AS THE U.S. PRESIDENTIAL race roars on, one night last week I had a dream. The cows at Gita Nagari had me cornered in the upper pasture. They had heard I was going to vote.
"Who's it gonna be?" they bellowed. "Tweedledum? Tweedledee? Tweedle3?"
I hadn't voted since 1968, I told them, when I wrote in Dick Gregory on the Peace-and-Freedom ticket. The vote was a protest, a fistful of flowers. But now everyone was up in arms, desperate for leadership. I said that was auspicious.
"Auspicious?!" The voice was Cakra's, the herd spokesman. "Indeed! We've been desperate for leadership for five thousands years, since the reign of Maharaja Pariksit. Why are the candidates always cow-eaters?"
I hadn't heard this question discussed on the radio, so I started talking about how I wasn't living in a temple anymore, how I was holding a house, a wife, a child, and paying taxes, and how it was high time I voted again.
"Vote for whom?" asked Duhsala, who lowered her neck, munched a clump of grass, and looked up at me again. "Do any of the candidates know who they are, who they really are? Do they know who we are? We feel, same as they. Look at us. We lick and love. We eat and sleep and lock horns. We're souls inside, same as you, part of Krsna. Come clean, candidates."
Clean. Her words echoed the Bhagavatam. Clean, merciful, truthful, austere. These qualities could solve the dualities of the day: pro-life vs. pro-choice, black vs. white, ecology vs. economy, men vs. women, men vs. animals. But dualities die hard, especially when you're dreaming.
"Ladies and gentlemen!" I announced. "We are on the eve of a great moment in history. Politics as usual is dead. The enlightened people of this enlightened country are about to elect the first enlightened chief executive since the onset of the Kali-yuga, the present age of cheating and degradation."
Just then, a swarthy man dressed as Uncle Sam stepped from behind a sprawling oak. Buttons of all candidates covered him hat to toe. As he strode forward to shake my hand, a thunder of bellows and boos erupted from the herd.
"It's Kali!" cried Cakra. "Vice personified. I'd know him anywhere. Come on, Gopala, let's vote." Gopala, the herd tough, lowered his horns and charged. But Kali was already over the fence, tails and top hat flying. Deprived of their man, the herd turned on me.
"They're all Kali's men," scolded Makhana-cora, spitting gnats. "Kali's tweedles."
"Radio's got you hypnotized," muttered wild-eyed Rukmini, lumbering toward me. "Baba, all you gotta do is open up the First Canto to see what's going on. All those cannibals talkin' about the fiftieth anniversary of the holocaust and how we have to learn from history. Hey, citizen, the holocaust is now. Forty million cows murdered every year in America alone. Why isn't that an issue? Because the majority of the electorate eats us. That's why. So the politicians eat them. If you want mercy, you've got to give it."
I blinked and nodded. "Pride destroys austerity," lowed cream-colored Subhadra. She'd guessed right. I was too proud to buy everything the cows were saying. "If human beings would just control themselves," she went on, "what a society we would have. We cows make milk, 'liquid religion,' so your brain can take to transcendental knowledge. And we make more cows. And bulls to till the ground for food. And manure to make the grasses grow thick and tall for us to munch and make more milk, and on the cycle goes. Krsna's perfect cycle. Break that cycle and you start ruining the world. Listen to this."
Subhadra nosed through an old clay-colored Bhagavatam. One hundred fifty ears swung her way as she read from "The Punishment and Reward of Kali."
The cow stands with tears in her eyes, the sudra milkman draws milk from the cow artificially, and when there is no milk, the cow is sent to be slaughtered. These greatly sinful acts are responsible for all the troubles in present society. People do not know what they are doing in the name of economic development. The influence of Kali will keep them in the darkness of ignorance. Despite all endeavors for peace and prosperity, they must try to see the cows and bulls happy in all respects. Foolish people do not know how one earns happiness by making the cows and bulls happy, but it is a fact by the laws of nature.
If only my head wasn't so big, I thought, I could jump down a gopher hole.
"They get a little self-righteous, the Brown Swiss," said a quiet voice. It was Mallika, the lone Jersey in the herd.
"The first year I was here, I wouldn't even graze with them. Too sanctimonious. But they're right, you know. Kali really suckered you on this race, Suresvara. You should know better. Prabhupada saved you. Why don't you run for President?"
I told her there was no fire in my horoscope, and anyway ISKCON had its brush with politics in the seventies. We started the In-God-We-Trust-Party-for-Purified-Leaders. Prabhupada liked it, but he didn't want his devotees getting covered with the dirt of politics, so he stopped it. "We don't mind getting the post," he remarked, "but not at the cost of our God consciousness."
"Then give people something to vote for," Mallika persisted. "Engage us more, and Mother Earth as well. Like Krsna does. Live Prabhupada's books. Make a revolution. Not just tell it, show it. Show people how to be clean, kind, truthful, and merciful, and they'll demand it in their leaders. It starts right here."
She dug the earth with her hoof. "Krsna says, krsi-go-raksya: farm the land and protect the cows. Krsi means to pull. Pull the plow." She nodded toward Mayapur, our one-horned ox.
"He needs more work. Can you engage him? In a sane society, everyone has a cow and bull. You have two cars. You should have a cow and bull. A cow for your milk, a bull for your garden. You don't have to be a farmer. Just be a gentleman."
I don't know who was taking a bigger licking, me or the salt block. Vote for Krsna, the cows were pleading.
Live like Krsna, not like Kali. Kali has already killed '92. When will we challenge him? By '96? By Srila Prabhupada's centennial? Hmmm. A Vedic village in place and prospering by 1996. Now there's one for the ISKCON electorate … I woke up sweating. No time for Tweedle Tuesday. We have work to do.
Suresvara Dasa has been grazing at Gita Nagari since 1980.