As one’s work can take many socially acceptable forms—so can one’s preaching. Anyone can preach and help others to become Krishna conscious. It’s not just meant for the brahmanas, brahmacaris or sannyasis, although they’re usually the ones who do it. Lord Caitanya and Srila Prabhupada both stressed that all devotees can and should preach.
I once met a devotee named Mahasringa Prabhu from Poland who was managing a Food for Life program there. Later, he moved to Mayapura with his family. He’s a simple devotee, being neither a scholar, a powerful businessman nor a community leader. He started preaching to the local Bengalis in and around the Mayapura Project. Late one night after cycling back from a Nama Hatta program in a village near the temple, he saw an old Bengali woman struggling to carry a large sack. She was almost falling over. He stopped his bicycle, looked at her and thought, “How can I allow this old woman to struggle like this? I must help her.” Therefore, he offered to help and placed her sack on his bicycle. The woman was shocked and asked, “Why are you doing this?” He replied in Bengali, “You are like my mother. How can I let you carry such a heavy load?” She smiled with relief and they walked together toward her village. Arriving an hour later, he bid her farewell, jumped on his bike and pedaled home.
The result of this simple yet kind act was that the woman, who happened to be well respected in her village, told all her relatives and friends about the saintly foreigner who helped her. Thus, many local people now have a high opinion of ISKCON, and he has become a popular preacher in the villages.
The point is that we should never think that, “I cannot preach. I’m not a brahmana or a sannyasi.” Regardless of our circumstance, education, location or asrama, we can all make a significant difference and assist Srila Prabhupada in bringing all kinds of people closer to Krishna. That’s what preaching means.
Years ago in New York City, a saintly Vaishnava named Jayananda Prabhu felt the initial symptoms of a disease that would later take his life. Thus he entered a hospital, and a devotee began daily bringing him prasadam from the temple. Jayananda Prabhu was hooked up to various intravenous contraptions as he laid in his hospital bed. Upon seeing that a devotee had brought prasadam, Jayananda perked up and began to make a plan.
He asked, “Did you bring any karatalas with you?”
“Yes, I just happen to have a pair,” replied the devotee.
“Good,” said Jayananda, “Now please cut up the prasadam into small pieces.” The devotee faithfully followed his request thinking that the small pieces would be convenient for Jayananda to eat.
“Now please help me,” Jayananda said.
“What are you going to do?” asked the devotee.
“We’re going to have a little festival,” said Jayananda with a confident grin.
Jayananda rolled himself, in his bed, into the hallway followed by his guest. They got into an elevator much to the chagrin of the nurses. Once in the lobby, Jayananda instructed his curious friend to begin a kirtana and give a lecture while he distributed the prasadam from his mobile bed. And there it was—the first Gaudiya Vaishnava-mahotsava to take place in an East-Coast American medical unit.
People were stunned. Many of them had never seen Hare Krishna devotees before. The kirtana began while Jayananda offered prasadam to patients, visitors, doctors and nurses. At first, they cautiously received some halava and pieces of puri, but afterwards asked for more. Gradually, a crowd surrounded the two devotees as they animatedly explained the philosophy. Jayananda felt right at home.
Actually, Jayananda is a great example of being himself, not being swayed by social influences for status, and of preaching according to time, place and capacity. He acted as an acarya, or one who teaches by example. We must also take courage to be ourselves and follow in such devotees’ footsteps. The result will be that we will feel blissfully connected to the Supreme Personality of Godhead.