Bovine lounge in comfort at Hindu-run cow sanctuary in Bangor

AR-409220326 (1)An immense cow named Vedanta, head hanging over a fence, drools from both sides of his mouth, anticipating a sweet chunk of raw carrot.
A timid human hand, held flat, waits for Vedanta to slurp the carrot up with his eager tongue, but the carrot drops before the cow can get a good grip. This adds to the anticipation and the drool.
Vedanta’s horns are large and pointy, his brown eyes communicate warmth and his black and white fur grows in the pattern of a question mark on his forehead. That is how he got his name. Vedanta is a Hindu philosophy asking “Who am I?”
After a few more carrot drops, the human decides to go for it, and reaches in, past the drool, past the cow lips, near the teeth, and places the carrot on Vedanta’s warm tongue, which feels like sand paper.
Vedanta swipes his tongue around searching for more food, leaving slime up to the wrist and a smile on the human’s face.
This is the Lakshmi Cow Sanctuary in Bangor, a spiritual place founded in 2000 by Sankar Sastri.
Sastri, 74, is a former dean of engineering at the New York City College of Technology.
He has practiced Hinduism his entire life. It is a religion that believes cows are the most loving and compassionate beings on earth.
“They give milk, and dung for fertilization, and their urine is added to medicine to be more effective,” Sastri said. “When they eat grass, they only eat the top of the grass (not the root as goats do, killing the plant) that is how loving they are to all the beings on earth.”
Because cows are so special, it is considered a blessing to interact with them. Hindus do not eat cows. Most Hindus are vegetarians.
Sastri started the sanctuary for karma, to do some good deeds for his next life.
“As you sow, so shall you reap,” Sastri said.
Using savings and donations, Sastri went to the market and bought cows that would have otherwise gone to slaughter. There are 16 cows living at the sanctuary. Some were born there.
These cows will live out their natural lives being pampered at the sanctuary. Hindu visitors travel to visit and feed the cows and can also spend time in meditation and prayer.
The Sringeri Vidya Bharati Hindu temple in Reeders frequently provides food for the cows.
Volunteers who live at the sanctuary prepare whatever is available for the cows. On this day, it was chopped carrots, cabbage and curried rice, and later, visitors brought a basket of fruit.
Volunteers collect cow dung, flatten it, and let it dry in the sun. The dried cow dung is sold on the Internet to be burned in a religious ceremony that is said to be healing and purifies the environment. A farmer seeking good crops would have the ceremony twice a day.
The sale of cow dung helps with the cost of feeding the cows.
Each cow has a name and personality.
Sastri bellows out a few names and the cows slowly walk out of the barn, toward the fence.
Sastri explained the Hindus love for all living things.
“We think we are the body, but we are not the body, we are not the mind, we are not intelligence, we are consciousness.” And consciousness, being awake, is the soul or spirit in every living thing, including plants.
Hindus believe all consciousness working together is God, Sastri said. If a human is conscious and an animal is conscious, do we have a right to kill and eat them to fill our belly, when we have so much to eat? Sastri asked.
“I’ll give you $50,000 if you prove me wrong. Stop killing the cows, and you won’t need homeland security or a defense budget. The reason so many bad things happen is because we are killing farm animals. Brutally. Calves are taken from their mothers. You are taking away their families. It’s bad karma to kill cows,” Sastri said.
“There is only one reason you should not eat meat. Because animals are like children, and should be loved and taken care of.”
Sastri would like more animals and visitors, and will accept financial donations.
It is free to visit the Lakshmi Cow Sanctuary, but it should be done by appointment.
Contact the sanctuary at 610-599-8824, or