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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. 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
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)
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.
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.
Kapiladev's teachings are quoted extensively within the Srimad Bhagavatam especially:
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.
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.
All Links Retrieved February 11, 2008.
|Topics||Logic · Idealism · Monotheism · Atheism · Problem of evil|
|Āstika||Samkhya · Nyaya · Vaisheshika · Yoga · Mimamsa · Vedanta (Advaita · Vishishtadvaita · Dvaita)|
|Nāstika||Carvaka · Jaina (Anekantavada) · Bauddha (Shunyata · Madhyamaka · Yogacara · Sautrantika · Svatantrika)|
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