Miniature zebu cows originate in India, and they are the only naturally occurring species of miniature cows. They range in height from thirty to forty-two inches and come in a wide variety of colors. Audarya maintains a sustainable herd of miniature zebus. As of 2007 we have fifteen cows and bulls. From our herd we derive the majority of our milk products and all of our fertilizer, and perhaps more importantly, the natural charm of our cows serves to soften our monks' hearts, reminding them of the pastoral play (lila) of Sri Krsna as well as the motherly love of Saci Ma that gave Sri Krsna Caitanya to the world.
In Krsna-lila, cows play an important part. Indeed, Krsna is well known by various epithets describing his relationship with his cowsnames such as Govinda (He who gives pleasure to the cows) and Gopala (He who protects cows). In return for the grass that grows freely, cows supply an abundance of milk over and above the need of their calves. From cow's milk, a wide variety of milk products, such as yogurt, butter, ghee, and cheese, can be easily produced, and there is no better fertilizer than cow manure. As cows are primarily givers, so too should we be, and if one asks, Who will take care of me if I spend my life giving to others? the answer is Gopala. He maintains those whose life is centered on giving.
Thus caring for cows is not only an important aspect of the rural, self-sufficient lifestyle at Audarya, it is also central to its spiritual culture. Indeed, caring for cows is among the various limbs of spiritual practice exemplified by Sri Caitanya. Sri Rupa Goswami has written extensively on this spiritual practice, or sadhana-bhakti, and in doing so he cites the Skanda Purana: Humans destroy their sin by respecting cows. Notably, the Purana mentions respect for cows along with respect for devotees of Krsna. Elaborating on this practice, Sri Jiva Goswami cites the Tantra: One should scratch the necks of cows, feed them, and circumambulate them. Gopala is pleased when the cows are pleased. Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura also discusses the importance of cows with regard to the sadhana of raganuga-bhakti in his Ragavartma-candrika. Also citing the Skanda Purana, the Thakura classifies respect for cows as not being opposed to bhakti and moreover helpful. He understands caring for cows lovingly to be akin to serving that which is dear to Krsna and that which nourishes one's ability to absorb oneself in hearing and chanting about Sri Krsna. In this regard he writes, It is seen that Vrajesvari Yasoda, Sri Krsna's mother in his pastoral lila, paid more attention to the milk, yogurt, fresh butter, and so forth that she prepared for Sri Krsna's nourishment than to her son, Sri Krsna himself Similarly it is not improper for the devotees on the path of raga bhakti who are acquainted with rasa to give stress to that which nourishes hearing, chanting, and so on.
Furthermore, about Krsna's love for the cows and their love for him, the gods have said the following through the pen of Jiva Goswami in his Gopala-campu:
Whenever they are satisfied, so too is he; whenever they are hungry, he is as well. He calls them near again and again, and pressing against them, he relishes their scent and further embraces them, examining them closely and feeding them. Without him their hearts are empty and they stand motionless as if they were painted. Only when they are reunited with him do they recover, smelling, seeing, hearing, tasting, and touching him.