Prakrti

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:
  1. Sattva
  2. Rajas
  3. Tamas
  • This concept has generally been accepted by almost all the schools of Vedānta. They are:
  1. In Advaita Vedānta it stands for māyā at the cosmic level and avidyā[1] at the individual level.
  2. In Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta it is called ‘acit’[2] and accepted as a permanent reality, but under the control of īśvara or God.
  3. The Dvaita Vedānta considers it as having two aspects: the citprakṛti[3] 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:
  1. Durgā
  2. Rādhā
  3. Lakṣmi
  4. Sarasvatī
  5. Sāvitrī
  • In the Ayurveda[4] it stands for the general condition of the body.
  • The Bhagavadgitā[5] describes prakṛti as representing two aspects of the Lord’s power, the aparā[6] and the parā.[7] The former comprises eight unconscious material objects and the latter, the conscious jīva.[8]
  • In political science[9][10] 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.

References

  1. Avidyā means ignorance.
  2. Acit means the unconscious principle.
  3. Citprakṛti means conscious entity same as Lakṣmī, the divine consort of Viṣṇu.
  4. Ayurveda means health sciences.
  5. Bhagavadgitā 7.4, 5
  6. Aparā means lower.
  7. Parā means the higher.
  8. It means individual soul.
  9. Yājñavalkya Smṛti 1.353
  10. Kautilya’s Arthaśāstra 6.1
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore