Skip to main content

         * Index                            * Biographies          * Theosophical

         * Glossary of Terms      * Religion                    Organisations                                     

                                                  * Philosophy            * Contributors

Theosophical Encyclopedia

Kaśyapa

Also sometimes written Kashyapa. In the Hindu sacred books he has a wide variety of things attributed to him, clearly indicating that there were several persons with this name. In one place he is a Vedic sage, descendant of Marīci (one of the seven great sages who was “mind-born” from Brahmā) and author of several hymns of the Rg Veda. In the Śatapata Brāhmana he is said to be the same as Prajāpati (i.e., Lord of Progeny) who assumed the form of a tortoise in order to create offsprings; in fact, one of the meanings of the word kaypa is “tortoise.” In another place he is the husband of twelve wives and progenitor of all kinds of living creatures as well as demons (asuras) and wise men (nāgas, lit. “serpents”). In still another he is the brahmin priest of both Paraurāma and Rāma, two of the incarnations (avatāras) of Vishu. In another place, he is identified as the father of Kapila, originator of the Sāmkhya philosophy. Kayapa is also the Indian name of the constellation Cancer. In other words, the name is used to designate many different people as well as some non-human things (constellation and tortoise).

Kayapa is also the name of the Buddhist Arhat who was a direct disciple of the Buddha, and “to whom alone was entrusted the sacred keeping of the Esoteric interpretation” of Buddha’s teachings (CW XIV:444). He was the one who organized the first Buddhist council. He is usually known as Mah€-Kayapa to distinguish him from other disciples who were of the same name. In another context, Kayapa Buddha is said by Mahšyšna Buddhists to be the predecessor of Gautama Buddha. He was the sixth of the seven Buddhas mentioned in the Digha Nikāya.

Helena P. BLAVATSKY repeats several of these stories, but interprets at least some of them as having a deeper meaning. For instance, the Kayapa who had twelve wives (clearly an allusion to the twelve signs of the Zodiac) and who gave birth to “all kinds of things” is “but a veiled record of the order of evolution in this round?” (SD II:253). That Kayapa, in other words, is a mythological figure. On the other hand, she states that the Kayapa who was the father of Kapila was an historical person (SD II:572) as was the Buddhist of that name (SD I:xxviii).

R.W.B.

© Copyright by the Theosophical Publishing House, Manila

Tag Cloud

Occult (21)
Pilgram (2)
Poems (4)