Kapila

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Kapila or Maharishi Kapila is a Vedic sage (rishi) traditionally considered to be the original proponent of the Samkhya system of Indian philosophy. He is said to have lived in the Indian subcontinent, around the sixth or seventh century B.C.E. Though he is regarded as the founder of the Sāňkhya philosophical tradition, the classic texts associated with Sāmkhya are dated much later; the work traditionally ascribed to Kapila himself, the Sāňkhya-sutra, cannot be dated earlier than 1380-1450 C.E.[1] According to the oldest available Samkhya work, Isvarakrsna's Samkhya-karika (“Verses on Samkhya,” c. second century C.E.) Kapila taught his principles to Asuri, who taught them Pañcasikha.

Kapila is described within the Puranas as an incarnation of Vishnu, an avatar come to earth to restore the spiritual balance through his teachings. He is known for teaching a process of liberation known as bhakti yoga. Buddhist sources present Kapila as a well-known philosopher whose students built the city of Kapilavastu, according to one tradition the birthplace of the Buddha. Kapila shared many similarities with Buddha, including an emphasis on meditation as a technique for removing suffering, belief that the Vedic gods were subject to limitations and conditions, and dislike for ritual and Brahmanic doctrines.

Contents

History

Kapila stands outside the traditional group of Vedic saints and sages, as an Enlightened One. Unlike some of the other Indian philosophers, he is not the subject of numerous myths and legends, but does appear in Hindu literature in connection with a few miraculous events.[2] He is regarded as one of the incarnations of Vishnu and is therefore an avatar, one who comes to earth to restore spiritual order through his teachings. His name, Kapila, means “the Red One,” and indicates an association with the sun.

"pañcamah kapilo nama
siddheshah kala-viplutam
provacasuraye sankhyam
tattva-grama-vinirnayam”
“The fifth incarnation, named Lord Kapila, is foremost among perfected beings. He gave an exposition of the creative elements and metaphysics to Asuri Brahmana, for in course of time this knowledge has been lost." Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 1, Ch. 3, Text 10.[3]

Very little historical information is known regarding the life of Maharishi Kapila. He is said to have lived in the Indian subcontinent, some say around 500 B.C.E., other accounts give much earlier dates. He is known to have preceded Buddha by several generations. He is regarded as the founder of the Sāňkhya philosophical tradition, but the classic texts associated with Sāňkhya are dated much later; the Sāmkhya-karika of Isvaraksna was composed in the middle of the fifth century C.E., and the work traditionally ascribed to Kapila himself, the Sāňkhya-sutra, cannot be dated earlier than 1380-1450 C.E.[4] The Sāmkhya-sutra is not referred to by writers of any earlier schools, criticizes its rival philosophical systems, and attempts to revive theism, all of which indicate that it was written during the fourteenth century.[5]

He is mentioned by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita as the greatest of all perfected beings:

Of all trees I am the banyan tree, and of the sages among the demigods I am Narada. Of the Gandharvas I am Citraratha, and among perfected beings I am the sage Kapila. (Bhagavad Gita 10.26)

Birth and Family

His parents are given in the Bhagavata Purana as Kardama Muni, an ascetic, and Devahuti, a princess. After Devahuti had served her husband devotedly for many years, he offered to show his appreciation by sharing his wisdom with her. She reminded him that they had a duty to further the human race. Kardama then used his yogic powers to create a romantic seven-story flying palace, in which they traveled to romantic places all over the world. After they returned home, Devahuti gave birth to nine daughters. Many years later, when the nine daughters were grown, Devahuti conceived a son. Krishna came to visit them and told them that their son, a manifestation of Vishnu, was to be named Kapila and would become a renowned sage. After his birth, with the permission of Kapila and Devahuti, Kardama took the vow of silence and went to live a life of meditation in the forests.[6]

After his father left home, Kapila instructed his mother Devahuti in the philosophy of yoga and worship of Lord Vishnu, enabling her to achieve both liberation (moksha), and pure love of God.

