“When Lord Shri Krishna was in Dvaraka, He offered His respects by bowing down at the lotus feet of Narada. When Sudama Vipra came to His house, Lord Krishna personally washed his feet and gave him a seat on His personal bed. Although He is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Shri Krishna offered His respects to Maharaja Yudhishthira and Kunti. The Lord’s exemplary behavior is to teach us.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.21.38 Purport)
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1. With Maharaja Yudhishthira
He is the eldest of the Pandava brothers, whose story is the main narrative of the lengthy Mahabharata poem. Yudhishthira is supposed to embody dharma. He is born of the god of justice. He is supposed to always follow the pious way, even if it conflicts with personal comfort.
While he is not always perfect in his alignment, Yudhishthira receives respect from Krishna. This is in the relationship of cousin-brothers. The respect is also from the position of ruler of Hastinapura. Pious kings are known as raja-rishis, and they are like representatives of God on earth.
2. With Queen Kunti
She is the mother of the Pandava brothers. She tolerates an unusual amount of hardship. One time, she mistakenly calls upon the sun-god. She later loses the association of her husband. She must witness the torture inflicted on her sons and her daughter-in-law.
Through it all, she remains connected to Krishna. It is as if she would prefer the calamities to take place again and again, as it would bring the association of that darling child of Nanda and Yashoda. Krishna offers her the highest respect, and her example shows that the type of body inhabited does not limit the heights to which a person can ascend in their devotional life.
3. With Narada Muni
Narada is known as the person who can easily travel the three worlds. He is always singing the glories of Narayana, and he can even visit Vaikuntha directly. When he visits Narayana in His avatara as Shri Krishna, Narada is the one who receives respect.
The saint visits different palaces in a single trip, and he is astonished to receive the same kind of welcome from the same Krishna in each instance. It is as if Krishna has an independent existence in each palace.
4. With Sudama Vipra
This is Krishna’s friend from the period of childhood. In adulthood, Sudama is quite poor, due to following the brahmana occupation. When visiting Dvaraka, he receives the highest welcome from Krishna and His chief queen, Rukmini Devi.
Though he ashamedly hands over some chipped rice as an offering, the goddess of fortune returns the favor by transforming his life of poverty into one of opulence. This is to ease the troubles at home, to keep peace and tranquility so that the brahmana life can continue without issue.
Shri Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the highest truth. He is Brahman and more. He is the source of the material and spiritual worlds. All truths rest on Him. Every other truth is linked to His standing, to His existence, to His command over all.
मत्तः परतरं नान्यत्
किञ्चिद् अस्ति धनञ्जय
मयि सर्वम् इदं प्रोतं
सूत्रे मणि-गणा इव
mattaḥ parataraṁ nānyat
kiñcid asti dhanañjaya
mayi sarvam idaṁ protaṁ
sūtre maṇi-gaṇā iva
“O conquerer of wealth [Arjuna], there is no Truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.7)
While He is the Supreme Person, hardly anyone knows Him. Though He manifests from time to time, it is not that everyone is able to recognize Him. Even those who do know Him behave according to the social custom at the time.
भविष्याणि च भूतानि
मां तु वेद न कश्चन
bhaviṣyāṇi ca bhūtāni
māṁ tu veda na kaścana
“O Arjuna, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, I know everything that has happened in the past, all that is happening in the present, and all things that are yet to come. I also know all living entities; but Me no one knows.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.26)
Krishna offers respect to the above mentioned people as a matter of etiquette. One can be the topmost person in the world and still behave in accordance with standards aligning with the science of self-realization, or dharma.
Material existence is based on this constant struggle, of whether to go with the current or fight against it. Should we try to become supreme or should we make the best use of the current bargain for attaining purification of consciousness? Should we insist that everyone else worship us or should we acknowledge the reality of higher forces, who are like branches connected to an original tree?
The respect shown by Krishna indicates a level of kindness difficult to believe. Though He is in need of nothing, He accepts service from others. Though He is the strength in man, paurusham, He allows others to get credit for exemplary behavior, for victories on the battlefield, for restarting the disciplic succession, and for tolerating the difficulties of aggressors wedded to adharma.
From gifts to receive,
Kindness impossible to believe.
With nowhere else to turn,
Rescue and respect to earn.
Like Sudama in condition poor,
But washed his feet for sure.
After some chipped rice giving,
A boost in standard of living.
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