In this series, Yogic terminologies will be taken up and their –
- Etymological analysis,
- Lexical descriptions and
- Textual occurrences in Yogic literature and their commentaries, as available, will be presented. And finally observations will be made on the references.
Three texts – Yogasūtra, Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā and Bhagavad-gītā are consulted for textual occurrences portion.
Śabda-yoga is intended to help students, teachers, and professionals of Yoga to develop a sound grammatical, contextual, and thereby an authentic and immersive understanding of Yoga terminologies.
List of Words
We will take up important Yogic terms from Sūtra-s 1.17 – 20. The terms that will be analyzed in this Unit are –
प्र + कृ+क्तिन् = प्रकृतिः
pra + kṛ+ktin = prakṛtiḥ
- The prefix is Pra. ‘Pra’ has many meanings – of which in the current context the meaning भृश – bhṛśa– exceedingly – seems appropriate
- The root word is कृkṛ – to do
- The suffix is क्तिन् The resultant form is feminine. The suffix is added to the root by the grammatical rule स्त्रियांक्तिन्striyāṃktin (3.3.94). The grammatical rule allows this suffix to be added in a meaning other is doer-ship and also in the sense of the act (भावेअकर्तरिचकारके). In this context, is means the instrumental sense which satisfies the rule.
The derivate statement based on this is: प्रक्रियतेकार्य्यादिकम्अनयाइतिप्रकृतिःprakriyatekāryyādikamanayāitiprakṛtiḥ – that by which many effects are fashioned out is prakṛti.
There are four entries to the word in the Amarakosha. They are as follows –
- प्रधानंप्रकृतिःस्त्रियाम्pradhānaṃprakṛtiḥstriyām(1.4.29)– Pradhānaṃ and Prakṛti refer to the creative force
- संसिद्धिप्रकृतीत्विमे|स्वरूपञ्चस्वभावश्चनिसर्गश्चsaṃsiddhiprakṛtītvime| svarūpañcasvabhāvaścanisargaśca (7.37)– Five words saṃsiddhi, prakṛti, svarūpa, svabhāva, and Nisarga – refer to the behavioral nature.
- राज्याङ्गानिप्रकृतयःrājyāṅgāniprakṛtayaḥ (8.18) – The limbs or constituents of a government/kingdom is referred to as Prakṛti
- प्रकृतिर्योनिलिङ्गेचprakṛtiryoniliṅge ca (3.73) – The word Prakṛti is used to indicate both the reproductive organ of the male and thewomb of the female.
In fine it could be noted that the word Prakṛti is seen in five meanings – creative force, behavioral nature, limbs of the kingdom/government, reproductive organ of the male and womb of the female
There is just one reference to the word Prakrit in this text. It is as follows –
bhavaprayayovidehaprakṛtilayānām .. 1.19..
This is a Sūtra that describes the state of asaṃprajñātaSamādhi that is Bhava-pratyaya – which is caused by wrong knowledge or that will lead to rebirth.
People who focus upon the Prakṛti (the primordial material cause of the universe) and merge with it (Prakṛti-laya) as the ultimate and not the consciousness-puruṣa will have rebirth.
It is to be noted that though there is just one reference to the work Prakṛti – the same principle is denoted by other terms such as aliṅga (1.45, 2.19) and Pradhāna (3.48) and in Yogasūtras.
There are 19 references to the term Prakṛti in Bhagavadgītā in nine chapters. A chapter wise summary is presented now –
na hi kaścitkṣaṇamapijātutiṣṭhatyakarmakṛt .
kāryatehyavaśaḥ karma sarvaḥprakṛtijairguṇaiḥ .. 3.5 ..
prakṛtiṃyāntibhūtāninigrahaḥkiṃkariṣyati .. 3.33 ..
Verse 3.5 indicates that the three Guṇas are born from the Prakṛti (primordial matter) and they keep every being active always.
