Monday Morning Greetings 2018 #32 – Epistemology, Metaphysics and Relationship

August 6th, 2018

Every philosophy has a description of what they deem reality (metaphysics) and their prescribed means to understand it (epistemology). In Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava philosophy, or Krishna consciousness, this is called sambandha-jñāna,[1] or knowledge of relationship. Why is metaphysics in Krishna consciousness called sambandha-jñāna? From my studies and meditation on the subject, I have come up with four reasons.


Reason 1


The most basic reason that metaphysics is called sambandha-jñāna in Gauḍīya theology is that the ultimate aim of metaphysics is to ascertain one’s purpose in life, which is informed or determined by understanding one’s relationship to reality. Understanding where one fits in the metaphysical framework of reality is thus part of understanding one’s purpose in life, or relationship to the truth, and thus appropriately called sambandha-jñāna.


Reason 2


The metaphysics of Gauḍīya philosophy are centered on Krishna and His energies. His energies are basically two: matter and spirit. Reality, therefore, has three components that Śrīla Prabhupāda has aptly described as matter, spirit, and the controller of both (God). Metaphysics is called sambandha-jñāna because to properly understand reality one must understand the sambandha (relationship) between these three basic components of existence.


Sambandha between matter and spirit


If one doesn’t understand the relationship between spirit (the living entity) and matter (the body), which are separate energies, and thinks oneself the body, one will naturally identify as the body, a focus that covers one’s identity or relationship with God.


Sambandha between spirit and God


If one doesn’t understand the relationship between the living entity and God and thinks one is equal to God (impersonalism), then what is the question of worshiping or having a relationship with God?


Sambandha between God and matter


Finally, if one thinks that the relationship between God and matter is that God is material and thus illusory (māyāvāda), then why would one worship or develop a relationship with God?


Thus sambandha-jñāna, knowledge of the interrelationship between matter, spirit, and God is essential for deciphering a proper metaphysics and developing one’s relationship with God.


Reason 3


Another reason why the metaphysics of Krishna consciousness is called sambandha, or knowledge of relationship, is because one cannot clearly understand God and one’s relationship with Him if one does not have a proper understanding of the relationship between the various tattvas, or subjects, in Krishna consciousness.


For example, if one elevates the truth of detachment far too high in comparison with the truth of attachment, then renunciation will falsely become the standard of advancement instead of devotion, the gṛhastha ashram will become belittled and women shunned or disempowered. The same problem arises conversely. When the truth of attachment is overly inflated, one will mistake married life as an item of devotional service and minimize the importance of renunciation. Either way a lack of discernment in properly understanding the relationship between tattvas, whether between detachment and attachment, service and sādhana, or any other such imbalance in judgment, will certainly cloud one’s understanding of Krishna and our relationship with Him. In this way also, sambandha-jñāna is an appropriate designation for metaphysics.




In the Bhakti-sandarbha sambanda-jñāna is called siddhopadesh,[2] which means knowledge that implies perfection. The appellation is quite suitable, as once one has the proper metaphysical understanding in Krishna consciousness it will automatically lead to the means to realize truth (abhidheya-jñāna) and the goal of doing so (prayojana-jñāna), just as knowing where a treasure rests will easily lead one to understand the means to extract it and the goal of acquiring it. As sambandha-jñāna, proper metaphysical knowledge, is the basis of achieving perfection, it is the substantial majority of the teachings presented in the Bhāgavatam.


The goal of Krishna consciousness is to develop a loving relationship with Krishna, which first requires a reasonable understanding of the fundamental nature of reality. It is not required to become a scholar or theologian to do that. We do, however, have to sincerely hear śāstra like the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam and the Bhagavad-gītā to gain sambandha-jñāna, a reasonable depth of the basic philosophy of Krishna consciousness. Here’s a verse from the Bhagavad-gītā that perfectly sums up our discussion:


“I am the source of all spiritual and material worlds. Everything emanates from Me [sambandha-jñāna]. The wise who perfectly know this engage in My devotional service [abhidheya-jñāna] and worship Me with all their hearts [prayojana-jñāna]. (Bg. 10.8)



[1] I will be defining the terms sambandha-jñāna, abhidheya-jñāna, and prayojana-jñāna according to the technical usage of these terms the Cc. Madhya-līlā chapters 20-25.


[2] Śrī Bhakti-sandarbha, Anuchheda 1


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