Kapila
Kapila
Watercolour painting on paper of Kapila, a sage
Personal
ReligionHinduism
ParentsDevahuti (mother), Kardama (father)
PhilosophySamkhya
Religious career
Influenced

Kapila (Sanskrit: कपिल), also referred to as Cakradhanus,[1] 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.[2] 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.[3][4] Kapila of Samkhya fame is considered a Vedic sage,[4][5] estimated to have lived in the 6th-century BCE,[6] or the 7th-century BCE.[7]^ His home was in Mithila.[8] His influence on Buddha and Buddhism have long been the subject of scholarly studies.[9][10]

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."[11]

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.[7][12][13]

Statue of Kapila Maharshi, Nashik.
Statue of Kapila Maharshi, Nashik.

Biography

The name Kapila appears in many texts, and it is likely that these names refer to different people.[14][15] 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.[6] Others place him in the 7th century BCE.[14][16] This places him in the late Vedic period (1500 BCE to 500 BCE), and he has been called a Vedic sage.[4][5]

Kapila is credited with authoring an influential sutra, called Samkhya-sutra (also called Kapila-sutra), which aphoristically presents the dualistic philosophy of Samkhya.[17][18] These sutras were explained in another well studied text of Hinduism called the Samkhyakarika.[14] 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.[3]

Hinduism

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.

Vedic texts

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,[19] while Larson and Bhattacharya state kapilam in that verse means "tawny" or "reddish-brown";[20] 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[23] – mention of a Kapila Śākhā situated in the Āryāvarta, which implies a Yajurveda school is named after Kapila.[20] 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.[20] 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.[20] 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.[26]

Puranas

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.[27]

Dharmasutras and other texts

Non-violence

Fearlessness to all living beings from my side,
Svāhā!

Kapila, Baudhayana Grihya Sutra, 4.16.4[39]
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.[20] 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.[39] 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.[42][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.[3] According to Chaturvedi, in a study of inscriptions of Khajuraho temples, the early Samkhya philosophers were possibly disciples of female teachers.[note 7]

Imagery in the Agamas

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;[44] while the Vaikhānasasāgama gives somewhat varying description. The Vaikhānasasāgama places Kapila as an āvaraņadēvāta and allocates the south-east corner of the first āvaraņa.[44] 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.[44]

Other descriptions

Kapila Devahuti Samvada

Kapila Devahuti discussions.jpg

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.[51]

Jainism

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".[20]

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.[13]

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.[52]

Buddhism

Buddhists literature, such as the Jataka tales, state the Buddha is Kapila in one of his previous lives.[53][54][55]

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[9]

Max Muller states the link between the more ancient Kapila's teachings on Buddha can be overstated.[9] 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.[9] However, adds Muller, the teachings on how to achieve this, by Kapila and by Buddha, are very different.[9]

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.[56]

In Chinese Buddhism, the Buddha directed the Yaksha Kapila and fifteen daughters of Devas to become the patrons of China.[57]

Works

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:[citation needed]

Ayurveda books mentioning Kapila's works are:

  1. Vagbhatta mentions Kapila's views in chapter 20 of Sutrasthana.
  2. Nischalakara mentions Kapila's views in his commentary on Chikitsa Sangraha.
  3. Kapila's views are quoted in Ayurvedadipika.
  4. The Kavindracharya list at 987 mentions a book named Kapila Siddhanta Rasayana.
  5. Hemadri quotes Kapila's views in Ashtangahradaya (16th verse) of the commentary Ayurveda Rasayana.
  6. Sarvadarsanasamgraha (Sarva-darśana-saṃgraha) mentions Kapila's views on Raseśvara school of philosophy.

Significance

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.[58] Patanjali, the Yoga scholar, in his Yogasutra-bhasya wrote Kapila to be the "primal wise man, or knower".[58] 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.[59]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ dashAnAmekaM kapilaM samAnaM taM hinvanti kratavepAryAya
    garbhaM mAtA sudhitaM vakSaNAsvavenantantuSayantI bibharti [21]
    Translated by Griffith as:
    One of the ten, the tawny, shared in common, they send to execute their final purpose.
    The Mother carries on her breast the Infant of noble form and soothes it while it knows not.[22]
  2. ^ Quote from Chakravarti's work: These Kapileyas are the clans of Kapila, but who was the original Kapila, we cannot know; for the text does not supply us with any further data. In his article on the Śākhās of the Yajurveda, Dr. Raghuvira acquaints us with one Kapila Śākhā that was situated in the Āryāvarta. But we do not know anything else as regards the Kapila with whom the said branch was associated. Further in the khilas of the Rgveda, one Kapila is mentioned along with some other sages. But the account of all these Kapilas is very meagre and hence cannot be much estimated in discussing the attitude of Sāṃkhya Kapila towards the Vedas. Though the Sāṃkhya vehemently criticises the Vedic sacrifices, but thereby it does not totally set aside the validity of the Vedas. In that case it is sure to fall under the category of the nāstika philosophy and could not exercise so much influence upon the orthodox minds; for it is well known that most of the branches of orthodox literature are more or less replete with the praise of Samkhya".[24]
  3. ^ The pariśiṣṭa to each Veda were composed after the Veda;[25] Atharvaveda itself estimated to have been composed by about 1000 BCE.[23]
  4. ^ In Vedic texts, Asura refers to any spiritual or divine being.[39] Later, the meaning of Asura contrasts with Deva.[40]
  5. ^ Baudhayana Dharma Sutra, Prasna II, Adhyaya 6, Kandika 11, Verses 1 to 34:
    14. A hermit is he who regulates his conduct entirely according to the Institutes proclaimed by Vikhanas.(...)
    28. With reference to this matter they quote also (the following passage): 'There was, forsooth, an Âsura, Kapila by name, the son of Prahlâda. Striving with the gods, he made these divisions. A wise man should not take heed of them.'[41]
  6. ^ The Baudhayana Dharmasutra Prasna II, Adyaya 6, Kandiaka 11, Verses 26 to 34 dissuade the Vaikhanasas from sacrificial ritual works in the Vedas.[42]
  7. ^ Quote from p. 49–51: Of course, the Panchatantrikas accorded a place of honour to Kapila who was designated muni and paramarishi, and even identified with Narayana. The original concept of Kapila, the asura exponent of one of the oldest systems of philosophy is, however, preserved in the present inscription. (...) The Rūpamaņḍana and Aparājittapŗichha accounts of the deity mention a female face instead of Kapila which has puzzled scholars. In this connection, it may be pointed out that in the Mahabharata, Pañcaśīkha the disciple of Āsuri has been called Kapileya. He was so named because he was fed on the breast-milk of a brahmana lady, Kapila. According to Chattopadhyaya, "We have to take the story of Kapila breast-feeding Panchasikha ina figurative sense and if we do so the myth might suggest the story of an original female preceptor of the Samkhya system."[43]
  8. ^ Section LXV of the Sambhava Parva of the Mahabharat states: The daughters of Daksha are, O tiger among men and prince of the Bharata race, Aditi, Diti, Danu, Kala, Danayu, Sinhika, Krodha, Pradha, Viswa, Vinata, Kapila, Muni, and Kadru ... The Brahmanas, kine, Gandharvas, and Apsaras, were born of Kapila as stated in the Purana.[49][50]

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