In Caitanya Caritamrta (Madhya 20.127-136), Caitanya Mahaprabhu relates an allegorical story to explain the different stages of our relationship to God.

The story of a poor man
There was once a man who suffered a lot because of his poverty. In reality he was the son of a famous and rich father. Unfortunately, since the father had died in a distant place, the son did not know that he had left him a huge treasure. Consequently he was spending his life in abject poverty and misery.

One day a learned astrologer visited the poor man and seeing his distressed condition questioned him. 'Why are you unhappy? Your father was very wealthy, but he did not disclose his wealth to you because he died elsewhere.' The astrologer then informed him of the means to acquire the wealth. He said, 'the treasure is in this place, but you have to approach it very carefully. If you dig from the southern side the wasps and drones will rise and sting you. On the western there is a ghost that will create much disturbance for you. On the northern side there is big black snake that will devour you. However if you approach from the eastern side, then by removing only a little amount of dirt, the treasure will be revealed to you.'

Following the instructions of the astrologer, the poor man was then able to locate and retrieve the treasure. After having access to the fabulous treasure of his father, he then lived a life full of happiness.

The poor man and us
The poor man in this allegorical story is us, the living entities in the material world, who have forgotten our real relationship to God, our eternal father. Just as the words of the astrologer gave the son knowledge about his father, the Vedic scriptures reveal to us the fact that we all have a loving father Krishna. By the words of the astrologer the poor man’ s connection with the treasure was established. This stage is called ‘sambandha’.

However that in itself was not enough. Therefore the astrologer had to inform him of the means to locate and retrieve the treasure. Similarly, a sincere person hears from a qualified spiritual master the process of re-establishing his relationship with God and then faithfully acts on it, by executing devotional service. This stage is called ‘abhidheya’. Finally, carefully avoiding the three chief distractions (furtive activity, speculative knowledge and yogic mysticism) and concentrating on the path of pure devotional service, one eventually gets the treasure of pure love of Godhead. This is called ‘prayojana’.

Caitanya Mahaprabhu has instructed any one sincere about making spiritual advancements to understand these three basic truths of life. First, that each and every one of us has an eternal relationship with God (sambandha).

Second, that we must all endeavor to re-establish this relationship (abhidheya). Finally that the goal of our life is to live in our constitutional relationship with the Lord (prayojana).

Ten supporting principles
These three truths are supported on ten basic principles that guide an aspiring devotee from the initial stage of forgetfulness to the final stage of pure love of Godhead. Of these ten principles, the first forms the basis or the foundation of the remaining nine principles.

The first principle states that in order to ascertain the truth one must accept the authority of the Vedic scriptures. Everything in existence falls into the category of being conceivable (by our material senses) or inconceivable (beyond our senses). Information regarding the spiritual realm is inconceivable and therefore must be accepted on the basis of ‘sabda’ or the words of the Vedic scriptures. These scriptures revealed by a bona-fide spiritual master is called ‘amnaya’ and forms the basis of any and all spiritual advancement.

Of the remaining nine principles, the first seven deal with sambandha (our relationship with Krishna). The next deals with abhidheya (how to re-establish) and the final one deals with prayojana (the ultimate goal of life). All these principles can only be realized by the media of ‘amnaya’ or the first principle.

Principles of sambandha
The seven principles that explain sambandha are divided into three categories. The first category which contains the first three principles explain the position of Sri Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The second category which contains the next two principles talk about the conditioned living entity. The third category which contains the remaining two principles talk about the relationship of Krishna with the living entity. Let us now briefly examine them.

1.The Supreme Brahman, Sri Hari, is the only worshippable Lord, Who is also known as Krishna.
2.Krishna is full of innumerable, inconceivable potencies. By these potencies He maintains the spiritual world, the material world and all the living entities.
3.Krishna is full of mellows or rasas. These mellows are the force driving everyone to seek pleasure, either in the Lord or in one’s own self.
4.The jiva-atma (living entity) is qualitatively the same as the Lord, but quantitatively infinitesimal, while the Lord is infinite. Thus they have the same independence as the Lord has, but in a negligible amount. Those jivas that use their independence to serve the Lord are called nitya-siddhas (eternally liberated) and those that use it to serve their own sense are called nitya-baddhas (eternally conditioned).
5.The nitya-baddha accept the shelter of Maya (the illusory energy of the Lord) and are bound to the material time by the blind wheel of fruitive activity (karma). Thus they constantly migrate through one of the millions species of life based on their desires and activities.
6.The Lord is related to all the jivas by an inconceivable simultaneous oneness and difference. This acintya-bheda-abheda tattva manifests in the scriptures, which is why the scriptures speak about many apparently contradictory things.
7.When the living entities spiritual intelligence is awakened by keeping firm faith in the above principles and by the mercy of Krishna, then he can clearly see the truth of the inconceivable oneness and difference. When one achieves knowledge of these seven truths, viewed by the firm faith in the scriptures as per the first principle, then he is said to have knowledge of the position of Krishna, sambandha.

Principle of abhidheya
The relationship with Krishna is re-established by performing devotional service. This is first performed as per the instructions in the scriptures and the guru. At this stage it is called sadhna-vaidhi bhakti. As one gets purified by this process, the bhakti also becomes spontaneous. It is now performed by following the footsteps of the liberated devotees of the Lord. This is called sadhna-ragunaga bhakti. Vaidhi bhakti starts from sraddha (some faith) and goes to ruci (taste) when it becomes ragunaga. Ragunaga bhakti is always forceful, this is the ninth principle.

Principle of prayojana
As per this tenth principle, the supreme goal of life is prema, or pure love of Krishna.

So, in conclusion, it is very important for each one of us to inquire into the cause of our suffering and thus begun to understand these three absolute truths which will take us all the way from a little faith in the Lord to the goal where we associate and enjoy our eternal relationships with Him.

More about Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu: