Many people consider veganism—the practice of not eating or using any animal products—an ideal, healthy, nonviolent diet. Some vegans avoid milk for health reasons, while others do so as a reaction to the suffering of cows, and they boycott the meat and dairy industry. Some even say it’s unnatural for humans to drink the milk of another animal.

Krishna teaches in the Bhagavad-gita that ahimsa, nonviolence, is most perfectly applied according to spiritual principles. For example, Krishna encourages Arjuna to fight—despite Arjuna’s pacifist protests—
by reminding him that freedom from negative karma comes only by acting according to the directions of the Supreme.

The teachings of Krishna consciousness emphasize the many transcendental benefits of milk. The Vedas say the cow is one of the mothers of mankind; cow’s milk and its many preparations are a key part of the recommended diet for human beings. Milk is considered essential for the proper development of the human brain, enhancing our ability to understand and apply spiritual knowledge.

Srila Prabhupada, founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, was aware of the exploitative nature of the modern dairy industry. In his books and lectures, he repeatedly condemned the slaughterhouse economy as the crux of all the world’s problems and urged his followers to establish self-sufficient, agrarian economies centered on cow protection.

He also taught that milk is necessary for the cultivation of spiritual consciousness. Krishna, the Supreme Person, the Absolute Truth, is fond of cows and milk products; when we attempt to please Him by making offerings of love based on His stated preferences—such as He gives in Bhagavad-gita 9.26—everyone benefits. Human life is meant for serving God; humans also have a natural responsibility toward cows, which needs to be healed and reestablished on a higher level rather than abandoned.

Cows naturally give an average of ten times the amount of milk required by their calves, so milking by humans is far from unnatural; it’s a necessity. Ancient histories say that prior to the modern age man was traditionally a caretaker of cows; economies were local, agrarian, and based on milk products from cows as well as grains produced with the help of bulls and oxen.

Cows whose milk is offered to Krishna make spiritual benefit. The same principle applies to plants whose fruits, vegetables and flowers are offered to Krishna, and even to manufacturers of other things—such as automobiles and printing presses—used in Krishna’s service. If something can be used in Krishna’s service yet isn’t, that is called phalgu-vairagya, insufficient or false renunciation.

Veganism, a relatively recent philosophical innovation, is an understandable reaction to mistreatment of animals—and may also be medically necessary in some cases—but the eternal teachings of Krishna consciousness are intended for the ultimate benefit of all living beings, at all times, in all places, and in all circumstances.

  • Cows and Krishna
    – The divine connection.
  • Drinking Milk
    – Are we implicated in the slaughter and what should we be doing about it?
  • Liquid Religiosity
    – Nourishing our spiritual health through an appreciation of Krishna’s miracle in milk.
  • Is Milk for Everyone?
    – If milk is so beneficial, why is there so much controversy about it?

We like to quote our sources. This page is based on the following:

  • Bhagavad-gita As It Is, 9.26, purport: “Vegetables, grains, fruits, milk and water are the proper foods for human beings and are prescribed by Lord Krishna Himself.”
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 3.3.28, purport: “A human being must be conscious of the fact that all foodstuffs, namely grains, vegetables, milk, water, etc.—the prime necessities of life—are supplied for mankind by the Lord . . .”
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 1.16.4, purport: “Human civilization means to advance the cause of brahminical culture, and to maintain it, cow protection is essential. There is a miracle in milk, for it contains all the necessary vitamins to sustain human physiological conditions for higher achievements. Brahminical culture can advance only when man is educated to develop the quality of goodness, and for this there is a prime necessity of food prepared with milk, fruits and grains.”
  • Upadeshamrita 1, purport: “Vegetables, grains, fruits, milk products and water are proper foods to offer to the Lord, as Lord Krishna Himself prescribes.”
  • Light of the Bhagavata, 26: “The Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna, cannot be offered anything beyond the range of good foodstuffs like rice, dal, wheat, vegetables, milk and milk preparations, and sugar. . . in all scriptures the very same foodstuffs are mentioned everywhere.”
  • Narada Bhakti Sutra, 14, purport: “The Lord clearly says (Bhagavad-gita 9.26) that He will accept a flower, a fruit, a leaf, or a little water if they are offered to Him with devotional love. (One should note that the Supreme Lord accepts only foods from the vegetable kingdom, as well as milk products. “Water” includes milk and its products.)”
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 3.2.29, purport: “According to smriti regulation, the cow is the mother and the bull the father of the human being. The cow is the mother because just as one sucks the breast of one’s mother, human society takes cow’s milk.”
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 3.5.7, purport: “The cow is the most important animal for developing the human body to perfection. The body can be maintained by any kind of foodstuff, but cow’s milk is particularly essential for developing the finer tissues of the human brain so that one can understand the intricacies of transcendental knowledge. A civilized man is expected to live on foodstuffs comprising fruits, vegetables, grains, sugar and milk.”
  • Light of the Bhagavata, 27: “If we really want to cultivate the human spirit in society we must have first-class intelligent men to guide the society, and to develop the finer tissues of our brains we must assimilate vitamin values from milk. Devotees worship Lord Sri Krishna by addressing Him as the well-wisher of the brahmanas and the cows. The most intelligent class of men, who have perfectly attained knowledge in spiritual values, are called the brahmanas. No society can improve in transcendental knowledge without the guidance of such first-class men, and no brain can assimilate the subtle form of knowledge without fine brain tissues. For such important brain tissues we require a sufficient quantity of milk and milk preparations. Ultimately, we need to protect the cow to derive the highest benefit from this important animal. The protection of cows, therefore, is not merely a religious sentiment but a means to secure the highest benefit for human society.”
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 3.2.23, purport: “Lord Krishna accepted the motherhood of Putana because she pretended to be an affectionate mother, allowing Krishna to suck her breast. The Lord accepts the least qualification of the living entity and awards him the highest reward. That is the standard of His character. Therefore, who but the Lord can be the ultimate shelter?”
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam Lecture, Los Angeles, July 13, 1974:“Putana came to kill Krishna, smearing poison over her breast, and Krishna sucked the milk and her life also. But Krishna took her as (His) mother. This is Krishna. Krishna did not take the black side. Putana’s intention was to kill Krishna . . . but Krishna thought Himself obliged; “I have sucked her breast. So she is My mother. She must be given the position of mother.” So Putana, after being killed, was given the same opportunity as Mother Yashoda [Krishna’s mother]. This is Krishna. Bhava-grahi-janardana. Any way you serve Krishna, it will be accepted . . . some way or other, unknowing or knowingly, if you render some service, that is called ajñata-sukriti.”
  • Morning Walk Conversation, March 1968, San Francisco:“Just like one flower picked up from a plant offered to Krishna is offering benefit to that plant; because his energy is in the service of Krishna. Similarly, the person who has manufactured this machine [indicating the tape recorder], when it is employed in Krishna consciousness business, he’s benefited.”
  • Srimad-Bhagavatam, 3.31.47, purport: “. . . if one renounces anything which could be applied in the service of the Lord and does not use it for that purpose, that is called phalgu-vairagya, insufficient or false renunciation. Everything belongs to the Supreme Personality of Godhead; therefore everything can be engaged in the service of the Lord; nothing should be used for one’s sense gratification. That is real renunciation.”
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