Kapila Muni is a renowned sage from ancient times who established the Sankhya Philosophy, which holds a significant place in the philosophical tradition of ancient India. His teachings are described in the Srimad Bhagavatam or Bhagavad Purana.
The Sankhya philosophy describes the structure of the material universe. It formulates the principles underlying the methodology of spiritual knowledge, the highest stage of which is the comprehension of the Absolute Truth.
Birth and Later life
According to Srimad Bhagavatam, the sage is the son of Kardama Muni, one of the Prajapatis, the progenitors of humanity, and Devahuti, the daughter of Swayambhuva Manu. The couple was aware of the divine origin of their son.
Even before Kapila was born, Lord Brahma Himself appeared before Devahuti and revealed that an incarnation of the Supreme Lord would be born from her womb and that the Lord, incarnated as her son, would give her spiritual knowledge. However, the sage’s precise birth time and place cannot be determined. Many years later, the golden-haired Kapila Muni was born with eyes sparkling like lotus petals and feet marked with lotus marks.
According to 16 samskaras of Hindus, a man with an adult son usually renunciates (sannyasa) and leaves home, thus cutting off all ties with family and worldly life. At the same time, he entrusts the care of his wife to his son. Kardama Muni knew that his son was an incarnation of the Supreme Lord. Yet, following the Vedic tradition and desiring to emphasize its importance, he left home and accepted the renounced order of life.
Later, Lord Kapila revealed the Sankhya philosophy to his mother Devahuti and instructed her in Krishna-bhakti (devotion), after which she achieved liberation from the bondage of the material world and found pure love for Krishna.
Kapila Muni, Raja Sagar and the Holy River Ganga
Raja Sagar was Lord Rama’s ancestor and the king of the Ikshvaku dynasty. He found out that performing 100 Aswhamedha Yagyas would give one control over the whole earth and decided to perform them as per the guidance of Sage Aurva. Lord Indra, the only one to complete 100 Yagyas, was afraid of losing his power to a mortal, so he hid the horse used in the sacrifice near Sage Kapil Muni’s hermitage.
Raja Sagar unable to find his sacrifice animals, sent his 60,000 sons, the Sagar Putras, to find the missing horse. When they reached Kapil Muni’s ashram, they mistook the sage for the thief and started to insult him, interrupting his meditation. Kapil Muni became angry and turned the 60,000 Sagar Putras to ashes, sending their souls to hell.
The horses were standing at Kapil Muni’s ashram until Angshuman finally found them. Anshuman (descendant of Raja Sagar) performed austerities and the sage allowed him to take the horse back. The sage told Angshuman that the souls of his ancestors could only be freed by performing Shraddhas with the holy water of the Ganges. As there was a severe drought before and all the water from the ocean was drunk by Kapil Muni, Angshuman could not complete Shraddhas.
King Bhagirath, a later descendant, took on the task of freeing the souls and prayed to Lord Brahma to bring the Ganges to earth. Brahma agreed and asked Lord Vishnu to allow it. He warned that the Ganges would destroy everything if it was not controlled, and asked Lord Shiva to bear its force. Shiva agreed and the Ganges descended to earth gently after losing its force in the labyrinth of Shiva’s hair. With Ganga’s water, Bhagirath finally performed the death rites of Sagar raja’s 60000 sons and freed their souls from Patal Lok.
The myths transform into legends, tales, and convictions. Tieing up with historical figures, River Ganges was named Bhagirathi in honor of Bhagirath, the ocean – Sagar after Sagar Raja, and an island – Sagardwip. Millions of pilgrims from around the world visit the Gangasagar Mela during Makar Sankranti to seek Moksha. They believe that a dip in the holy water will remove their sorrows and sins. They visit Kapil Muni’s ashram and chant the hymn “Sab Tirth Bar Bar Ganga Sagar Ekbar”.
What is Sankhya Philosophy?
Sankhya philosophy describes the basic categories and principles of the physical world; in this sense, we can apply the term “metaphysics” to it. The word Sankhya means “to count.” The origin of this name is because the Sankhya philosophy analyzes the structure of the universe, highlighting and bringing into a system the elementary principles underlying it.
Thus, from an etymological point of view, Sankhya means “an exhaustive explanation based on the analysis of material elements.” The philosophical content of Sankhya is reduced to an analytical approach that allows us to understand the difference between matter and spirit. This analysis leads us to bhakti, the devotional service of the Lord. Thus, Sankhya and bhakti are two aspects of the same process.
According to Kapila Muni, the method of devotional service is so perfect that simply by following the principles of bhakti-yoga and following the instructions of the spiritual master, one becomes liberated and freed from the influence of Maya (worldly illusion). However, he remains in his material body. Anyone who practices other types of yoga or follows the path of philosophical search for truth never knows whether he has reached perfection or not.
But for a person who is engaged in devotional service, firmly believes in the instructions of his Guru, and follows all the principles of bhakti-yoga, liberation is guaranteed already in this life.
Sometimes doubt arises in the minds of neophytes as to whether the master is a liberated person. Often, they are distrustful of the bodily activities of their spiritual master. Still, one cannot judge whether he is a liberated person or not by the physical activities of a spiritual master.
A person is in a material body; therefore, he still has some material needs because the body is material. But because he is completely absorbed in the service of the Lord, he should be considered a liberated soul.
Teaching of Kapila Muni
Kapila Muni (SB 3.25.16): “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.”
A beautiful description of Kapila Muni’s knowledge preached to his mother, Devahuti, is showcased in Srimad Bhagavad. Maharishi Kapila (Sage Kapila) enlightened Devahuti about the philosophy of yoga and Lord Vishnu’s superiority.
- For knowledge, the mind and soul of a person must gain disinterest from all worldly pleasures and bodily possessions.
- A person’s mind will eventually control the five senses. The incapability of performing such ascetic renunciation leads a person to live a misfortune life and suffer from a misfortune death.
- With the dedication to Supreme Lord, the heart and soul are purified. Knowledge emerges only in a pure mind through devotion.