From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia
By Swami Harshananda
Prakrti literally means ‘the natural or original principle,’ ‘that which produces effects’.
Different Aspects of Word Prakṛti
- This is one of the most widely used words in Sanskrit literature and also in the scriptures. In the most basic sense, it means nature or a natural quality.
- In Vedic sacrifices, it means a model yāga, like the Darśa or the Purṇamāsa, others based on it being called ‘vikṛtis’.
- In grammar it represents the basic form of a word.
- In the Sāṅkhya Darśana, it represents pradhāna, the basic material cause of the universe, comprising the three guṇas:
- This concept has generally been accepted by almost all the schools of Vedānta. They are:
- In Advaita Vedānta it stands for māyā at the cosmic level and avidyā at the individual level.
- In Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta it is called ‘acit’ and accepted as a permanent reality, but under the control of īśvara or God.
- The Dvaita Vedānta considers it as having two aspects: the citprakṛti and the acitprakṛti or the unconscious basic material cause of the world.
- In the Śāktatantras prakṛti is the Divine Mother who appears in five forms. These five goddesses are responsible for creation. They are:
- In the Ayurveda it stands for the general condition of the body.
- The Bhagavadgitā describes prakṛti as representing two aspects of the Lord’s power, the aparā and the parā. The former comprises eight unconscious material objects and the latter, the conscious jīva.
- In political science the word stands for the seven rājyāṅgas or constituents of the state.
- In Sanskrit poetry, it is the name of a particular metre with 21 letters or syllables per line.
- Avidyā means ignorance.
- Acit means the unconscious principle.
- Citprakṛti means conscious entity same as Lakṣmī, the divine consort of Viṣṇu.
- Ayurveda means health sciences.
- Bhagavadgitā 7.4, 5
- Aparā means lower.
- Parā means the higher.
- It means individual soul.
- Yājñavalkya Smṛti 1.353
- Kautilya’s Arthaśāstra 6.1
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore