Prakriti or Prakruti (from Sanskrit language प्रकृति, prakṛiti), means "nature". It is a key concept in Hinduism, formulated by its Samkhya school, and refers to the primal matter with three different innate qualities (Guṇas) whose equilibrium is the basis of all observed empirical reality. Prakriti, in this school, contrasts with Purusha which is pure awareness and metaphysical consciousness. The term is also found in the texts of other Indian religions such as Jainism, and Buddhism.
In Indian languages derived from Sanskrit roots, Prakriti refers to the feminine aspect of all life forms, and more specifically a woman is seen as a symbol of Prakriti.
Prakriti (Sanskrit: प्रकृति) is a Vedic era concept, which means "making or placing before or at first, the original or natural form or condition of anything, original or primary substance." The term is discussed by Yāska (~600 BCE) in Nirukta, and found in numerous Hindu texts. It connotes "nature, body, matter, phenomenal universe" in Hindu texts.
In the Samkhya school, it is contrasted with Purusha (spirit, consciousness), and Prakriti refers to "the material world, nature, matter, physical and psychological character, constitution, temper, disposition". According to Knut Jacobsen, in the dualistic system of the Samkhya school, "Purusha is the principle of pure consciousness, while Prakriti is the principle of matter", where Purusha is the masculine in every living being as consciousness, while Prakriti is the feminine and substrate which accepts the Purusha.
In Hindu cosmology, Prakṛti is the feminine aspect of existence, the personified will and energy of the Supreme (Brahman); while in Shaktism, the Goddess is presented as both the Brahman and the Prakṛti. In Samkhya-Yoga texts, Prakriti is the potency that brings about evolution and change in the empirical universe. It is described in Bhagavad Gita as the "primal motive force". It is the essential constituent of the universe and is at the basis of all the activity of the creation.
According to Samkhya and the Bhagavad Gita Prakrti or Nature is composed of the three gunas which are tendencies or modes of operation, known as Sattva (creation), rajas (preservation), and tamas (destruction). Sattva encompasses qualities of goodness, light, and harmony. Rajas is associated with concepts of energy, activity, and passion; so that, depending on how it is used, it can either have a supportive or hindering effect on the evolution of the soul. Tamas is commonly associated with inertia, darkness, insensitivity. Souls who are more tamasic are considered imbued in darkness and take the longest to reach liberation.
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