Q. Srila Prabhupada said ‘preaching is the essence’, what does this mean? What are the qualifications of the preacher? Are performing nagar sankirtan and book distribution a kind of preaching? What are the levels in preaching?
A. Preaching is the essence of our movement because this is an exhibition of the highest and most compassionate part of a vaisnava’s character, the essential nature of a devotee – trying to awaken Krsna bhakti within the hearts of the suffering souls. This was the essence of Lord Caitanya’s pastimes, to freely distribute love of God. Without preaching neither our movement, nor our own individual bhakti creeper will continue to grow, rather they will both become weakened. Especially in this age full of faults and disturbances, only by being in a preaching spirit and thus attracting and achieving the mercy of Lord Caitanya can we sustain and increase our Krsna consciousness. Without that spirit we can easily become distracted, slackened and overwhelmed by the material energy.
Srila Prabhupada said anyone can preach, if they hear attentively from a bona fide speaker in disciplic succession and simply repeat what he has heard, without concoction. One of Prabhupada’s disciples had a 5 year old daughter, and she used to go the visitors and ask them, “Do you know who is Krsna?”, and then reply herself, “Krsna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead!”. Prabhupada commented that even a child can preach by simply repeating what they heard. So the most important qualification for a preacher is that they should hear submissively from a bona fide spiritual master and faithfully represent what they have heard, according to their capacity.
Varieties of preaching exist, as do various levels of preaching. We may show people the path of bhakti in an introductory manner, or we may help them traverse the path, or train them, or carry them to the conclusions of bhakti. We each have our capacity, and we should try to preach accordingly.