happy now and resolve to remain naturally happy. God is trying his level best to see you happy. But God only helps those who help themselves. So everyday make a resolution. “Today, I am just going to be happy come what may. I will not let anything disturb my happiness. I am going to be contended, happy.”

You can experience happiness at three levels. One is the happiness in society, in the environment. How can you bring about happy situations? How would you feel in a place where everybody around you thinks only about himself or herself? Would you like to be in such a group where there is no sharing, no sense of belongingness, and no happiness?

The second level is the happiness of one’s mind. When one accepts things and moves in knowledge then the happiness in the mind happens. Sometimes everybody around you is happy and you are serving others also but you are not happy in your mind; there is no fulfilment Dedication brings the second level of happiness.

The third level is the happiness of the soul. This level of happiness happens when the soul is united with the Divine. When there is no duality, no two, when you are in deep meditation, then you experience this innermost joy.

All the three levels of happiness are interlinked. When you are totally united with the Divine you cannot but be fulfilled on the second level and on the third level and you cannot but serve because everybody is part of you. When you start serving and stop thinking about yourself all the time, mental satisfaction will come. The mind will also feel happy and relaxed and it creates such an environment.

Once there was a congregation of fish that got together to discuss who among them had seen the ocean. None of them could say they had actually seen the ocean. Then one fish said, ‘‘I think my great grandfather had seen the ocean!’’ A second fish said, ‘‘Yes, yes, I have also heard about this.’’ A third fish said, ‘‘Yes, certainly, his great grandfather had seen the ocean.’’ So, they built a huge temple and made a statue of the great grandfather of that particular fish, saying, “He had seen the ocean. He had been connected with the ocean.’’ In life, our search for happiness is like that.

 What are you waiting for? Instead of preparing to be happy, be happy now and resolve to remain naturally happy. God is trying his level best to see you happy. But God only helps those who help themselves. So everyday make a resolution. “Today, I am just going to be happy come what may. I will not let anything disturb my happiness. I am going to be contended, happy.”

You can experience happiness at three levels. One is the happiness in society, in the environment. How can you bring about happy situations? How would you feel in a place where everybody around you thinks only about himself or herself? Would you like to be in such a group where there is no sharing, no sense of belongingness, and no happiness?

The second level is the happiness of one’s mind. When one accepts things and moves in knowledge then the happiness in the mind happens. Sometimes everybody around you is happy and you are serving others also but you are not happy in your mind; there is no fulfilment Dedication brings the second level of happiness.

The third level is the happiness of the soul. This level of happiness happens when the soul is united with the Divine. When there is no duality, no two, when you are in deep meditation, then you experience this innermost joy.

All the three levels of happiness are interlinked. When you are totally united with the Divine you cannot but be fulfilled on the second level and on the third level and you cannot but serve because everybody is part of you. When you start serving and stop thinking about yourself all the time, mental satisfaction will come. The mind will also feel happy and relaxed and it creates such an environment.

A wise one is happy even in bad times. And the foolish one is unhappy even in good times. Spirituality is nothing out of the world. There is no division between what is spiritual, and what is material. Attaining a spiritual level is simply recognising that there is life everywhere, that there is spirit everywhere. When you go beyond happiness, what happens? The mind expands, at the same time it is not unconscious or unaware. Usually when you are happy, you become spaced out and you lose focus. When you are unhappy you are very focused. But a beautiful combination—of being happy and alert and focused at the same time—can be experienced in spiritual life.

A wise one is happy even in bad times. And the foolish one is unhappy even in good times. Spirituality is nothing out of the world. There is no division between what is spiritual, and what is material. Attaining a spiritual level is simply recognising that there is life everywhere, that there is spirit everywhere. When you go beyond happiness, what happens? The mind expands, at the same time it is not unconscious or unaware. Usually when you are happy, you become spaced out and you lose focus. When you are unhappy you are very focused. But a beautiful combination—of being happy and alert and focused at the same time—can be experienced in spiritual life.

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Spiritually Speaking

AN ATTEMPT TO COMMIT SUICIDE IS A SENSITIVE INDICATOR OF MENTAL HEALTH

Rwituja Gomes Mookherjee

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Although attempting to commit suicide is no longer a crime in India, the stigmatisation remains strong, preventing a clearer understanding of the number of people completing a suicide. Many an attempt also goes unreported because of the myths associated with it. Suicide affects families and communities having a long-lasting impact on the people left behind who continue to struggle with feelings of confusion, guilt and anger trying to understand what they could have done to help. Suicide is a public health problem and one of the most preventable causes of death.

Suicidal behaviour is strongly associated with financial distress, relationship break-up, chronic pain and illness, depression, substance use, experiencing discrimination, conflict, abuse, violence and disaster. The pandemic and enforced lockdown measures have had unprecedented mental health consequences leaving many fearful of infection, dying and death of loved ones. Loneliness and social isolation added to the difficulty of coping with these psychological stresses thereby significantly increasing anxiety, depression, insomnia and in some instances, partner violence. This in turn increased incidences of suicide.

Feeling suicidal isn’t a defect or weakness. The emotional triad that plays a significant role in suicide is feeling helpless, hopeless and worthless. It makes the person think that there’s no reason to live and the pain they feel is more than they can cope. In this moment of crisis, suicide is their only option. ‘Hopelessness’ feels like no one can help them. It isn’t that solutions don’t exist, but they’re unable to see them and have very little expectation that their situation can improve. ‘Helplessness’ incapacitates them from taking steps to solve their problems and the overwhelming sense of personal failure leaves them feeling ‘worthless.’

Every threat or talk of suicide should be taken seriously as it’s actually a cry for help and someone to rescue them. At this point perhaps the intent is not death but a need for things to be different giving them a way out and thereby attempting to end their pain. People thinking about suicide will find some way to communicate their pain to others. And those who have attempted once are likely to try again. Thus, it’s imperative to acknowledge their feelings and listen to them. Helplines and counselling provide these vulnerable individuals with a non-judgmental space to feel safe, open up and be understood. With their support, they can overcome the thought, explore their options giving them a chance to try making their life better.

Over the years, suicide and attempted suicide amongst adolescents and younger people have increased substantially. Here, prevention becomes difficult since it’s more of an impulsive act for them. Their lives revolve around their home, educational institutions and friends’ circle. Today, their internal and online world has expanded significantly and enmeshed with their identity making them feel worthy, accepted and appreciated. Further, with different stressful life experiences, these spaces can also make them feel either safe and secure or judged and (cyber) bullied.

During adolescents, a multitude of changes happens, both physically and mentally. In an attempt to cope with these changes, they’re confronted with an identity crisis emotionally leaving them feeling confused, irritable and unpredictable. Parental disappointment and societal acceptance are equally a struggle and often they feel misunderstood. So, how they see themselves and observe their world makes a huge impact on them. Often, their perception of crisis is important and can create more distress than the actual crisis itself. Ironically, their internal world is difficult to access even for people who care about them because they don’t openly talk about it. Lack of a healthy support system and coping skills can leave them vulnerable to suicidal thoughts.

Suicide is a complex issue and attempted suicides greatly outnumber completed suicides. Suicidal thoughts and the act of suicide are very different things. Even though the suicidal crisis is almost always temporary unfortunately it’s a permanent act. It cannot be undone. If someone trusts you enough to share about their suicidal thoughts, then it’s important to stop ignoring or shutting them out. The most critical way to prevent it is to talk and lend support to help reduce potential suicidal behaviour. They need to be told they’re supported and don’t need to struggle alone. They should be encouraged to seek professional help.

The writer is a mental health counsellor.

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