In the fall of 2015, we were hustling around, building a fence and cabinets, buying hay, getting a shiny new cow bell. We were part of the staff at the Neem Karoli Baba Ashram here in Taos and we were getting ready to welcome Matilda, our new cow, onto the ashram land. As we held our breath in anticipation of her arrival, we never expected that it was the beginning of a new chapter of service for us.
Life With the Cows
For years, we have both deeply connected with the philosophy and practice of ahimsa, or non-violence, as advocated in the spiritual texts of India. When we began what has now become our daily ritual of caring for the cows, we both felt that it was a palpable experience of the loving kindness permeating the practice of ahimsa. As the cows let us into their hearts and their family, an atmosphere of deep love, generosity, care and respect from both human to cow and cow to human began to characterize the relationship. We saw both humans and cows contributing their parts to the family’s care and sustenance. We began to understand that as we were benefitting from the loving generosity of the mother cows it was our duty to care for their offspring, and we knew not long after we began caring for the cows that we were being called to care for the whole herd family. When we came to this realization, we also realized that we needed to look for more land to support a growing herd.
From Ashram to Goshala
A severe drought in this past summer of 2018 limited grazing land on and around the ashram. This coupled with a dawning realization that we wanted to move full-time into farming and care for the cows led us to the decision to create a goshala which would be a separate but sister organization to the ashram. We were incredibly blessed at the end of the summer to be able to purchase 20 acres of land only a mile and a half from the ashram which is perfect for the cows. That was the beginning of Daya Dairy. Daya is the Sanskrit word for compassion, mercy and kindness. Daya Dairy is a goshala, or cow sanctuary, in the tradition of ancient India. In this system, all of the herd members live out their full lives on open pasture and none of the milking cows or their offspring are ever killed for their meat. The goshala supplies all the milk to the Neem Karoli Baba Ashram so that it’s kitchen can prepare food to offer in the temple and distribute to the hundreds of people who come there to eat which is made from milk that’s cruelty-free, fresh and locally-sourced.
The Daya Dairy sits on 20 acres of lush pasture land, criss-crossed by perennial streams supporting bands of riparian habitat. The pastureland and watershed are home to a variety of wild herbs and flowers and support a diverse community of wildlife. In the early morning, coyotes bound across the back of the fields. Just after the sun sets, huge owls swoop out of large willow and cottonwood trees, their haunting screech echoing through the air. Bunnies hop around the barns, a weasel peeks around a fencepost, a hawk soars overhead, and the cows lay facing the afternoon sun with their eyes closed and a distinct look of bliss on their faces, chewing their cud in happiness.
We are so grateful each morning as we look across the fields and see the sun rising above Taos Mountain, warming our chilly hands as we milk the cows. And each evening we thank the indwelling spirit and the spirit of guidance for bringing us here, now.