“A human being should be inquisitive to know who he is, what the universe is, what God is, and what the relationship is between himself, God and the material world. Such questions cannot be asked by cats and dogs, but they must arise in the heart of a real human being. Knowledge of these four items-namely, oneself, the universe, God, and their internal relationship-is called sambandha-jnana, or the knowledge of one’s relationship.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Chaitanya Charitamrita, Adi 7.146 Purport)
“Seriously, who am I? I have not lost my mind. I am not going crazy. I am asking this question while in a state of complete sobriety. I know what year it is. I am aware of who holds the highest office in the land. I know where I am.
“Think about it. You get a name. This is usually assigned by the parents. You have a certain mother-father combination. You live in a specific place in the world. You develop certain tendencies. You have a nature to your being.
“How is one person any different than the other, though? What identifies us? I am a certain age today, but I was previously so small that I could be carried by one hand by the typical adult. I know that one day I will be so old that I won’t be able to hear properly or move about on my own.
“Therefore, the conditions at an arbitrary point in time cannot properly identify me. I would like to know who I truly am. Am I who I think I am?”
2. The universe
“Of all places, why did I take birth here? What is so special about the land we call home? From travelling around, I have noticed that this place is seemingly infinite in size. It is so vast that the same object in the sky gives heat and light across thousands of miles.
“Why does this place exist? Why is it so big? Why do you find people spread across the continents? Why are there continents? Is this the only place in the world that you can find human beings?”
“They say that there is a Supreme Divine Being. This person is supposed to be superior to everyone else. I guess they are the origin. Is it really true? What is their standing? Do they have a certain appearance? Is there a specific place that they live?”
4. The internal relationship
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that the above mentioned subjects constitute sambandha-jnana. The direct meaning is “knowledge of the relationship.” Only the human being has the opportunity for advancement within this subject matter.
Just addressing these issues gives an indication of validity and respected standing in terms of a spiritual culture. That Vedic literature presents these issues of vital concern for the sober human being, dhira, reveals that the instruction should be taken seriously.
That instruction falls in a chain of teachers. It is descending knowledge. There is an original source, who then begins a succession of disciples. We are fortunate to be part of the chain, when the knowledge reaches us. We cannot attain sambandha-jnana through observation, experiment, or research.
The living being is a spirit soul. I am part of the Brahman energy. Aham brahmasmi. The universe is part of the material energy. I am in this realm at the moment, and I have no memory of when the original fall took place. I will remain here, birth after birth, until desire changes.
पुनर् आवर्तिनो ऽर्जुन
माम् उपेत्य तु कौन्तेय
पुनर् जन्म न विद्यते
punar āvartino ‘rjuna
mām upetya tu kaunteya
punar janma na vidyate
“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)
God is the source of the spiritual and material energies. He is the original, seed-giving father with respect to the living entities. The material world represents His external potency. He is above any such distinctions. He is neither spiritual nor material; He is the complete everything and never changing in circumstance or location.
मूर्तयः सम्भवन्ति याः
तासां ब्रह्म महद् योनिर्
अहं बीज-प्रदः पिता
mūrtayaḥ sambhavanti yāḥ
tāsāṁ brahma mahad yonir
ahaṁ bīja-pradaḥ pitā
“It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.4)
We are related to God as the son is related to the father. We are like the father in many ways, as we are sparks of Himself. We are simultaneously different. This philosophical truth is known as achintya-bhedabheda-tattva, and it was taught by Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.
Knowledge of the relationship is vital since it will dictate activity moving forward. The material world is not my true home. This temporary situation will not last forever. Spirit soul should live in connection with the origin of spirit. That is the true nature of living, and sambandha-jnana provides important clues for how to proceed.
Knowledge of the relationship giving,
So that properly living.
From the acharyas descending,
Originally from source extending.
Such that myself and the universe so,
And God’s position to know.
As individual in servant role,
Proper position of spirit soul.
Categories: the four