The Cow That Cried ~ Ajahn Brahm - Dhamma Wheel

The Cow That Cried ~ Ajahn Brahm

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The Cow That Cried ~ Ajahn Brahm

Postby cooran » Fri Feb 13, 2009 7:56 am

Hello All,

This is a true story told by Ajahn Brahmavamso about a violent prisoner he worked with in prison dhamma.

The Cow that Cried ~ by Ajahn Brahmavamso

I arrived early to lead my meditation class in a low-security prison. A crim who I had never seen before was waiting to speak with me. He was a giant of a man with bushy hair and beard and tattooed arms; the scars on his face told me he'd been in many a violent fight. He looked so fearsome that I wondered why he was coming to learn meditation. He wasn't the type. I was wrong of course.

He told me that something had happened a few days before that had spooked the hell out of him. As he started speaking, I picked up his thick Ulster accent. To give me some background, he told me that he had grown up in the violent streets of Belfast. His first stabbing was when he was seven years old. The school bully had demanded the money he had for lunch. He said no. The older boy took out a long knife and asked for the money a second time. He thought the bully was bluffing. He said no again. The bully never asked a third time, he just plunged the knife into the seven year-old's arm, drew it out and walked away.

He told me that he ran in shock from the schoolyard, with blood streaming down his arm, to his father's house close by. His unemployed father took one look at the wound and led his son to their kitchen, but not to dress the wound. The father opened a drawer, took out a big kitchen knife, gave it to his son, and ordered him to go back to school and stab the boy back.

That was how he had been brought up. If he hadn't grown so big and strong, he would have been long dead.

The jail was a prison farm where short-term prisoners, or long-term prisoners close to release, could be prepared for life outside, some by learning a trade in the farming industry. Furthermore, the produce from the prison farm would supply all the prisons around Perth with inexpensive food, thus keeping down costs. Australian farms grow cows, sheep and pigs, not just wheat and vegetables; so did the prison farm. But unlike other farms, the prison farm had its own slaughterhouse, on-site.

Every prisoner had to have a job in the prison farm. I was informed by many of the inmates that the most sought-after jobs were in the slaughterhouse. These jobs were especially popular with violent offenders. And the most sought-after job of all, which you had to fight for, was the job of the slaugterer himself. That giant and fearsome Irishman was the slaughterer.

He described the slaughterhouse to me. Super-strong stainless steel railings, wide at the opening, narrowed down to a single channel inside the building, just wide enough for one animal to pass through at a time. Next to the narrow channel, raised on a platform, he would stand with the electric gun. Cows, pigs or sheep would be forced into the stainless steel funnel using dogs and cattle prods. He said they would always scream, each in its own way, and try to escape. They could smell death, hear death and feel death. When an animal was alongside his platform, it would be writhing and wriggling and moaning in full voice. Even though his gun could kill a large bull with a single high-voltage charge, the animal would never stand still long enough for him to aim properly. So it was one shot to stun, next shot to kill. One shot to stun, next shot to kill. Animal after animal. Day after day.

The Irishmen started to become excited as he moved to the occurence, only a few days before, that he had unsettled him so much. He started to swear. In what followed, he kept repeating, " This is God's truth!" He was afraid I wouldn't believe him.

That day they needed beef for the prisons around Perth. They were slaughtering cows. One shot to stun, next shot to kill. He was well into a normal day's killing when a cow came up like he had never seen before. This cow was silent. There wasn't even a whimper. Its head was down as it walked purposely voluntarily, slowly into position next to the platform. It did not writhe or wriggle or try to escape.

Once in position, the cow lifted her head and stared at her executioner, absolutely still.

The Irishmen hadn't seen anything even close to this before. His mind went numb with confusion. He couldn't lift his gun; nor could he take his eyes away from the eyes of the cow. The cow was looking right inside him.

