“Where are you coming from?” That’s the first question you’re likely to ask someone who’s phoning for directions to your home. Before you can begin to help, you have to know where the inquirer is now. Similarly, when spiritual teachers direct us toward our spiritual goal, it helps them to know exactly where we’re coming from.
While it’s true that Lord Krishna and Lord Chaitanya give directions for everyone, in any situation, not everyone has faith in those directions or is willing to follow them in earnest. That’s why Krishna has agents in this world. Their service to Krishna is to convince others of the truth of Krishna’s teachings and then guide them in applying the teachings to their lives.
Those who accept the service of guiding others in spiritual life take on a profound responsibility. Srila Rupa Goswami and other authorities in Lord Chaitanya’s line warn that a guru should not accept many disciples, because even among persons qualified to lead others to Krishna, only a few rare souls can effectively lead thousands. Such pure souls can inspire many people because, as Sri Chaitanya-charitamrita tells us, Lord Krishna directly empowers them to do so.
We disciples and followers of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada see in him the qualities and accomplishments of a directly empowered soul. Many who heard him speak felt he was speaking specifically to them, even when addressing a large audience. His books touched the hearts of millions.
Srila Prabhupada knew where the lost souls of his time were coming from: We’re all victims of our spiritually depressed age. But we’re individuals too, and Prabhupada had to work with that reality, and he did. He didn’t just reach one kind of person; he was able to connect with everyone from students and dropouts to businessmen, scholars, and scientists. Though thousands were beginning (or continuing) their journey from all variety of “places,” his directions moved them all forward toward the goal of loving God.
There’s an old story about a city slicker who gets lost in the countryside. When he tells a farmer where he wants to go and asks for directions, the farmer says, “Well, you can’t get there from here!”
The humor in the farmer’s remark lies in the fact that you can, of course, get anywhere from anywhere—you just might have to travel a lot and follow many directions. The old farmer, it seems, didn’t want to be bothered by having to give complicated directions.
Fortunately for us, Prabhupada had no such reservations. He explained and explained and explained. He knew us well, and he knew we were slow learners. It didn’t help that the bad directions we’d received from others (getting us more lost in the countryside) had turned many of us into skeptics.
Prabhupada knew that despite our endless list of spiritual negatives, we could “get there from here.” He sailed for America to deliver Krishna’s message even when most Krishna devotees from his country viewed people in the West as a lost cause. Prabhupada knew that originally we all come from the same place: the spiritual world. His directions are not, therefore, meant to lead us to a new place. They’re just meant to show us how to get back home.