At the time Srila Prabhupada left India for America, a superstition among the religious in India held that a sannyasi should never cross the ocean. The rationale apparently was that the decadence of the world outside India would destroy the purity of any sannyasi who did so.
Fortunately, superstition held no sway over Srila Prabhupada. Rather, his resolute faith in the order of his spiritual master powered his actions. His very first meeting with Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati lit within him the desire to spread the message of Lord Krishna, specifically as taught and demonstrated by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and that desire eventually carried him across the ocean.
Srila Prabhupada always considered that the institution he created – the International Society for Krishna Consciousness – was a preaching movement. He would often refer to it as his spiritual master’s movement, which he was trying his best to carry forward. In this service to his guru, he enlisted the help of young men and women, and he expressed heartfelt appreciation for their assistance, even saying that his spiritual master had sent them to him.
Significantly, Srila Prabhupada requested even his earliest followers to spread Krishna consciousness. They were just learning the basics, but Prabhupada made it clear right from the beginning that the transcendental knowledge given by Lord Krishna should be spread all over the world. When he incorporated his “international” society, it had only one center, but Prabhupada was thinking far beyond New York’s Lower East Side.
Prabhupada would often cite Lord Chaitanya’s entreaty that every Indian should make his or her life successful by becoming Krishna conscious and then do the best welfare work by helping others become Krishna conscious as well. Prabhupada would say that Lord Chaitanya’s order now applied to the Americans and Europeans who had taken up Krishna consciousness. If they valued what they had received, naturally they should want to pass it on to others.
Another Hindu superstition was that Hindus don’t preach. The source of this idea may be the mistaken but popular notion that all paths are equal and eventually lead to the same destination. Lord Krishna clearly refutes this misconception in the Bhagavad-gita (9.25). Prabhupada argued that anything beneficial to the world should be spread. What can be more beneficial than knowing who we are, who God is, what this world is, how we must act for success in life, and so on?
Because of a superficial view of the Hare Krishna movement, people sometimes challenged Prabhupada by asking what he was doing to help humanity. He would reply that he was giving the best education. Certainly educating people in eternal religious principles is welfare work of the highest order.
In some circles, the preacher is considered to be in a lower spiritual status than the devotee whose life is spent in a holy place, meditating on Krishna. At least two points uphold Srila Prabhupada’s preeminent position among the Lord’s devotees. First, he spent his life carrying out the direct order of his guru to spread Krishna consciousness. That in itself makes his life perfect. But second, the greatest lovers of Krishna preach not only to fulfill the desire of their guru and Krishna (Gita 18.68–69), but because their love for Krishna and their compassion for humanity impel them to do so. The preacher’s heart is filled with love and compassion, and there’s nothing better than that.
– Nagaraja Dasa