What is nectar?

If asked what nectar (amrita) is, most people would answer that it is that which the celestials possess and which we cannot have access to. Of course, we metaphorically refer to a lot of things as nectar, as for instance a tasty dish that is served to us, or music that we find pleasing, or words that bring us comfort, at a time when we feel depressed. But when Yaksa, in the Mahabharata, asks Yudhishtra what nectar is, the latter answers that cow’s milk is nectar.

Cow’s milk is used in yagas; it is used for bathing deities in temples; it is used to give strength to the sick and to help in the growth of the young; it helps the young and the old. Besides, one cannot think of a better example of selfless giving than that of the cow, which yields its milk to us, said V.S. Karunakarachariar, in a discourse. It can be argued that a mother too gives her milk to her child, but in her case, there is an element of selfishness. True, she cares about the welfare of her child, and therefore willingly feeds her child. But even a mother has expectations of her child. She hopes the child will grow up to be an educated, or perhaps even a famous person, and bring glory to the family. She expects support from her children, when she grows old, and experiences a sense of disappointment when that isn’t forthcoming. But the cow gives without expecting anything in return. Its milk is intended for its calf, but we take it from the cow, and yet, it expects nothing in return. Thus milk is nectar, because it is useful to us at every stage of our lives, and it comes from an act of selfless giving.

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Printable version | Dec 5, 2021 6:55:41 AM |

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