bahūnāṁ janmanām ante
jñānavān māṁ prapadyate
vāsudevaḥ sarvam iti
sa mahātmā su-durlabhaḥ
“After many births and deaths, he who is actually in knowledge surrenders unto Me, knowing Me to be the cause of all causes and all that is. Such a great soul is very rare.”
— Bhagavad-gītā 7.19
Throughout the Bhagavad-gītā, Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna address each other by various names, and there is always a reason for the choice of name. Kṛṣṇa is sometimes addressed as Govinda, Mādhava, Keśava, Madhusūdana, Janārdana, Hṛṣīkeśa, Vāsudeva, and other names. In April, I gave a class on the verse above, and I wondered why the Lord specifically chose to refer to Himself as Vāsudeva, which means “son of Vasudeva”.
At the time of Kṛṣṇa’s appearance in this world, Vasudeva and Devakī were in a fearful situation, being held in the prison house of Kaṁsa. However, it is described that when Kṛṣṇa appeared, Vasudeva no longer had any fear. As per Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.3.12, “Vasudeva could understand that this child was the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Having concluded this without a doubt, he became fearless. Bowing down with folded hands and concentrating his attention, he began to offer prayers to the child.”
In the Purport to that verse, Śrīla Prabhupāda states that Vasudeva “understood that the Lord had appeared to give him protection.” And in Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 10.3.28, Devakī says to the Lord, bhṛtya-vitrāsa-hāsi. “You dispel all the fear of Your devotees.”
When we surrender to someone, we essentially place our life in their hands, so it is natural that we would only surrender to someone that is capable of protecting and maintaining us. Vasudeva understood that the Supreme Lord, who had appeared as his son, was fully capable of just that, and thus he surrendered unto His lotus feet. Therefore, Vāsudeva is a name of Kṛṣṇa which refers to He who protected His father Vasudeva from all fear.