Thursday, January 21, 2010
There are six major schools of thought in Hindu philosophy called the Shatdarsanas, which accept the authority of the Vedas and are therefore grouped as astika. They are Nyaya, Vaiseshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Purva Mimamsa and Uttara Mimamsa (or Vedanta). Of these, the Samkhya (pronounced 'Saankhya') system is considered as the oldest philosophical system founded by Kapila Muni.
The Samkhya school of philosophy is of particular interest to us now since it is considered as the basis of all schools of Indian Dualism and finds mention in the Mahabharata, Bhagavata and later in the Yoga Vashishtha.
According to the Bhagavatam, Kapila Muni was born to Kardama Muni and Devahuti. After his father Kardama Muni renounced the world, Kapila Muni instructs his mother into the nuances of yoga and devotion to Lord Vishnu. Thus, his teachings are also considered as the essence of Bhakti Yoga. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna refers to himself thus, "Among the Siddhas, I am Kapila Muni" (10.26).
Kapila Muni also finds a place in the story of the origin of the holy river Ganga. King Sagara of Ayodhya, an ancestor of Rama, performed the Aswamedha yajna (horse sacrifice) ninety-nine times. Indra the King of the Heaven grew jealous of him since the scriptures say that any person who performs the horse sacrifice a hundred times becomes the next Indra, ruler of the heavens. So, Indra kidnapped the horse and hid it in the hermitage of Kapila Muni during the hundredth sacrifice.
The sons of Sagara found the horse in the Muni's ashram and attacked him suspecting him to be the culprit. Kapila burnt the assailants to ashes with his spiritual power. Later, Anshuman, a grandson of King Sagara, went to Kapila and begged him to redeem the souls of his ancestors. Kapila replied that only if the water of the holy Ganga descended from heaven and touched the ashes would they be redeemed.
The story of Anshuman's son Bhagiratha fulfilling his father's unfinished task by bringing down the Ganga and making it flow through Kapila Muni's ashram is quite well known.