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Kapila (Sanskrit: कपिल), also referred to as Cakradhanus, is a sage in Hindu tradition. According to Bhagavata Purana, he is the son of the sage Kardama and Devahuti, the daughter of the Svayambhuva Manu. Kardama had nine daughters, who were very learned and went ahead to marry Marici, as well as other great sages. When he came of age, Kapila is most well-known as the founder of the Samkhya school of Hindu philosophy. Kapila of Samkhya fame is considered a Vedic sage, estimated to have lived in the 6th-century BCE, or the 7th-century BCE.^ His home was in Mithila. His influence on Buddha and Buddhism have long been the subject of scholarly studies.
According to the Brahmanda Purana, Kapila is described to be an incarnation of Vishnu: "Bhagavān Nārāyaṇa will protect us all. The Lord of the universe has now been born in the world as Kapilācārya."
Many historic personalities in Hinduism and Jainism, mythical figures, pilgrimage sites in Indian religion, as well as an ancient variety of cow, are named after Kapila, or share his name.
The name Kapila appears in many texts, and it is likely that these names refer to different people. The most famous reference is to the sage Kapila with his student Āsuri, who in the Indian tradition, are considered as the first masters of Samkhya school of Hindu philosophy. While he pre-dates Buddha, it is unclear which century he lived in, with some suggesting 6th-century BCE. Others place him in the 7th century BCE. This places him in the late Vedic period (1500 BCE to 500 BCE), and he has been called a Vedic sage.
Kapila is credited with authoring an influential sutra, called Samkhya-sutra (also called Kapila-sutra), which aphoristically presents the dualistic philosophy of Samkhya. These sutras were explained in another well studied text of Hinduism called the Samkhyakarika. Beyond his Samkhya philosophy, he appears in many dialogues of Hindu texts, such as in explaining and defending the principle of ahimsa (non-violence) in the Mahabharata.
Kapila is the tenth child of sage Kardama and Devahūti. Kardama is provided a boon by Narayana that he would himself be born as his son. After attaining this, Kardama wished to leave for the forest for penance and research and Vedic study. Kardama had nine daughters who were very learned and went ahead to marry great sages mentioned in ancient Indian history^ . Kala married Marichi, Anusuya married Atri, Arundhati married Vashishtha, Havirbhu married Pulastya, and Shanti married Atharvan.
The Rigveda X.27.16 mentions Kapila (daśānām ekam kapilam) which the 14th-century Vedic commentator Sayana thought refers to a sage; a view which Chakravarti in 1951 and Larson in 1987 consider unreliable, with Chakravarti suggesting that the word refers to one of the Maruts, while Larson and Bhattacharya state kapilam in that verse means "tawny" or "reddish-brown"; as is also translated by Griffith.[note 1]
The Śata-piṭaka Series on the Śākhās of the Yajurveda – estimated to have been composed between 1200 and 1000 BCE – mention of a Kapila Śākhā situated in the Āryāvarta, which implies a Yajurveda school is named after Kapila. The term Kapileya, meaning "clans of Kapila", occurs in the Aitareya Brahmana VII.17 but provides no information on the original Kapila.[note 2] The pariśiṣṭa (addenda) of the Atharvaveda (at XI.III.3.4)[note 3] mentions Kapila, Āsuri and Pañcaśikha in connection with a libation ritual for whom tarpana is to be offered. In verse 5.2 of Shvetashvatara Upanishad, states Larson, both the terms Samkhya and Kapila appear, with Kapila meaning colour as well as a "seer" (Rishi) with the phrase "ṛṣiṃ prasūtaṃ kapilam ... tam agre.."; which when compared to other verses of the Shvetashvatara Upanishad Kapila likely construes to Rudra and Hiranyagarbha. However, Max Muller is of view that Hiranyagarbha, namely Kapila in this context, varies with the tenor of the Upanishad, is distinct and is later used to link Kapila and assign the authorship of Sankya system to Hiranyagarbha in reverence for the philosophical system.
Kapila, states George Williams, lived long before the composition of the Epics and the Puranas, and his name is coopted in various later composed mythologies.
