Rich Indian Literature and Hindu Scriptures Have a Lot to Offer to the Western World: Ekaterina Bondareva

[Interview: SHRI RAM SHAW]

NEW DELHI: Hers is a small group of volunteers who have been running a Goshala (cow shelter) in Tula region, 200 kilometers from Moscow, Russia with around 90 cows since 2008. Ekaterina Bondareva, who heads the Goshala, has been spearheading the noble cause of cow protection in a “cow killing country in a very hostile environment”. Her goal is to spread the ‘holy message’ of cow protection all over the world and for the purpose she has penned a book titled Save Yourself, Saving Cows which is gaining vast popularity in India.

Ekaterina Bondareva alias Prema Sundari who is in her late 30’s and a mother of a 9 year old daughter and a 6 year old son, leads this group. The group members are also struggling for cow protection together with their mother. Armed with tremendous nerve, sheer patience, iron determination and robust optimism, Ekaterina, at her age, is doing what many of her contemporaries can only think of. She has a matured head over her responsible shoulders. She is a woman of substance and a true crusader with a holy mission of cow protection.

In an exclusive interview with this journalist Shri Ram Shaw, Ekaterina, who is on a visit to Vrindavan and national capital New Delhi, said, “Due to the war situation in Russia, the Goshala is in a critical situation and urgently needs help and assistance. We’re trying to raise funds to feed the cows throughout winter months which last till May in Russia. So I’m urging people to kindly help the Goshala and the cow protection mission in Russia. Cow protection means not only protecting cows from slaughter, but providing them a happy life far away from manipulation and abuse. I think, India is the only country where cow protection and this kind of struggle in general is appreciated and valued by people. That’s why I’m here for help.”

Excerpts…

First, tell us something about yourself and your book related to the holy mission of cow protection.

I was born and brought up in an orthodox Christian family in Moscow, Russia. I did my schooling there. The quest for wisdom brought me to Mysuru (Karnataka) in 2005. After completing my Master’s in English, I could have opted for a lucrative job. But, my search for spiritual guidance forced me to come to Vrindavan where I embraced Sanatana Dharma and got the name Prema Sundari.

Our shelter for cows was established 15 years ago in 2008 in Russia by Mrs. Natalia Ivanovna Karpenko aka Shrimati Nareshwari Navanita Swamini Maharani. She passed away three years ago. Now, onus is on me to take this noble cause forward with renewed vigour. We rescue cows, feed them, take care of them, receive guests and talk about our mission of protecting the Mother Cow. The scriptures say: mistreatment and killing of cows is a big sin that will not remain without consequences. We are doing our best to give protection to these amazing creatures. Each cow and each bull are individuals, with their own personalities and their own unique stories of salvation. At the present, there are more than 90 cows, bulls and calves living happily in the shelter. There is a deep connection between our attitude towards the Mother Cow and our physical and spiritual well-being. By taking part in the rescue of cows, bulls and calves from slaughter, one can experience such warm human feelings as kindness and mercy. My book is a reflection and manifestation of this.

You have taken up a Herculean task of cow protection. You must be facing stiff challenges in your country?

In Russia, we are forced to fight as partisans, as revolutionaries. Because at all levels, the government strictly ensures that cows and bulls are killed. And, we are fighting to protect cows and bulls, to take care of them. As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be wars. Economic crisis and strife are also inevitable. Human civilization is moving with great speed towards self-destruction, because killing cows is the greatest sin that a person can commit. That’s why, the cow protection movement is crucial to saving humanity these days.

We all know from the Hindu scriptures that there are divine personalities and demonic personalities. Demonic personalities want to destroy the humanity and the planet, and every person’s duty is to fight against it. We must make every effort to restore Sanatana Dharma, the eternal religion of the soul, and spread this knowledge throughout the world. And, the first step that has to be taken for it is to stop the killing of Gomata. Material reality is illusory. We must perform Seva, Service. And, the more heroic our service is, the more clearly we will be able to feel boundless mercy and blessings. In the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says: “On this path no effort is wasted, nor is there any danger of adverse effects.” That’s why I invite everyone to join the Worldwide Cow Rescue and Protection Movement.

Please share your experiences of getting acquainted with religious books like the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita

In this life, by the grace of the Lord and the Saints, I became acquainted with such literature as the Mahabharata, Ramayana, Bhagavad Gita and Srimad Bhagavatam, which His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Shrila Prabhupada gifted to the entire Western world. Through these books, I got familiar with the knowledge necessary to achieve self-awareness and perfection of life. The divine consciousness got awakened from my previous life, as I have been practicing for more than one lifetime. And this is exactly what Krishna says in the sixth chapter of Bhagavad Gita: “By virtue of the divine consciousness of his previous life, he automatically becomes attracted to the yogic principles – even without seeking them.”

