From the Srimad-Bhagavatam we learn that the earth is controlled by the goddess Bhumi Devi. The Bhagavatam's ancient Sanskrit texts give the history of her dealings with a king named Prthu Maharaja, an incarnation of the Supreme Lord's power to rule. When Mother Earth (Bhumi Devi) stopped feeding all the living entities on the planet, Prthu threatened her, and she assumed the form of a cow. Now the personality of Earth will reveal how she can be pleased if people use her resources properly.
AS PATHU MAHARAJA aimed his arrow at Bhumi Devi, shetrembled in fear and pleaded with folded hands, "My dear Lord, I know that you are the Supreme Personality of Godhead. You have created the complete cosmic manifestation, and thus you have also created me, the planet Earth, the resting place of all living entities. But now you stand before me threatening to kill me with your weapons. Tell me, where can I take shelter? Who will protect me?
"In the past you were my protector. Once, in the form of a transcendental boar, with your tusks you rescued me from the water at the bottom of the universe. You became famous as Dharadhara, he who holds the planet earth. But now, in the form of a great king, you threaten me with your sharp arrows. I cannot understand your actions."
Still poised to shoot, and unmoved by Mother Earth's flattery, Prthu Maharaja glared at her angrily.
Mother Earth was frightened, but she was determined to state her full case to Prthu Maharaja. Her words give an important message to leaders of nations today:
"Great sages say that human society can prosper by offering in sacrifice to the Supreme Lord the grains and herbs I produce. That's why I have provided these things abundantly in the past. But now, my dear King, all the seeds, roots, herbs, and grains I have produced for sacrifice are being used by exploitive atheists opposed to spiritual life.
"Not only are my grains and herbs being wasted for sense gratification, but I am not being properly maintained. The leaders of the world don't care about the pain they are causing me. They stand by indifferently, refusing to punish the rascals who steal the gifts I have offered my human children for their spiritual welfare. The negligence of the leaders fosters greed and destruction. Such leaders encourage thieves to use my offerings for their own pleasure and indulgence. That is why I have hidden all the seeds."
Someone may wonder why grains were not being properly used for sacrifice in a kingdom ruled by such an ideal leader as Prthu Maharaja, a plenary incarnation of the Lord. The answer is that Prthu Maharaja succeeded the reign of the demoniac king Vena, who had stomped out all religious activities, especially sacrifices to the Lord. Since Prthu Maharaja had just taken the throne, he had not yet fully re-established the principles of religion in his kingdom.
In the present day we can see that Bhumi Devi's statement is quite appropriate. For a long time Mother Earth has produced massive amounts of grain. But as the world has become more demoniac, people have stopped offering grains in sacrifice and have stopped receiving food with thanksgiving to the Supreme Lord. Instead, with chemicals they whip Mother Earth into producing grain for profit producing grain to fatten animals for slaughter.
Mother Earth provides grains for sacrifice so that her human children can make spiritual progress and all her children can live peacefully together. But we've practically obliterated spiritual life, and we've devastated the earth's environment through commercial cattle raising and large-scale agriculture. Nor are Bhumi Devi's human and animal children living peacefully together. And the highest offense to Mother Earth? Although the cow represents Mother Earth herself, the crops Mother Earth provides for spiritual advancement are used to expand cow slaughter.
So it is not surprising that Bhumi Devi has begun to check the grain and food production by drought, floods, earthquakes, and erosion, especially in areas that support the production of meat. For example, along the Mississippi River several hundred thousand acres of prime farmland an important source of cattle feed are now covered with two to five feet of sand from the floods of the summer of 1993.
Those who take crops intended for sacrifice to God and use them for their own profit and sense gratification are considered thieves. "Because people are without Krsna consciousness," Srila Prabhupada explains, "they have become thieves, and consequently they are being punished by the laws of material nature. No one can check this, not even by introducing so many relief funds and humanitarian institutions. Unless the people of the world take to Krsna consciousness, there will be a scarcity of food and much suffering."
Prthu Maharaja listened as Mother Earth defended her actions. She then suggested what the king should do:
"O great hero, protector of all living entities, if you want to relieve the living entities by supplying them with grain, and if you desire to nourish them by taking milk from me, you should arrange to bring a suitable calf and a pot for the milk, as well as a milkman to do the work. Since I will feel affectionate toward my calf, your desire to take milk from me will be fulfilled."
After hearing the pleasing and auspicious words of Bhumi Devi, Maharaja Prthu set aside his bow and agreed to her suggestion. He transformed Svayambhuva Manu, the lawgiver of mankind, into a calf and milked all the herbs and grains from her udder, cupping his hands to catch them to offer in sacrifice.
Following the example of King Prthu, other living beings also took the essence out of the earth. Bhumi Devi is a loving mother not only to humans but to all living entities. Under the reconciliation begun by Prthu Maharaja, she began to supply nourishment for all of them.
The great sages transformed Brhaspati, the priest of the demigods, into a calf, made the senses into a pot, and milked all kinds of Vedic knowledge to purify words, mind, and hearing. The demigods made Indra, the king of heaven, into a calf, and from Mother Earth they milked the soma-rasa beverage. Nourished by drinking that nectar, the demigods became men-tally and physically powerful. The demons extracted various kinds of beer and liquor, which they put into an iron pot.
The inhabitants of the heavenly planets of Gandharvaloka and Apsaraloka drew the milk into a lotus-flower pot. The milk took the shape of beauty and sweet musical art. The snakes and scorpions took poison from Mother Earth as their milk, and they kept the poison in their holes.
Four-legged animals like the cows made a calf out of Nandi, Lord Siva's bull, and made a milking pot out of the forest. Thus they got fresh green grasses to eat. Ferocious animals like tigers transformed a lion into a calf and were able to get flesh as their milk. The birds made a calf out of Garuda, Lord Visnu's eagle. They took milk from Mother Earth in the form of moving insects and nonmoving plants and grasses.
One after another, all forms of living entities received their own kind of nourishment from Mother Earth. From then on, King Prthu was very much satisfied with Bhumi Devi because she supplied food for all the living entities. He developed an affection for the planet Earth, just as if she were his own daughter.
In that way, Prthu Maharaja demonstrated the ideal example of how a leader should maintain Mother Earth and teach the citizens how to use the things she provides. Srila Prabhupada explains, "Just as a cow cannot deliver sufficient milk without being affectionate to her calf, the Earth cannot produce sufficient necessities without feeling affection for those who are Krsna conscious…. If human beings are well-behaved, animals will also receive sufficient food and be happy."
Today the lessons from the dealings of Prthu Maharaja and Bhumi Devi are more crucial than ever. How can we best please Mother Earth? She is pleased when she sees her human children making spiritual advancement. That means they are happy. She is pleased to see them worshiping the Lord with the food she has provided and then taking the remnants as nourishing prasadam. She is happy when people chant Hare Krsna and dance in glorification of the Lord.
In some ways she is like a human mother. Usually no one wants to be kicked, yet a pregnant young mother feels great happiness when she gets kicked by the baby in her belly. She knows the baby is developing nicely. Similarly, though usually no one wants to be jumped on, when Mother Earth feels her human children jumping
and dancing in ecstasy as they chant Hare Krsna, she becomes happy. As the devotees of the Lord carefully graze her representatives, the cows, and gently plow her soil with the oxen to produce food to offer the Lord, she feels more happiness. Content that her children are developing nicely, she becomes satisfied and productive. These are the real ways to please Mother Earth.
Hare Krsna Devi Dasi, an ISKCON devotee since 1978, is co-editor of the newsletter Hare Krsna Rural Life.