He slipped into timeless spaces. He couldn't tell me how long it took, but as the cow held him in eye contact, he noticed something that shook him even more. Cows have very big eyes. He saw in the left eye of the cow, above the lower eyelid, water begin to gather. The amount of water grew and grew, until it was too much for the eyelid to hold. It began to trickle slowly all the way down her cheek, forming a glistening line of tears. Long-closed doors were opening slowly to his heart. As he looked in disbelief, he saw in the right eye of the cow, above the lower eyelid, more water gathering, growing by the moment, until it too, was more than the eyelid could contain. A second stream of water trickled slowly down her face. And the man broke down.

The cow was crying.

He told me that he threw down his gun, swore to the full extent of his considerable capacity to the prison officers, that they could do whatever they liked to him, " BUT THAT COW AIN'T DYING! "

He ended by telling me he was a vegetarian now.

That story was true. Other inmates of the prison farm confirmed it for me. The cow that cried taught one of the most violent of men what it means to care.

---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---

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Re: The Cow That Cried ~ Ajahn Brahm

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Feb 13, 2009 8:04 am

Thanks Chris,

There are some great and inspiring stories in that book.

The original title is "Opening the Door to Your Heart".
Available here:
Ajahn Brahm mentioned in one of his talks that the publishers wanted a catchier title for the US market...

I used to think that Ajahn Brahm was kind of "Monk Lite" until I met him. Beyond the stories, the sometimes painful jokes, and the working-class London accent he can be stunningly serious and focussed. :bow:


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Re: The Cow That Cried ~ Ajahn Brahm

Postby Annapurna » Fri Feb 13, 2009 10:57 am

It is true, that cows cry.

I've seen it with my very own eyes.

Cattle is getting transported from Europe to Arabia in long animal container trucks.

They have to arrive alive, so they can be slaughtered according to the Muslim rites, with a sharp knife cutting their throat, so all blood can leave the body. It takes a while til they are unconscious

Those transports can take one or 2 days, cows standing up while being driven. Sometimes they lose their balance or strenght and fall over each other, - no wonder when getting no water and no food, and panicking.

When they fall, they sometimes break their legs....

A whole nation watched on TV, that a heavy bull who had broken both hind legs in a transporter couldn't get up anymore, and had chains wrapped around his legs, also the broken ones, and got lifted up by his feet by a crane, the presence of which already indicating it was necessary to keep one around on a daily basis...

The bulls broken legs were stretched, only held together by skin, tendons, and flesh, about to rip, as the bull slowly left the ground.

The bull turned his head to his hangmen and tears filled his eyes and trickled down from his his sad face.

I'm saying "sad" with intention here. Not because I am sentimental, or humanize an animal.

Only because they can express so much in their face, esp. when they are too weak to speak.

Juts as they can cry, and probably have emotions and thoughts we can't see, too busy thinking we are the crown of creation with exclusive rights to deep emotions. .

Thanks for sharing, Chris.
Last edited by Annapurna on Fri Feb 13, 2009 11:55 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Cow That Cried ~ Ajahn Brahm

Postby thecap » Fri Feb 13, 2009 11:18 am

Indeed, good stories. Here another one. I've seen a cow cry once too. She was part of the family when we had to give it away because of moving house. There was no physical pain involved and she had a great cow-life, spending most of the time grazing in the woods, but somehow she must've sensed the situation. Ever since I put eggplant on my cheeseburgers.

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Re: The Cow That Cried ~ Ajahn Brahm

Postby Annapurna » Fri Feb 13, 2009 11:57 am

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Re: The Cow That Cried ~ Ajahn Brahm

Postby clw_uk » Fri Feb 13, 2009 4:25 pm

That story is really good

Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

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Re: The Cow That Cried ~ Ajahn Brahm

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Feb 15, 2009 8:14 am


This story reminds me of a story from the Jatakas about an animal that cried... this time not a cow however, it was a goat!

Jat 18 - The Goat That Laughed and Wept ... tml#jat018

A pretty iffy take on the workings of kamma and goats, but a good little short story nonetheless.

Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead" - Thomas Paine

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