Through the scriptures, I learned that: “One who cannot deliver his dependents from the path of repeated birth and death should never become a spiritual master, a father, a husband, a mother.” Studying the Vedas also gave me a clear understanding that we are not this body. We are the soul. And our task is to help each other break out of the cycle of life and death. This body is a boat. It will be killed when the time comes. This ship will inevitably sink. But as long as we have some time, we can do our best to swim to the “land of love and beauty”, as Sridhar Maharaj said. And we have to use our time properly.

How much impact do Hindu scriptures and Indian literature have upon you?

The scriptures of India show us the way Lord Krishna and his devotees lived, the way Lord Rama and Sita and their devotees lived. Rama and Sita had to live in the forest in exile. Pandavas, the devotees of Lord Krishna, also lived in exile in the forest for 12 years. Many paintings and sculptures depict Hanuman tearing his chest, showing that Sita and Rama live forever in his heart. Therefore, these great personalities have shown the world the highest examples of self-sacrifice. “Spiritual life is difficult, material life is hopeless,” Shrila Prabhupada said. I am very much inspired by the personal examples of these Great Personalities.

Being a woman, aren’t you inspired by the female energy – the energy of mercy, compassion, love and self-sacrifice?

Of course, I am also very inspired by the female energy. Female energy is the energy of mercy, compassion, love and self–sacrifice. A woman brings Love, Motherhood, and Care into this world. A woman is of the same nature as the Goddess Lakshmidevi – the goddess of prosperity. A woman tends to sacrifice herself. The Vedas reveal the lives of the highest women – Srimati Radharani, Sita Devi, Lakshmi, Gopi – the girls of Vrindavan. The lives of these women give the world the highest examples of self-sacrifice. An ordinary person will not be able to move to this level. But if we perform Seva to these individuals, we connect to their energy, to this ocean of mercy, love and compassion and we receive their energy and we also receive their Mercy and their Blessings. We must perform a Service in order to sail safely to the land of Love and Beauty. And, the highest service is the service the Mother Cow – Goseva. The mother cow is the personified Earth. And the bull is the personification of Dharma. All demigods serve cows. It is impossible to perform important rituals without Ghee. Krishna himself is a shepherd. Gopis are cowherd girls. The goddess Lakshmi resides in Gobar.

The Mother cow has a feminine nature. The cow’s love is so strong that even if she lives with butchers, knowing that she will soon be given to the slaughterhouse, she still loves her owners with a transcendental love. The mother cow has such a strong, transcendent love that we cannot fully realize it. The Srimad-Bhagavatam lists seven mothers: our own mother, the wife of our teacher or spiritual master, the wife of a Brahmana, the wife of the king, the nurse, the cow, and the earth. We are indebted to all seven of these mothers, and also to our father, brothers, friends, relatives, and forefathers.

What is your message to the youth for experiencing the natural lifestyle?

One of our main goals is to contribute to health and education of the youth – the building blocks of their general well-being. For many years now, on a charitable basis, we have been inviting young people to visit our cow shelter, thus giving them the opportunity to experience the natural lifestyle and learn the importance of the Mother Cow Protection. Here children learn how to milk cows and feed them. They communicate with these amazing creatures, exchanging joyful and positive emotions. Mercy, Love and Compassion are the main human qualities that every child acquires here when he or she gets in touch with the cows of the shelter. Children usually spend the whole day in the fresh air, far from the stress of big cities. They enjoy fresh milk, butter and cottage cheese – the precious gifts of the Mother Cow.

Through the platform of Sahitya Post, what message would you like to give to our readers?

I appeal everyone to continue this great mission of protecting Mother Cow with passionate desire to help and save. The mission has many tasks and only together we can accomplish them. ‘Saving cows from slaughter’ – Talk, write, call, discuss it and create your blogs, pages, make this topic the goal of your life and bring this love to all the living things, to everyone, always and everywhere. Be peacemakers and be proud of it. Feed the planet with violence-free food. And, may everyone become happy and healthy! Peacemakers of the planet, the fate of humanity is in your hands! Remember this and do not remain indifferent to human grief and suffering of animals. Peace and prosperity are in our hands. Let’s give humanity knowledge for salvation.

(Ekaterina can be reached at katya_bondareva@yahoo.com)