On one hand we have the cows considered as the most sacred in the scriptures. All deities, pilgrimages, Rishis are said to be found in it's body.

Giving it pain is considered as an offence. Killing it even a bigger offence. The five products (Panchagavyas) obtained from the cow are considered as most sacred and used in almost all Hindu rituals. Consumption of those products also considered in the scriptures to be the destroyer of various kinds of sins.

And, on the other hand, the soul must have done something sinful in the previous birth to get born as a cow. If the Karmas are higher on the merit side then the soul must have obtained a human body and not an animal body.

For example, a chapter of Vishnu Smriti says:

  1. Those who have committed a crime effecting loss of caste, enter the bodies of amphibious animals.
  2. Those who have committed a crime degrading to a mixed caste, enter the bodies of deer.
  3. Those who have committed a crime rendering them unworthy to receive alms, enter the bodies of cattle.

This leads us to an apparent contradiction. My question is how to reconcile?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Pandya
    Dec 10, 2018 at 1:45

4 Answers 4


Cow is not animal its more than animal its demi god.. Then there is no contradiction.. similarly idol worship you have to see antaryami in idol as idol itself is not god.. idol in temple is higher because it conscreted with mantra.. similarly saligrama you have sanithana or presence of lord that you can only experience, hindusim is more experience rather than outside physical worship..when worship Cow what effect it creates on you that is experience, based experience of rishi Cow you should worship like mother because you drink milk and nourish from thy blood.

  • 1
    You should cite source for "cow is demi-god"
    – Pandya
    Dec 11, 2018 at 14:52

There is no contradiction between those two verses. A contradiction is something like "A is B" and "A is not B". That is a contradiction.

In this case, cows are sacred for a reason altogether different from the reason why they are considered sinful births. Being born as a cow is a result of sinful deeds because it's an animal body, and animals suffer a lot. At the same time, worshiping cows is sacred, and thus cows are sacred, because cows' milk, urine, and waste is used in a lot of Vedic rituals and prayaschittas.

  • 4
    If we are discussing in chat then this is a good enough response. But as an answer this is not adequate. This more looks like a comment. Whn u know u hvn't found support for the answer then better not to post an answer?
    – Rickross
    Dec 8, 2018 at 6:33
  • 2
    @Rickross It's common knowledge that cow products are holy. They are also used in Vedic rituals. There is support to my answer because I'm explaining the reason as to how both quotes are not contradicting. My answer contains logical inferences, which are valid for an answer. This is why this answer is valid and doesn't have to be just a comment.
    – Ikshvaku
    Dec 8, 2018 at 19:11
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    @Pandya, that source is not talking about animal birth being inferior it is just saying Human birth is superior. That is irrelevant to the question. About cows being sacred, you add an answer which you consider is good when there are other answers too. So, it looks like it is not improving or based on your intent. So, removed. Let the OP add it back if he likes. It is not like the answer is a one liner. Dec 11, 2018 at 2:12

Hindu scripture serves the needs of different types of people, those who are common folk and those who are intellectual types. "Protecting the cow' or the sacred status of the cow is a concession to those people who respect the cow for its service to humanity since cows are essential for tilling the soil and also provide milk. The sacred status of the cow should not be taken to be a spiritual position.

The Hindu spiritual position is different. The Sanskrit word for cow is 'go'. The word 'go' stands both for cow and rays of the sun.

Kine – rays of the sun

In respect of the prosperity and the growth that kine confer, in the matter also of the protection that kine grant unto all creatures of the earth, kine are equal to the very rays of the sun that fall on the earth. The word that signifies the cow stands also for the rays of the sun. The giver of a cow becomes the progenitor of a very large race that extends over a large part of the earth. Hence, he that gives a cow shines like a second sun in resplendence.

Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva, Section LXXI

In Hinduism light is usually a metaphor for spiritual illumination. Thus 'go' is a symbol of the spiritual light within us. Just as the sun supports entire life on Earth similarly the spiritual light within gives us consciousness,i.e., makes conscious life possible. It is in this sense that 'go' is sacred. This position is consistent with the idea that human birth is the best birth for moksha. This second position is for intellectual types.


I think cows have been treated as sacred as 'Kamadhenu' is revered in India as a wish-fulfilling cow.

Also, the pranama-mantra of Sri Krishna says:

Namo Brahmanyadevaaya go-brahmana-hitaaya cha/jaddhitaaya krishnaaya govindaaya namo namah

'go-brahmana' in the above mantra does mean cow and brahmins according to sanskritdictionary.com

'Pancha-gavya' are essential for worshipping or avisheka of deities especially Vishnu.

Cows are worshipped on Gopashtami.

Vishnupuran(3rd part, chapter 12) asks to bow down to the cows everyday(Reference: Omkarnath Rachanavali, vol 6, page 159)

So cows are holy.But yes, they as animal are definitely born because of some sin as any animal is inferior to man.

Then how to reconcile?

  1. Sankha is also an animal but conch-cell is pure and even held by many devataas.

2.'Stri-janma' is considerd as result of sin in Hinduism by many.According to some commentators 'papa-yoni' in Gita includes women.

At the same time, one's mother is glorified as heavier than earth and more divine than heaven.She is the highest Guru. She is not deprived from her glory for being a woman (paapa-yoni).

So we deal with many such apparent contradictions simply by obeying the yardsticks provided by the scriptures : we accept that in a dualistic world, there is no such thing which is absolutely good or absolutely bad.Everything has positive and negative sides and thats what is expected. The Absolute Good or Purity is only one and scriptures are merely guiding us to reach that Absolute by obeying their injunctions.

  • Stri-janma is considerd as result of sin in Hinduism - you are simply pointing to another contradiction. Doesn't answer the question: 'How to deal with this apparent contradiction?' Mar 4, 2019 at 17:41

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