In the Bhagavatha Vahini, Sri Sathya Sai Baba tells of the miraculous advent, miracles and teachings of Lord Krishna contained in the stories about the Lord and His devotees called the Bhagavatham, compiled by Sage Vyasa. Many of the stories are told by Vyasa to Arjuna’s grandson Parikshit, who, as King, yearned to hear everything about the exploits of his departed grandfathers and Krishna. In today’s leadership training, one often hears the concept of the servant leader, one who has the stature and gravitas of a leader and yet, when needed, can show humility and affection in his or her demeanor and actions. Here are two stories of the measure of affection and love that Lord Krishna demonstrated towards those devoted to Him.

Krishna serves as charioteer of Arjuna

“When in the midst of battle, the Kaurava warriors all in one gang rained arrows simultaneously on Arjuna, Krishna saved him from the shower, as He had done earlier when He lifted the Govardhana Hill to save the villagers of Gokula and the cattle from the floods of hail rained on them by the angry God Indra. He drew all weapons on Himself and rescued Arjuna, seated behind him in the chariot, from the deadly onslaught. Blood flowed from the wounds on His body; but nevertheless, He held it against the shower of fiery arrows let loose by the enemy. His aim was that Arjuna must be preserved from harm. He intended also to reduce the might and pride of the wicked opponent and heighten the glory and reputation of Arjuna.

“He held no weapon Himself; but He brought about the annihilation of the enemies and proclaimed before the world the magnificence of the path of dharma, which the Pandava brothers adhered to. Often during the battle, your grandfather was pained at the role that Krishna had taken on Himself. ‘Alas, that we are using You for this insignificant purpose. You whom we ought to install in the Lotus of the Heart, we are seating you on the charioteer’s plank! We have reduced you to the status of a servant! We have devalued the Lord so meanly; alas, that we are reduced to such straits!’ he used to lament within himself.

“More distressing than all was another painful act that Arjuna had perforce to do, off and on. Whenever he had to do that act, poor Arjuna was overcome with unbearable remorse.” Saying this, Vyasa held his head down as if he wished to desist from mentioning it. This aroused the curiosity of Parikshit even more and he appealed, “Master! What exactly was that inevitable harm, he had to do, in spite of its sacrilege?”

At this, he said, “Oh King, in the thick of battle, when the master has to give an indication to the man who acts as the charioteer which way to turn, he cannot hope to be heard, if he calls out, right or left. The din will be too loud and confusing. So while totally immersed in the wild excitement of coming to grips with the enemy, he has to prod the charioteer’s brows with the right or left toe of his feet. He keeps the toes always in touch with the sides of the brow, for this purpose. His plank is on a deeper level. If the chariot is to be driven straight, both toes have to be pressed with equal force. That was the convention. Since such pressure had to be applied with heavily shod feet, both sides of the brow of the Lord daily showed marks of scrape. Arjuna cursed himself for sheer shame. He hated the very idea of war and prayed that the wicked game ceased that very moment. He used to be terribly upset with agony, that he had to touch with his feet, the Head that sages and saints adored.

“The palms of Krishna, soft and tender like lotus petals, developed boils all over, since they had to hold the reins tight and since the steeds strained their hardest, when they were restrained or controlled. The Lord forsook food and sleep, performed services both high and low, and kept ready both horses and chariot in perfect trim. He also went on various other sundry errands, which were fundamental to victory. He bathed the horses in the river, attended to their wounds and applied balm to cure them. Why go on with the entire list? He acted as a menial in the household of your grandfathers! He never assumed the role of the Universal Sovereign that is His real nature and status. That was the measure of His affection for those devoted to Him,” said Vyasa, the Sage, to the King.

Krishna washes the feet of priests

When news spread that Parikshit delighted in hearing songs about his forefathers, and Krishna, those who had personal experience of these, gathered around him, wherever he went. They were themselves eager to see a ruler who was so full of devotion. One day, while returning from Mathura, an old Brahmin was among these who stood on the side of the road, to catch the imperial eye. The Maharaja did not fail to notice him. He approached him and enquired lovingly about his welfare. The Brahmin said, “Maharaja! Years ago, when your grandfather Dharmaraja performed the horse-sacrifice, in the Divine Presence of Krishna, I officiated as a Rithwik, as the chief priest, to conduct the rites. On that occasion Krishna approached me and enquired lovingly about my welfare, with as much affection as you are now showing me. Your words bring those words to my memory.” The rest of the Brahmin’s words were smothered by his sobs and tears. At this, Parikshit exclaimed, “Oh, how fortunate you are! To be spoken to by the Lord in the Yajnasaala (temple)!” He took off the cloth he had on his shoulders and placing it folded on the floor, he pleaded with the old man to sit upon it comfortably and tell him more about his experiences at the Yajnasaala and other places, with the Lord.

Saying feebly, “My heart is torn to pieces because it cannot endure the grief at the error I committed that day,” the old man wept. The Maharaja enquired, “Master! What is the error? If it can be revealed to me, I would like to know.” He held both the hands of the old man, clasping them together and prayed to him to disclose it to him.

The Brahmin replied: “That day, all of us, who were initiated into the holy order of priests for the Yajna, put on the sacred clothes gifted to us and entered the sanctified enclosure. Then, Lord Krishna, sitting on a golden plankseat, in front of a golden plate, poured water from a golden vessel on—no, I cannot tell further—I do not get words.” The old man wept and sobbed and could not proceed with his narrative.

This sudden stoppage of the story just when it had reached a critical point only heightened the curiosity of the emperor. He prayed, “What happened, Master! Tell me please.” The Brahmin took courage to comply. “Oh King. What shall I say? We rithwiks were asked to place our feet on that gold plate and the Lord washed the feet of each one of us. He dried the feet later, with the cloth on His shoulder; He sprinkled the water from our feet on His Head. Since I was the chief among them, He was consulting me about all the details of the rites. Lastly, on the day of the valedictory offering in the sacrificial fire, He granted us a vision of Himself, with Sankha (conch) Chakra (discus) and Gada in His Divine Hands, and that vision liberated us all from bondage forever. Now that merciful Lord is away from us, I feel that seeing you is like tasting a few drops of refreshing water by a poor fellow, dying of thirst in the raging sun of the desert.