Srimati Tulasi devi is one of the most exalted devotees of the Sri Krishna. All scriptures stress on the importance of getting the mercy of Tulasi devi if one has to make progress in the path of devotion. In the Skanda Purana it is said: ‘Tulasi is auspicious in all respects. Simply by seeing, simply by touching, simply by remembering, simply by praying to, simply by bowing before, simply by hearing about or simply by sowing this tree, there is always auspiciousness. Anyone who comes in touch with the Tulasi tree in the above-mentioned ways lives eternally in the Vaikuntha world."
Above this material world is the eternal spiritual world comprised of millions of Vaikuntha planets. The topmost planet in Vaikuntha is Goloka which is presided by Sri Krishna in His original form. Here resides Vrinda devi, an intimate associate of and an expansion of Srimati Radharani. Her partial expansion is Tulasi devi in the Vaikuntha planets and they are all considered non-different from her. Five thousand years ago when Sri Krishna descended on Earth to do His pastimes, Vrinda devi created the proper environment for His pastimes in Vrindavana.
Pastimes of Radha-Krishna
Vrindavana is completely under the control of Vrinda devi. Without her mercy it is not possible to even approach the confidential pastimes of Radha-Krishna, even as an audience. Even being allowed into Vrindavana dhama indicates that one has received some mercy from Vrinda devi.
In Krishna lila she appeared as a young gopi friend of Srimati Radharani. Under the instructions of Purnamasya (Yogamaya), she would arrange secret meeting between Krishna and Radha. She would also make all the material arrangements, like saffron, fruits, flowers, music etc. for Radha Krishna. Thus she carried on her eternal service in Goloka Vrindavana in the earthly Vrindavana.
Once Srimati Radharani was so pleased by the service of Vrinda devi that with the help of the other gopis she arranged a magnificent throne and had Krishna and Vrinda devi sit on it. Lalita sakhi acting as the priest recited the mantras and performed the marriage cermony of Krishna and Vrinda devi. Thus by the mercy of Srimati Radharani, Vrinda devi got Krishna.
In another pastime, Vrinda devi offered all the forests of Vrindavana to Srimati Radharani. Thus Radharani is also known as Vrindavaneshwari or the queen of Vrindavana.
Tulasi devi becomes a plant
Once Tulasi devi descended as the daughter of King Kushadvaja. She was married to Jalhandara. It is said that Samudra deva the demigod controlling the nether regions had Lakshmi devi as a daughter (since she appeared from him at time of the churning of the ocean) and Jalandara (one who is born from water).
Jalandara was married to Tulasi devi and drew strength from her purity and chastity. So firm was her chastity that even Lord Shiva could not defeat Jalandara in battle and all the demigods went to Lord Vishnu for help.
At this time, Lord Vishnu went to Tulasi devi assuming the form of her husband, Jalandara. When Tulasi devi greeted Him, thinking Him to be her husband, her chastity was momentarily broken. Taking advantage of this the demigods killed Jalandara.
When Tulasi devi understood what happened, Lord Vishnu revealed His original form. An enraged Tulasi devi cursed Lord Vishnu for His stone hearted behavior to become a stone. Honoring His pure devotee, Lord Vishnu accepted this curse and promised to appear as the Saligrama shila in the Gandika river (now in Nepal). He also gave Tulsai devi the benediction that she will eternally reside with Him as His consort in Vaikuntha. He said that for the benefit of every one she will assume the form of a plant which will be most auspicious for anyone performing devotional service. Thus devotees never offer anything to Krishna without a Tulasi leaf. He always adorns Himself with a Tulasi garland.
Tulasi as the source of bhakti
The scriptures are full of pastimes that reveal the potency of Tulasi in developing devotion for the Lord.
The Srimad Bhagavatam talks about this pastime with the four Kumaras, the sons of Lord Brahma who were very much attached to the impersonal aspect of Godhead.
‘When the breeze carrying the aroma of tulasi leaves and saffron from the lotus feet of the lotus-eyed Personality of Godhead entered through the nostrils into the hearts of those sages [the Kumaras], they experienced a change in both body and mind, even though they were attached to the impersonal Brahman understanding.'
Thus by simply smelling the fragrance of the Tulasi leaves the four Kumaras became pure devotees of the Lord.
In Caitanya lila Srila Advaita Acarya was very much disturbed to see the growth of irreligiosity. Therefore He decided to call for the Personality of Godhead Krsna to descend by worshiping the Lord with tulasi leaves and the water of the Ganges. When Sri Krishna was please by this devotion He descended as Caitanya Mahaprabhu.
Haridasa Thakura a great devotee of Caitanya Mahaprabhu purified a prostitue who had come with the intention of seducing him with instructions to chant the holy name and worship Tulasi. She became so elevated by this service that even great Vaishnavas would come to get her mercy.
Glories of Tulasi devi
Quoting from the Gautamiya-tantra, the Hari-bhakti-vilasa states:
jalasya culukena va
vikrinite svam atmanam
‘Sri Krsna, who is very affectionate toward His devotees, sells Himself to a devotee who offers merely a tulasi leaf and a palmful of water.’
In the Nectar of Devotion, service to Tulasi is glorified as one of items of devotional service.
In the Srimad Bhagavatam (3.15.19) it is said that although flowering plants like the mandara, kunda, kurabaka, utpala, campaka, arna, punnaga, nagakesara, bakula, lily and parijata are full of transcendental fragrance, they are still conscious of the austerities performed by tulasi, for tulasi is given special preference by the Lord, who garlands Himself with tulasi leaves.
In the Skanda Purana there is a statement praising the Tulasi tree as follows: ‘Let me offer my respectful obeisances unto the Tulasi tree, which can immediately vanquish volumes of sinful activities. Simply by seeing or touching this tree one can become relieved from all distresses and diseases. Simply by offering obeisances to and pouring water on the tulasi tree, one can become freed from the fear of being sent to the court of Yamaraja [the King of death, who punishes the sinful]. If someone sows a tulasi tree somewhere, certainly he becomes devoted to Lord Krsna. And when the tulasi leaves are offered in devotion at the lotus feet of Krsna, there is the full development of love of Godhead.’
All glories to Tulasi devi !!