Holy Cow

I’ve just agreed to milk one of the neighbour’s cows. Haven’t milked a cow since I was about 6, when I used to hang around with dad when he was on milking duty. Our lovely jersey cow Heidi was a good friend for me in those days, she was so gentle and her side was a wall of warm fur. One of the traumas of my early life was her death, we think it was with some sort of mastitis infection after her third calf that went bad. Dad burnt her on a bonfire and I caught sight of her partly burnt body, intestines spilling out, which image fixed itself in my mind and became the stock material of my nightmares for years after.

When I stayed in Krishna Valley in Somogyvámos, back in 1998, I remember one of the monks, Gábor, saying how when he started milking his fingers were in such agony, that for the first week they would only open and close in sort of ratcheted jerky way. Gabor and I used to shovel muck and hay together in the barnyard, but we didn’t talk much because his English was pretty fragmentary and my Hungarian was nonexistent (foolishly I didn’t use the opportunity to learn anything much).

Near Somogyvámos is the ruin of an old 12th century church, the ‘temple in the Puszta’.  Now it stands alone in the fields, which were thickly sown with sunflowers the year I was there, the village that once surrounded it now completely gone. But if you look at google maps you can make out the circular outlines of what might have been the village (red dots).

Nearby is the new Hare Krishna temple where I stayed for three months.  It stands out in google maps with it’s circular design, which is reminiscent of the circular plan of Auroville. I didn’t know about the church when i was there, no one mentioned it, and I only saw its ruined steeple from a distance as I wandered the fields in my time off.

There wasn’t much talk of the world outside the Krishna temple. We are all “Karmis” to the Krishnas, people caught up in the material world and the wheels of Karma, for which Bhakti devotion to Krishna (in the manner advocated by Hare Krishnas) is the only escape.

You can see some lines of trees between the fields. These are mostly composed of some local species of Robinia, with large thorns, which made meditating in their shade a slightly spiky adventure. There were also some nice leafy Quercus trees mixed in. It’s a lovely area of the world, especially in spring and summer, when it is full of hoverflies and swallows, and the heavy storms roll down from lake Balaton.

I think it was with the Krishnas that I was first exposed to a lot of Sanskrit texts, so I have to thank them for that. I remember being confounded by the avugida (vowel-consonant blending) of the Devanagari alphabet. Now that I am further along the Sanskrit road, I have discovered that the Sanskritdictionary.com website that I often use, is run by a former student of my teachers, who lives in Auroville.

I stayed at Auroville in 1997 for a few weeks when I was travelling in India. I enjoyed visiting their library every couple of days, and buying fresh bread from their fabulous bakery. The place was designed to be a city with concentric roads around the central Matrimandir, but the pace of development is slow.

Cycling the roads around there, I soon learned that I was at the bottom of the pecking order, below cars and trucks, and had to be quick to get out of the way. At the very top of the pecking order of course is the Holy Cow, which every vehicle would swerve wildly to avoid. Circles within circles.