"jajñe ca kardama-grihe dvija devahutyam
stribhih samam navabhir atma-gatim sva-matre
uce yayatma-shamalam guna-sanga-pankam
asmin vidhuya kapilasya gatim prapede “
The Lord then appeared as the Kapila incarnation, being the son of the prajapati brahmana Kardama and his wife, Devahuti, along with nine other women [sisters]. He spoke to His mother about self-realisation, by which, in that very lifetime, she became fully cleansed of the mud of the material modes and thereby achieved liberation, the path of Kapila." Srimad Bhagavatam, Canto 2, Ch. 7, Text 3.[7]

Birth of the Ganges

In the Mahabharata (M. 3, 107), Maharishi Kapila is a major figure in the story associated with the Hindu holiday of Makar Sankranti, celebrating the descent of the Ganga Ganges River from heaven. King Sagara (Ocean) of Ayodhya, an ancestor of Rama, had performed the Aswamedha sacrifice ninety-nine times. Each time a horse was sent around the earth Indra the King of the Heaven grew jealous and kidnapped the horse, hiding it in the hermitage of Kapila Muni during the hundredth sacrifice. Sagara had sent sixty thousand of his sons to ride as an armed guard over the sacrificial horse. When the horse vanished, the sons of Sagara began digging deep into the earth at the spot where it had disappeared, until they discovered it deep in the underworld, with a saint, who was Kapila, sitting next to it in meditation. Eager to recapture the horse, the young guards neglected to pay Kapila the homage due to a holy man. With a flash of his eye, Kapila burned them all to ashes. Anshuman, a grandson of King Sagara (Son of Asamanjas the Wicked son of King Sagara), came to Kapila begging him to redeem the souls of the sixty thousand. Kapila replied that only if the Ganges descended from heaven and touched the ashes of the sixty thousand would they be redeemed.

Teachings

Kapiladev's teachings are quoted extensively within the Srimad Bhagavatam especially:

  • "My appearance in this world is especially to explain the philosophy of Sankhya, which is highly esteemed for self-realization by those desiring freedom from the entanglement of unnecessary material desires. This path of self-realization, which is difficult to understand, has now been lost in the course of time. Please know that I have assumed this body of Kapila to introduce and explain this philosophy to human society again." (Srimad Bhagavatam, 3.24.36-37)
  • "When one is completely cleansed of the impurities of lust and greed produced from the false identification of the body as "I" and bodily possessions as "mine," one's mind becomes purified. In that pure state he transcends the stage of so-called material happiness and distress." (Srimad Bhagavatam, 3.25.16)
  • "The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the Supreme Soul, and He has no beginning. He is transcendental to the material modes of nature and beyond the existence of this material world. He is perceivable everywhere because He is self-effulgent, and by His self-effulgent luster the entire creation is maintained." (Srimad Bhagavatam, 3.26.3)
  • "The glory of the Lord is always worth singing, for His glories enhance the glories of His devotees. One should therefore meditate upon the Supreme Personality of Godhead and upon His devotees. One should meditate on the eternal form of the Lord until the mind becomes fixed." (Srimad Bhagavatam, 3.28.18)

According to the oldest available Samkhya work, Isvarakrsna's Samkhya-karika (“Verses on Samkhya,” c. second century AD) Kapila taught his principles to Asuri, who taught them Pañcasikha.

Kapila and Buddhism

Buddhist sources present Kapila as a well-known philosopher whose students built the city of Kapilavastu, according to one tradition the birthplace of the Buddha. Kapila shared many similarities with Buddha, including an emphasis on meditation as a technique for removing suffering, belief that the Vedic gods were subject to limitations and conditions, and dislike for ritual and Brahmanic doctrines.

See also

Notes

  1. Richard Garbe, Die Sāmkhya-Philosophie, 2nd ed. (Leipzig, 1917), 83-84, 95-100.
  2. Heinrich Robert Zimmer, Philosophies of India, Bollingen series, 26 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1951), 282.
  3. Kapila, The Everything Development Company. Retrieved February 11, 2008.
  4. Richard Garbe, Die Sāmkhya-Philosophie, 2nd ed. (Leipzig, 1917), 83-84, 95-100.
  5. Chandrahar Sharma, A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy (Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass, 2003, ISBN 8120803647), 150.
  6. Devahuti and Kardam, Suite101.com. Retrieved February 11, 2008.
  7. Kapila, The Everything Development Company. Retrieved February 11, 2008.

References

  • Dasgupta, Surendranath. 1973. A History of Indian Philosophy, Vol. III. Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 8120804120
  • Flood, Gavin D. 1996. An introduction to Hinduism. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521433045
  • Klostermaier, Klaus K. 2000. Hinduism: a short introduction. Oxford: Oneworld. ISBN 1851682201
  • Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli and Charles A. Moore (eds.). 1973. A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy. Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press. ISBN 0691019584
  • Sharma, Chandrahar. 2003. A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy. Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 8120803647
  • Zimmer, Heinrich Robert. 1951. Philosophies of India. Bollingen series, 26. New York: Pantheon Books.

External links

All Links Retrieved February 11, 2008.


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