THE ULTIMATE FORM OF THE DIVINE FEMININE
We begin to see that many sorts of people become involved in cow care, from founders of goshalas to managers, what to speak of workers (hired or volunteers), donors, and less directly, any number of persons involved in supply provision or doing business with or enabling wealth for donors. Yet for many Hindus engaged directly in cow care in India, there is another person involved in a crucial way, namely the Lord of the Cows, Krishna, or his divine consort Radha (known also as Radharani). This was explained to me by the manager of a moderate-sized goshala on the outskirts of Vrindavan, famous as the land of Krishna, as we discussed his donor base. Keshi Nisudan Das, the manager of Care For Cows, first expresses appreciation for his workers:
They love the cows. When you love the cows—everybody is loving—the Lord is pleased. And when the Lord is pleased, there is no limit to what we can get. But it has to be sincere service. You must be able to sacrifice twenty-four hours a day and dirty your hands.
“What we can get” refers to support for maintenance of the goshala, pointing to Care For Cows’ essential source of support, sympathetic donors. Strikingly, unlike most other Indian goshalas, Care For Cows is supported largely by an international community of people valuing their cause (hence the goshala’s English name). Their financial contributions allow the onsite caretakers to continue their close attention to the cows. Conversely, the international supporters feel encouraged that they are benefited by serving Krishna’s cows, even if indirectly, from a distance. As in Pathmeda, regular donors may “adopt” a specific cow, enabling them to experience a sense of connection with a particular bovine, to receive news about it, and when visiting Vrindavan, to directly meet and interact with their adoptees. Donors have also been recognized in the (currently discontinued) monthly newsletter. However, a good number of visitors may give donations expecting no receipt or mention. Keshi likes to say that such donations are coming from Krishna’s divine consort, Radharani (Radha). From the bhakti perspective, this reference to Radha says that ultimately, because she is the divinity who oversees service to Krishna, especially in Vrindavan, it is by her grace that sufficient sponsorship comes to maintain what Krishna’s devotees regard as Krishna’s cows. According to Vaishnava theology, as the ultimate form of the divine feminine, it is she who “expands” as Lakshmi, who governs worldly wealth and opulence.
—From “Cow Care in Hindu Animal Ethics” by Kenneth R. Valpey, Palgrave MacMillan, 2019.