The Cow that Cried

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The Cow that Cried

Postby bodom » Sun Jul 17, 2011 1:16 pm

A tale recounted by Ajahn Brahm:

The Cow that Cried

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 f...ing 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.


:anjali:
The heart of the path is SO simple. No need for long explanations. Give up clinging to love and hate, just rest with things as they are. That is all I do in my own practice. Do not try to become anything. Do not make yourself into anything. Do not be a meditator. Do not become enlightened. When you sit, let it be. When you walk, let it be. Grasp at nothing. Resist nothing. Of course, there are dozens of meditation techniques to develop samadhi and many kinds of vipassana. But it all comes back to this - just let it all be. Step over here where it is cool, out of the battle. - Ajahn Chah
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Re: The Cow that Cried

Postby Ben » Sun Jul 17, 2011 1:27 pm

Thank you Bodom

I think I've read that before. Its a prescient reminder of a scandal that has been going on here recently with footage of Australian cows being slaughtered in Indonesian abattoirs. The effect of the footage has been a huge public outrage and the Australian government to temporarily suspend live-exported beef cattle to Indonesia.

The following footage is extremely challenging and difficult to watch and has not only had the above effect but turned many Australian meat-eaters into vegetarians.
Another win for compassion.

BTW, thanks for sharing!

http://www.youtube.com/verify_age?next_ ... FssedtU8t8
"Only those who take to meditation with good intentions can be assured of success. With the development of the purity and the power of the mind backed by the insight into the ultimate truth of nature, one might be able to do a lot of things in the right direction for the benefit of mankind."

Sayagyi U Ba Khin


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Re: The Cow that Cried

Postby David2 » Sun Jul 17, 2011 3:55 pm

Nice story by Ajahn Brahm, thank you bodom.
Nasty footage, thank you Ben.
I am already a vegan... but what's better than being a vegan? Being a more convinced vegan I guess...
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Re: The Cow that Cried

Postby octathlon » Sun Jul 17, 2011 4:29 pm

Great story, Bodom!
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Re: The Cow that Cried

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Fri Aug 12, 2011 5:33 pm

It is a good STORY. Emphasis on story. I don't believe it really happened, but a good fable to make a point and reach the tender heart.

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Re: The Cow that Cried

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Aug 12, 2011 9:07 pm

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Re: The Cow that Cried

Postby cooran » Fri Aug 12, 2011 9:14 pm

Hello Metta4,

Here is Ajahn Brahmavamso on youtube personally telling this story of the man he spoke with. Having had house cows for years, I can tell you that they are much more intelligent than many credit, they feel all the emotions - just like you do.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8zFwqi2metI

with metta
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Re: The Cow that Cried

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Aug 12, 2011 9:43 pm

cooran wrote:Hello Metta4,

Here is Ajahn Brahmavamso on youtube personally telling this story of the man he spoke with. Having had house cows for years, I can tell you that they are much more intelligent than many credit, they feel all the emotions - just like you do.


:thumbsup:

I have noticed that too. My father was career military and when he had to go to Korea one year and Vietnam another year, my mother, siblings, and I had to go to my grandparents dairy farm. The cows are amazingly intelligent and emotional. No matter how many you have or get close to, you will find that many personalities, from docile, to angry, to depressed, friendly, etc., similar to human personalities.
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Re: The Cow that Cried

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Sat Aug 13, 2011 3:55 am

It's not that I doubt the cow cried -- my grandparents had a farm and I know cows exhibit emotions. What I don't believe is that (1) this was the first time in his life he ever saw an animal express feeling (2) that a hardened murderer changed instantly as a result of seeing an animal exhibit emotions. I'm amazed you all completely misunderstood this. In other words, I just don't believe people change.

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Re: The Cow that Cried

Postby David2 » Sat Aug 13, 2011 4:41 am

Metta-4 wrote:that a hardened murderer changed instantly as a result of seeing an animal exhibit emotions.


Maybe it was not only the cow but also all the bad deeds he had done which caused him to realize something... that killing just leads to suffering for the killer and the killed... maybe the cow was just a catalyst for realizing it.

]In other words, I just don't believe people change.


You don't believe people change? You can't be serious.
Did you never change in your whole life? Of course you did change. Everybody changes every second.
Everybody is subject to anicca.

If you disagree with this you disagree with one of the main points of the Dhamma.
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Re: The Cow that Cried

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Sat Aug 13, 2011 3:22 pm

I don't believe basic character changes. Changing habits, perhaps. Changing character--no. You can believe what you like, of course. But after fifty-plus years of observation, I believe what i believe. And I've worked with addicts and criminals. And have known hundreds of Buddhists. Like I said, it's a nice story. :D

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Re: The Cow that Cried

Postby David2 » Sat Aug 13, 2011 3:42 pm

Metta-4 wrote:And I've worked with addicts and criminals. And have known hundreds of Buddhists. Like I said, it's a nice story. :D

There are other, real stories of people who comitted crimes, then encountered Buddhism and stopped to commit crimes. I've recently read the autobiography of Ven. Rahula... he took many drugs for years, smuggled them, dealed with them, stole money etc.
Then, he took a meditation course and his life changed completely, he got a monk in the end.

Well, he was not a murderer... but so what? Why should the same not be possible with a murderer?
Of course, most murderers won't change in this large extent, but in my opinion the main reasons are that they do not meet the right people, do not get the right inspirations, do not take the right meditation courses etc.. everybody could live a good life if he would just be in the right circumstances...

Did you watch the movie "The Dhamma brothers"? It is about ten day Vipassana courses in prisons... They clearly do help prisoners to get onto the right way again.
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Re: The Cow that Cried

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Aug 13, 2011 3:53 pm

Angulimala

I don't think there would be the diversity of life or humans without change. We all evolved from the same small band of early hominids in Africa. If there was no change, we would all have the same character and personality.

I have worked in a Federal prison and in law enforcement and think I know where you are coming from, M-4. It can seem sometimes that people never change and character never changes when you are working with addicts and criminals. Some are total experts at conning people and will lie with such a straight face and calm demeanor, it is pretty incredible sometimes. Many can even beat the polygraph tests. I have seen plenty of my former co-workers get a really hardened attitude toward them, that there is literally no hope for them, that "leopards don't change their spots" etc. But there are some (albeit, rare) cases of those who do change in the criminal world.
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