prakRRiti literally means before creation: pra - before and kRRiti - creation.
Swami Krishnananda : The stuff out of which the world is made is called prakRRiti. It is a general term, designating the matrix of all things. The basic building bricks of the cosmos are variations of prakRRiti. There is no morality in prakRRiti - it is an impersonal power and it becomes a characteristic of judgment only when it is individualised subsequently. No question of judgment is possible in a cosmic set-up. prakRRiti or the matrix of the universe, animated by a reflection of Consciousness or Brahman, divides itself into the cosmic forces called sattva (equilibrium), rajas (distraction) and tamas (inertia) [Note: these are the three guNa or ‘qualities’]. These three properties of prakRRiti are really its very constituents, not merely qualifications or adjuncts, and stand to prakRRiti in the relation of the three strands of a rope to the rope itself. (Ref. 1)
Swami Dayananda Saraswati : prakRRiti is that out of which any product, any creation, is ultimately born and is the word given to the Lord as the material cause. The word prakRRiti means that which has the essential capacity to create. prakRRiti is also called the cause. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita that I have two prakRRiti-s :
prakRRiti-1 (actually Swamiji calls it svarUpa prakRRiti) : svarUpa could be translated as the very being of something. This is the cause for everything; the truth of everything, without which nothing is possible. This is the absolute prakRRiti. For example, ice is cold and that coldness is its svarUpa. You cannot remove it and still have ice. And here similarly, atman cannot give up its nature, awareness. Awareness is the svarUpa of Atman; it is not a quality.
(This description is slightly edited to avoid more Sanskrit words) prakRRiti-2 (Swamiji calls it svabhAva prakRRiti) : svabhAva could be translated as nature or characteristic. It consists of 5 elements, mind, body and intellect. Because the effect, kArya, is not separate from the cause, it is also called prakRRiti. Therefore we have the expression kArya-prakRRiti. A physical body consisting of 5 elements is also kArya-prakRRiti as are the sense organs and mind. In other words, anything created, anything put together is a kArya prakRRiti. Again - kArya means effect. However, when we look upon prakRRiti in its causal form it is also called karaNa-prakRRiti or svabhAvika-prakRRiti. (Ref. 2)
prakRRiti is the cause of both subtle and gross bodies of all beings. As the child is born of the mother, similarly prakRRiti is the material out of which this creation is born. But the mother herself cannot produce a child without a father and so too, prakRRiti requires an efficient cause - that is Brahman. (Ref. 3)
According to the Bhagavad Gita, prakRRiti is uncreated or beginningless.
- The Spiritual Import of the Mahabharata and the Bhagavadgita by Swami Krishnananda.
- Bhagavad Gita Chapter 7 Verses 4 – 6 commentary by Swami Dayananda.
- Chapter 14 Swami Dayananda's Bhagavad Gita home study course.
In the Advaitin archives, there is an article on prakRRiti written by Prof V Krishnamurthy.
Submitted by Vinayaka -
From the translation of the Bhagavad Gita by Swami Tapasyananda
prakRRiti is the Sanskrit expression for Nature. It does not mean matter as we understand it today, because the matter of the scientist is a late evolute of prakRRiti. It is an expression and a theory introduced by the sAMkhya philosophy, and this sAMkhya conception of it and its analysis have entered into all systems of Indian philosophy and even the sciences as they were developed in ancient India.
prakRRiti has three constituents, sattva, rajas and tamas called guNa-s. These three are in a state of equilibrium. It is on the disturbance of this equilibrium that evolution and involution of the creative cycle depends. A guNa in ordinary language means a quality or attribute, but the guNa-s of prakRRiti are its constituents. Even the word constituent is misleading. Perhaps 'dispositions' may be more appropriate. They cannot be isolated as substances or as quantities but are known only through their effects in the form of various qualities and substances that constitute the world of experience and are classifiable into three groups. As far as this threefold analysis of prakRRiti into sattva, rajas and tamas is concerned, sattva has effects like luminosity, peace, knowledge and pleasure and objects with such properties; rajas expresses as dynamism, passion, attachment and the like; and tamas, as inertia, darkness, dullness, ignorance and the like. Objects partaking of such characteristics are the products of sattva, Rajas and tamas respectively.
While the Gita is mainly concerned with the psychological and the spiritual aspects of the guNa-s, the sAMkhya philosophy, which originally propounded this doctrine of prakRRiti with its three constituents called guNa-s, derived all the cosmic categories as their evolutes, and the whole universe in its subtle and gross aspects as the permutations and combinations of these categories.
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