March 5th, 2008 Ghosh's Big Adventure Day 3 - Lakshmi Cow Sanctuary
We left Manahttan, New York City, around 5 in the afternoon and headed out I-80 across New Jersey. Being on the other end of the time zone from New Vrindaban, the sun set noticeably earlier and by the time we crossed the Delaware river into Pennsylvania and drove the 5 miles to Lakshmi Cow Sanctuary it was dark when we arrived. The trip took two hours. Dr. Shankar Sastri came out to meet us and led us into an old brick farmhouse that had several additions built on. I could get into a lot of details, but let me summarize by saying it wasn't what I expected. He was a college professor teaching engineering for 25 years, and then an acting Dean of the college. I had figured I was going to end up at some suburban style house in a gentleman farmer horse barnlike place with cows instead of horses. Wrong. The ambiance was 1970s New Vrindaban with satellite internet. If you ever feel some nostalgia for the old days, or feel like you missed out, then go visit the Lakshmi Cow Sanctuary. While it isn't exactly the same, it is more similar than different as far as living conditions and pioneering spirit is concerned. Lots of mud, some interesting characters, a building project in progress where guests can meet and do retreats or whatever and, of course, cows. Fat, spoiled cows who aren't the least bit shy around humans, except the miniature Rajastani zebu cow, whose full grown size back is about my waist height. Notice him in the background of the photo.
The ox with the question mark on his face is called Vedanta. He is the son of a cow donated by Swami Dayananda who says that the most important question is "Who am I?" so it was most appropriate that the calf was born with a question mark. It isn't an ISKCON project, but Dr. Sastri's college was near the Brooklyn temple and he took prasadam there for 20 years. One of his friends jokes that now Krishna has put him to work. I believe that cow protection transcends institutions and philosophies thus this project is worth supporting. After he retired he felt a calling to protect cows so he sold his home, bought a small farm, and plunged in. He freely admits he had no idea what he was getting into, and knows he could still use a lot of help, but said that even though his material situation is now not as comfortable as it once was, he is happy. Caring for cows brings him great joy.
There are currently two volunteers staying at the farm helping with chores and the construction. Anyone who wants to help out and feels a little adventurous can contact him through his website.
Dr. Sastri has a good heart and is sincerely trying to serve the cows with enthusiasm. I couldn't help but be impressed. I was also enlivened as sometimes it seems that in ISKCON, cow protection is not considered very important, so it was nice to see that the future of cow protection is not limited to what ISKCON can accomplish. We left the farm and headed out across Pennsylvania. We had a stop near Bedford to make a delivery to a customer of Ranaka's. Ranaka wholesales frozen faux meats and there is a health food store there and some 7th Day Adventists (Christians with a vegetarian lifestyle). By Madhav Ghosh