Some people hold that, having been prophesied by scripture, by Lord Chaitanya and by the previous acharyas, if Srila Prabhupada had not spread Krishna Consciousness, some other devotee, or some group of devotees, would have been empowered to do so in Srila Prabhupada’s place.
In other words, the prophecy to spread Krishna Consciousness around the world relied on empowerment, rather than an empowered individual, for its fulfillment. It is similar to saying that if we were empowered like Hanuman, we could also jump to Lanka. But is empowerment all that is needed? Can anyone by empowerment do any prophesied task as well as anyone else?
The first empowered entity of the universe was Lord Brahma. Certainly here we cannot say that if he hadn’t created the universe, someone else would have – there wasn’t anyone else around. This is perhaps the most definitive case where an enormous task by any stretch of the imagination relied solely on one individual for its fulfillment. He was empowered by Lord Visnu in the activity of creation. So – could you or I do that? The answer is given in scripture, and the answer is, “no.” To be empowered like Lord Brahma, scripture tells us, one has to be so qualified that sometimes Lord Visnu cannot find a suitable candidate, and takes the role on Himself.
So empowerment is essential – but having a qualified candidate to handle the empowerment is also needed. Lord Brahma is so qualified that he is capable of acting almost to the same level as Lord Visnu in the matter of creation when empowered to do so. Similarly, Srila Prabhupada was so qualified he was empowered to save the world. Such a great soul, as Bhagavad Gita says, is very rare. If Lord Krishna Himself recognizes the greatness in such a devotee, even though He is the source of empowerment, how much more should we do so? Empowerment does not make us all equally capable just as education does not make us all equally intelligent. We are still individuals with our personal qualities. We have our insignificant qualities, greatly empowered devotees have theirs. It is not all one.
So my response to the original proposal that “someone else would have done it because it was prophesied” is that, yes, what Srila Prabhupada achieved was prophesied – but he was the qualified individual sent to fulfill that prophecy.
Perhaps because we walked around with him, talked with him, there is sometimes not enough distance between us and him to appreciate who he was, while it is easier to extol more distant personalities like Ramanujacharya or Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur. It is the North Korea syndrome where the populace worship Kim Jong-un– but it helps that they believe he does not defecate or urinate and also talks with dolphins. If we misunderstand Srila Prabhupada to be an ordinary man due to familiarity or envy, we will also consider another person could have done what he did, with empowerment.
Finally, we should mention that Srila Prabhupada was foretold at birth by an astrologer to open many temples, that Srila Bhaktivinode Thakur around that time said a great General would soon come from the spiritual world to spread the glories of Lord Chaitanya around the globe indicating the activities of one particular individual, and Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati said about Srila Prabhupada “One day he will do everything”. So next time you happen to hear someone say something along the lines that because it was prophesied, what Srila Prabhupada achieved could have been done by someone else, remember these prophecies also.