Maharshi Kapila

Maharishi Kapila (Hindi: कपिल ऋषि) is a Vedic sage, who as mentioned in the Srimad Bhagavatam is the author of basic principles of the Sankhya system of Indian philosophy as available in the classical Sankhya text, Sankhya Karika, in 70 (Sutras) verses , though its expansions and commentaries are spread over 6 volumes, and has numerous commentaries, written over the ages, like the Kapila sankhya pravachana Sutra vṛitti, by Aniruddha .

As described in the Mahabharata, he was one of the seven sons of Brahman; others being, Aniruddha, Sana, Sanatsujata, Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatkumara, and Sanatana . Though, in Vishnu Purana, he is described as, an incarnation of the mighty and universal Vishnu , famous for teaching a process of liberation known as bhakti yoga.

His Descendants are found till date in Northern India esp. Punjab region. They keep their surname as Kapil.

Much of the details about sage Kapila's life are available in the Srimad Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana), Canto 3, Chapter 33: Activities of Kapila , where it is mentioned that his parents were Kardama Muni and Devahuti, and after his father left home, Kapila instructed his mother, Devahuti in the philosophy of yoga and devotional worship of Lord Vishnu, enabling her to achieve both liberation (moksha), and pure love of God


. 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)


Kapiladev's teachings are quoted extensively within various classical Hindu texts:


  • "Kapila said, 'Those who lead a life of domesticity are certainly auspicious and acquire excellence of every kind. They are unable, however, to enjoy the felicity that attaches to Renunciation." The Mahabharata, Book 12: Santi Parva: Mokshadharma Parva: Section Section CCLXX, p.270 .
  • "Kapila said,'Acts only cleanse the body. Knowledge, however, is the highest end (for which one strives). 5 When all faults of the heart are cured (by acts), and when the felicity of Brahma becomes established in knowledge, benevolence, forgiveness, tranquillity, compassion, truthfulness, and candour, abstention from injury, absence of pride, modesty, renunciation, and abstention from work are attained. These constitute the path that lead to Brahma. By those one attains to what is the Highest." The Mahabharata, Book 12: Santi Parva: Mokshadharma Parva: Section CCLXX, p. 270-271.
  • "Bhishma said (to Yudhisthira), 'Listen, O slayer of foes! The Sankhyas or followers of Kapila, who are conversant with all paths and endued with wisdom, say that there are five faults, O puissant one, in the human body. They are Desire and Wrath and Fear and Sleep and Breath. These faults are seen in the bodies of all embodied creatures. Those that are endued with wisdom cut the root of wrath with the aid of Forgiveness. Desire is cut off by casting off all purposes. By cultivation of the quality of Goodness (Sattwa) sleep is conquered, and Fear is conquered by cultivating Heedfulness. Breath is conquered by abstemiousness of diet. The Mahabharata, Book 12: Santi Parva: Part III, Section CCCII.

Srimad Bhagavatam

  • "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." (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."(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." (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." (3.28.18)

Birth of the Ganges

Maharshi Kapila is a major figure in the story associated with the Hindu holiday of Makar Sankranti, about bringing down Ganga Ganges River from heaven, which involves King Sagara of Ikshvaku dynasty , from Ayodhya, an ancestor of Rama. King Sagara had performed the Aswamedha yagna (Horse-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.

The 60 000 sons of Sagara found the horse, and believing Kapila to be the abductor assaulted him. Kapila turned the assailants 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 60 000. Kapila replied that only if the Ganges descended from heaven and touched the ashes of the 60,000 would they be redeemed

See also


An Introduction to Hinduism, Gavin Flood, p. 232. Cambridge University Press, 1996. (Dates for proto-Samkhya, Karika Samkhya.)

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