Fearlessness to all living beings from my side,
—Kapila, Baudhayana Grihya Sutra, 4.16.4
Translators: Jan E. M. Houben, Karel Rijk van Kooij
As son of Prahlada: The Baudhayana Dharmasutra mentions the Asura[note 4] Kapila is the son of Prahlada in the chapter laying rules for the Vaikhanasas.[note 5] The section IV.16 of Baudhāyana Gṛhyasūtra mentions Kapila as the one who set up rules for ascetic life. Kapila is credited, in the Baudhayana Dharmasutra, with creating the four Ashrama orders: brahmacharya, grihastha, vanaprastha and sanyassa, and suggesting that renouncer should never injure any living being in word, thought or deed. He is said to have made rules for renouncement of the sacrifices and rituals in the Vedas, and an ascetic's attachment instead to the Brahman.[note 6] In other Hindu texts such as the Mahabharata, Kapila is again the sage who argues against sacrifices, and for non-violence and an end to cruelty to animals, with the argument that if sacrifices benefited the animal, then logically the family who sacrifices would benefit by a similar death. According to Chaturvedi, in a study of inscriptions of Khajuraho temples, the early Samkhya philosophers were possibly disciples of female teachers.[note 7]
Kapila's imagery is depicted with a beard, seated in padmāsana with closed eyes indicating dhyāna, with a jaṭā-maṇḍala around the head, showing high shoulders indicating he is greatly adept in controlling breath, draped in deer skin, wearing the yagñopavīta, with a kamaṇḍalu near him, with one hand placed in front of the crossed legs, and feet marked with lines resembling outline of a lotus. This Kapila is identified with Kapila the founder of Sāṅkhya system; while the Vaikhānasasāgama gives somewhat varying description. The Vaikhānasasāgama places Kapila as an āvaraņadēvāta and allocates the south-east corner of the first āvaraņa. As the embodiment of the Vedas his image is seated facing east with eight arms; of which four on the right should be in abhaya mudra, the other three should carry the Chakra, Khaḍga, Hala; one left hand is to rest on the hip in the kațyavarlambita pose and other three should carry the Ṡaṅkha, Pāśa and Daṇḍa.
Kapila-Devahuti Samvada is the basis of Sankhya Philosophy for which Kapila is well known. Kapila-Devahuti Samvada which roughly translates to "The Discussions between Kapila and Devahuti", touches topics on how to control oneself effectively and truly become the master of oneself. Kapila Devahuti Samvada is a text where Devahuti approaches Kapil with a dilemma. She mentions that she is fed up of satisfying her five senses. She states that all her life, she has been giving in to these senses. but they are never satisfied. Kapila explains the Samkhya philosophy to set her mind at ease and give her inner peace. This discussion is in the form of question and answers format. This has been mentioned in detail in the third canto of Shrimad Bhagavata Purana.
Kapila is mentioned in chapter VIII of the Uttaradhyayana-sutra, states Larson and Bhattacharya, where a discourse of poetical verses is titled as Kaviliyam, or "Kapila's verses".
The name Kapila appears in Jaina texts. For example, in the 12th century Hemacandra's epic poem on Jain elders, Kapila appears as a Brahmin who converted to Jainism during the Nanda Empire era.
According to Jnatadharmakatha, Kapila is a contemporary of Krishna and the Vasudeva of Dhatakikhanda. The text further mentions that both of them blew their shankha (conch shell) together.
Buddhists literature, such as the Jataka tales, state the Buddha is Kapila in one of his previous lives.
Scholars have long compared and associated the teachings of Kapila and Buddha. For example, Max Muller wrote (abridged),
There are no doubt certain notions which Buddha shares in common, not only with Kapila, but with every Hindu philosopher. (...) It has been said that Buddha and Kapila were both atheists, and that Buddha borrowed his atheism from Kapila. But atheism is an indefinite term, and may mean very different things. In one sense, every Indian philosopher was an atheist, for they all perceived that the gods of the populace could not claim the attributes that belong to a Supreme Being (Absolute, the source of all that exists or seems to exist, Brahman). (...) Kapila, when accused of atheism, is not accused of denying the existence of an Absolute Being. He is accused of denying the existence of an Ishvara.— Max Muller et al., Studies in Buddhism
Max Muller states the link between the more ancient Kapila's teachings on Buddha can be overstated. This confusion is easy, states Muller, because Kapila's first sutra in his classic Samkhya-sutra, "the complete cessation of pain, which is of three kinds, is the highest aim of man", sounds like the natural inspiration for Buddha. However, adds Muller, the teachings on how to achieve this, by Kapila and by Buddha, are very different.
As Buddhist art often depicts Vedic deities, one can find art of both Narayana and Kapila as kings within a Buddhist temple, along with statues of Buddhist figures such as Amitabha, Maitreya, and Vairocana.
In Chinese Buddhism, the Buddha directed the Yaksha Kapila and fifteen daughters of Devas to become the patrons of China.
The following works were authored by Kapila, some of which are lost, and known because they are mentioned in other works; while few others are unpublished manuscripts available in libraries stated:
Ayurveda books mentioning Kapila's works are:
Kapila, the founder of Samkhya, has been a highly revered sage in various schools of Hindu philosophy. Gaudapada (~500 CE), an Advaita Vedanta scholar, in his Bhasya called Kapila as one of the seven great sages along with Sanaka, Sananda, Sanatana, Asuri, Vodhu and Pancasikha. Patanjali, the Yoga scholar, in his Yogasutra-bhasya wrote Kapila to be the "primal wise man, or knower". The Buddhist sources mention that the city of Kapilavastu is built in the honor of Kapila. It is in Kapilavastu that the Buddha is born; and, it is here he spent the first twenty-nine years of his life.
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