March 03, 2015

Holy Cows and the Wisdom of This World

Post by Brittany Tedesco

Imagine walking into a party and being handed an ice-cold soft drink. You don´t recognize the label, Gau Jal, but upon further investigation you discover the phrase is Sanskrit for “cow water.” You´ve been sipping on a soda made from cow urine.

Don´t worry, that would only happen in India, where the Cow Protection Department of India´s Hindu nationalist group, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), developed the beverage.

If you´re not grossed out yet, put down your lunch before you read this next part: many Indians are already consuming products—like drinks, food, and toothpaste—that contain cow urine and feces.

“But why?!” you collectively cry out.

Because cows are considered sacred in India, millions of people view their waste products as medicinal, nourishing, and even disinfecting. The Holy Cow Foundation in India has developed a cleaning product made of cow urine they hope will soon be used to clean India´s government offices.

“Cow dung is a purifier of impurities,” stated the cow development division of the BJP, or Bharatiya Janata Party, the current ruling Hindu nationalist party in India.

Their past political platforms have included the banning of cow slaughter, which is currently illegal throughout most of India.

Since BJP party leader, Narendra Modi, won the election in 2014, Christians have experienced increased persecution from Hindus who see them as unwelcome propagators of a foreign religion.

Is it any wonder that the political party most opposed to Christians is also the one that has long since pushed the idea of cows being sacred?

During the annual holiday, Gopastami, Hindus offer prayers and sacrifices to cows.

Even Gandhi, viewed as a wise sage by many throughout the world, said of the cow, “I worship it and I shall defend its worship against the whole world” and “the central fact of Hinduism is cow protection.”

Whether it´s a carved idol, an animal, a person, or self, the “wisdom of this world,” which God calls “foolishness” (1 Corinthians 3:19), always involves worshipping the created rather than the Creator.

You might have seen photos of them: India´s “holy men,” wearing orange-colored loin cloths or nothing at all. Most are sporting dreadlocks and long, unkempt beards. Some wear face paint and others smear themselves with wood ash. They´ve renounced life as most people know it to live on the edges of society, in Hindu temples or forests and caves. Their asceticism takes various forms including long periods of fasting or not bathing for, well, indefinitely.

One of the more famous sadhus, Amar Bharati, has kept his right arm raised above his head since 1973 in an attempt to renounce worldly pleasure and materialism. If you google a photo of him, you´ll see that his right hand has all but rotted away from atrophy. Today, he couldn´t lower his arm if he tried. It´s permanently fixed in the full upright and locked position.

Bharati eased the pain associated with his arm-abuse by smoking copious amounts of dope. Indeed, the majority of sadhus spend their days high on marijuana, meditating in an effort to achieve the knowledge that will lead to liberation, or self-realization.

What does this “liberation” involve? Being comfortable in all situations—whether alone or with others, not being shaken by ill treatment, treating others with respect even if they do not reciprocate, not returning anger for anger—but instead offering a kind reply, not being hungry for the praise or adulation of other people.

Sounds pretty good, doesn´t it? Sounds a lot like the kind of contentment the Apostle Paul knew much about.

A sadhu is considered legally dead by the country of India—an acknowledgement of the sadhu´s death to self.

“Death to self”? Sounds familiar. Jesus taught this. He told us to die to ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow after Him.

This wisdom of this world can seem very similar to the wisdom of God, tricking the deceived into thinking they can achieve the benefits of true wisdom apart from God and His provision of a Savior. The scene on planet earth plays out like the movie Groundhog Day in the Garden of Eden. Generation after generation attempts to bypass God by reaching for the fruit promising knowledge. . .and through knowledge, salvation.

Before cofounding Apple Inc., Steve Jobs flew to India in 1974 to seek insight from Maharaj-ji, a guru considered to be a god incarnate, who was already receiving many international visitors at his ashram in the Himalayan foothills.

Gurus, sometimes referred to as “god-men,” are a step above sadhus. The most popular ones have millions of followers, some of whom live with them in sprawling ashrams built through the donations of devotees.

One of the more popular gurus, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who propagated Transcendental Meditation in the West, was followed by the likes of the Beatles and the Beach Boys.

While the world follows after this facade of wisdom, Paul warns us: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

Paul understood that, without the empowering spirit of Christ, his ability to be content even in the worst of circumstances would´ve been impossible. “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out,” he wrote. (Romans 7:18 NIV)

Doping up on a psychoactive drug to numb the senses could outwardly appear as “death to self,” but it´s a poor counterfeit for the real thing that Jesus calls and equips believers to through His indwelling spirit.

The indigenous ministries supported by Christian Aid Mission in India understand that true wisdom comes not from the sadhus and gurus, but through Jesus Christ. And the wisdom of the Lord is what they daily call upon to live in a culture so intensely opposed to the worship of the Creator God.

The leader of one of these ministries in northern India constantly faces threats from radical Hindus and Muslims, as well as pressure from government authorities intent on trapping him into admitting he´s involved in “religious conversions.”

In a society that worships cows, he´s developed a plan that would not only supply income for his ministry, but would offer protection for those new believers under his care: a dairy farm. No one will want to come against the caretaker of “holy cows.”

Not only that, there will be no lack of demand for the cows´ five coveted products—butter, milk, curd, urine, and dung—collectively known as panchgavya. The ministry leader already has someone interested in collecting the cow urine, though how exactly this collection will occur and what the “cow water” will be used for is unknown at this point. Perhaps it will end up in a soft drink. . .to be drunk by people intent on deifying an animal.

“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” (1 Corinthians 1:20 NKJV).

Yes, He has. Not only that, He´s enabling ministry leaders to leverage the wisdom of this world to point those with open hearts to the wisdom of God.