The Supreme Lord’s Supreme Engagement
Śrī Kṛṣṇa is devoted to His devotees
The devotees of Bhagavān, being devoted solely to Him, are constantly engaged in His service, and they dedicate their lives to preaching His glories both near and far. Similarly, the Lord reciprocally engages Himself in the service of His dearest devotees, arranging for their greatness to be exhibited everywhere. Therefore, the definition of the word bhakta is ‘one who has bhakti for Bhagavān,’ and the definition of the name Bhagavān is ‘a Personality who has bhakti for His bhaktas.’
Revealing the glories of the vraja-gopīs
For the purpose of broadcasting the glories of the vraja-gopīs to the entire world, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, while in the company of Śrī Nārada in Dvārakā, once performed the pastime of having a headache. Seeing the Lord’s distress, Śrī Nārada Muni asked, “My Lord, how may I serve You? Would You like me to bring medicine to relieve Your headache?
Śrī Kṛṣṇa replied, “Yes, but the type of medicine I require is very specific. The only remedy for this headache is to smear the foot dust of My devotee on My forehead. Therefore, please search for a devotee willing to donate his or her foot dust to Me.” After hearing Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s request, the thought to cure the Lord with his own foot dust did not even enter Śrī Nārada’s mind, and so he approached Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s queens. He not only approached all the other queens of Dvāraka, but also the most prominent among them, Śrī Rukmiṇī-devī. All of them, including Śrī Rukmiṇī, did not agree to give their foot dust.
Śrī Rukmiṇī’s seemingly complete surrender to Śrī Kṛṣṇa
Prior to her marriage with Śrī Kṛṣṇa, Śrī Rukmiṇī-devī had written Him an extremely heart-melting letter, in which she expressed her mood of complete surrender to Him: “Having heard about Your divine glories, I have been conquered and subsequently purchased. Thus, I find myself attracted to no one other than You. Please do not think me to be shameless as a result of this letter; I am left with no other choice. I vow I shall never marry an ordinary man made of flesh and bones. If you refuse to accept Me as your wife, I shall engage in severe penances and give up this body, and I shall continue performing severe austerities for hundreds of lifetimes until the time I am finally able to attain Your mercy.”
Concern for our own suffering can be an obstacle in prema-sevā
Although Śrī Rukmiṇī-devī possessed a deep mood of surrender to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, because of her fear of having to suffer a hellish condition as a result of putting her foot dust on the head of the Supreme Lord, she was unwilling to come forward and offer her foot dust in order to relieve His headache. Her refusal to serve the Lord in this way teaches us that although one may have achieved an elevated stage of devotion and surrender, some trace of ātmendriya-prīti-vāñchā (concern for pleasure of one’s own senses) may still remain within. Because Śrī Nārada Muni was unable to find even one devotee in Dvārakā willing to offer his or her foot-dust to Śrī Kṛṣṇa, he returned to Śrī Kṛṣṇa to notify Him that his attempt was unsuccessful. Śrī Kṛṣṇa asked him, “Did you visit Vraja and ask any of the Vrajavāsīs for their foot dust?” Śrī Nārada replied, “No, my Lord, I have not gone to Vraja.” Śrī Kṛṣṇa requested him, “Please go there and ask for the foot dust of a Vrajavāsī.
The glories of the gopīs’ fearless service
When Śrī Nārada Muni arrived in Vraja, he informed them of Śrī Kṛṣṇa’s situation as well of his inability to find any willing devotees in Dvārakā to help Śrī Kṛṣṇa because of their fear of going to hell. Hearing everything, the vrajagopīs replied, “O Nārada! Do you think the fear of hellish consequences will deter us in our service to Kṛṣṇa? We are prepared to eternally reside in hell for the sake of providing Him with even a moment’s pleasure. Therefore, please take our foot dust and immediately give it to Kṛṣṇa without any delay.” Saying this, the vraja-gopīs collected their foot dust and gave it to Śrī Nārada. Through the above pastime, Śrī Kṛṣṇa manifested to the whole world the glories of vraja-gopīs, their superiority to the queens of Dvārakā, and their supremacy over all His other devotees. Similarly, in order to manifest that Śrīmatī Rādhikā is the topmost among all the vraja-gopīs, Śrī Kṛṣṇa left one billion gopīs during the rāsa dance and went into the forest looking for Her.
Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the supremely expert examiner
Śrī Kṛṣṇa has many different varieties of devotees, and He has vowed to manifest Himself to them in proportion to the level of devotion they have for Him:
ye yathā māṁ prapadyante
tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham
Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā (4.11)
Ordinary people are unable to determine the true qualification of a devotee, because external appearance is not the basis by which eligibility is ascertained. The Supreme Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, however, is able to fully understand the subtlest, innermost bhāvas of his devotees, just as an expert doctor is able to recognize the subtlest of diseases in a seemingly healthy person simply by looking at him, by examining his pulse or by using an X-ray machine, Ultrasound, CT Scan, MRI or any other piece of medical equipment. The Lord, out of loving reciprocation, then reveals the glories of His devotee’s bhāvas to the entire world in due course of time. This is His supreme engagement.