Upper Mount Bethel Township sanctuary will participate in the national Walk for Farm Animals to raise money for the Farm Sanctuary, of Watkins Glen, N.Y. Thursday, October 16, 2008 By DOUGLAS B. BRILL The Express-Times
U. MT. BETHEL TWP. | The rescued cows and steers grazed Tuesday at the Lakshmi Cow Sanctuary until Sankar Sastri stopped them, calling them by name to come meet a rare visitor.
The cows had to stop eating for a moment but they didn't seem to mind. They walked to Sastri, the sanctuary owner, and one by one they nuzzled him with a gentle, upward swing of their heads. He petted one and put out his arm for a lick.
The cows seemed happy. Sastri gives them free rein over 43 acres, feeds them and grooms them. It's his way of creating peace.
"I think we have violence in this world because we all want love and compassion and we're not getting it," Sastri said. "So this is my retirement project, to create love and compassion. If you love all other living beings, you have peace."
On this day, at his call, the cows walked for Sastri. On Saturday, he'll walk for them.
The Lakshmi Cow Sanctuary is to host a Walk for Farm Animals on Saturday to raise money for Farm Sanctuary of Watkins Glen, N.Y., which rescues neglected and abused farm animals.
The walk at Sastri's farm is one of 58 scheduled in the United States and Canada this year, said Angela Barker, a spokeswoman for Farm Sanctuary, which has held walks each year since it was founded in 1986.
Last year, 2,200 people walked in 46 cities, raising about $180,000 for the organization, Barker said. Since 1986, she said, more than 10,000 walkers have raised more than $1 million for the organization.
The walk at the Lakshmi Cow Sanctuary likely will generate more. Twelve people have registered so far, each donating $15.
But for Sastri, 69, a retired engineering professor who moved from India to New York in 1964, the walk is also to honor the animals, the way he says they honor him.
Sastri, a vegetarian, practices Hinduism and was born in India, where cows are considered by many as sacred. "They are the highest of all living things doing this great service for us," Sastri says. "They have nothing but compassion for us."
Sastri retired from the City University of New York in 2000 and bought a farm along an unmarked road off the 1500 block of Ridge Road. He founded the cow sanctuary the same year and accepted his first cow, Qyo Chung, who was saved from slaughter by a Buddhist monk.
The sanctuary now has 11 animals, some of them bought from slaughterhouses by sympathizers who gave them to Sastri and others born to the rescued cows.
Sastri has a name and a story for each. Vedanta, for example, was born to a bull sponsored by a swami who stressed the importance of asking, "Who am I?" Vedanta has a white pattern on his nose that looks like a question mark.
Sastri said few know about his sanctuary because it's not visible from any marked road. He would like more visitors, he said, but for now spends most of his time with people who volunteer to help feed or milk the animals.
One of them is Jimmy Dulaney, 18, a Bangor Area High School student, who said he volunteers at the farm because he finds it peaceful.
Reporter Douglas B. Brill can be reached at 610-258-7171 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.