In verse 3.33 the word Prakṛti is used in a different sense from that of the previous occurrence. Ācārya-śaṅkarabhagavatpāda defines the word Prakṛti here as – प्रकृतिर्नामपूर्वकृतधर्माधर्मादिसंस्कारःवर्तमानजन्मादौअभिव्यक्तः ;साप्रकृतिः prakṛtirnāmapūrvakṛtadharmādharmādisaṃskāraḥvartamānajanmādauabhivyaktaḥ ; sāprakṛtiḥ .- “Prakṛti here refers to the imprints of the good and bad deeds of the past births which are manifest in this birth.”
Śrīkṛṣṇa in the context of this verse states that – It is such Prakṛti that makes a person act in a certain wish even without his wish.
prakṛtiṃsvāmadhiṣṭhāyasambhavāmyātmamāyayā .. 4.6 ..
In this Verse Śrīkṛṣṇa states that though I am without birth and inexhaustible being and Lord of All – I subjugate my Prakṛti and manifest by means of my own māyā.
Here the word Prakrit is described by Ācārya-śaṅkarabhagavatpāda as – प्रकृतिंस्वांममवैष्णवींमायांत्रिगुणात्मिकाम् -prakṛtiṃsvāṃ mama vaiṣṇavīṃmāyāṃtriguṇātmikām – Prakṛti is the Māyā of Lord Vishnu which is made up of the three Guṇas.
ahaṅkāraitīyaṃ me bhinnāprakṛtiraṣṭadhā .. 7.4 ..
apareyamitastvanyāṃprakṛtiṃviddhi me parām .
jīvabhūtāṃmahābāhoyayedaṃdhāryatejagat .. 7.5 ..
Verses 7.4& 5 describe about the Aparā and ParāPrakṛti (the higher and lower natures).
In Verse 7.4 the AparāPrakṛti – which is described by Ācārya-śaṅkarabhagavatpāda as Māyā-śakti is stated to have eight manifestations. The eight manifestations as per Ācārya‘s commentary are the five Tanmātras, the Ahaṅkāra, Mahat and Avyakta. – which are worded as bhūmiḥ, āpaḥ, analaḥ, vāyuḥ, kham, manaḥ, buddhiḥ, ahaṅkāraḥ in this verse.
(भूमिःइतिपृथिवीतन्मात्रमुच्यते, नस्थूला, ‘भिन्नाप्रकृतिरष्टधा’इतिवचनात्।तथाअबादयोऽपितन्मात्राण्येवउच्यन्तेमनःइतिमनसःकारणमहङ्कारोगृह्यते।बुद्धिःइतिअहङ्कारकारणंमहत्तत्त्वम्।अहङ्कारःइतिअविद्यासंयुक्तमव्यक्तम् –
bhūmiḥitipṛthivītanmātramucyate, nasthūlā, ‘bhinnāprakṛtiraṣṭadhā’ itivacanāt .tathāabādayo’pitanmātrāṇyevaucyantemanaḥitimanasaḥkāraṇamahaṅkārogṛhyate .buddhiḥitiahaṅkārakāraṇaṃmahattattvam .ahaṅkāraḥitiavidyāsaṃyuktamavyaktam – śrīśāṅkarabhāṣyam)
Verse 7.5 describes the Prakṛti which is in the form of the Jīva (the conscious living being) which is described as kṣetrajña – the knower of the field.
Ācārya-śaṅkarabhagavatpāda clarifies that the lower nature is due to it becoming impure (due to the functions of the Guṇas) and the higher conscious dimension is higher as it is pure (untouched by the Guṇas).
kalpakṣayepunastānikalpādauvisṛjāmyaham .. 9.7 ..
bhūtagrāmamimaṃkṛtsnamavaśaṃprakṛtervaśāt .. 9.8 ..
hetunānenakaunteyajagadviparivartate .. 9.10 ..
rākṣasīmāsurīṃcaivaprakṛtiṃmohinīṃśritāḥ .. 9.12 ..
bhajantyananyamanasojñātvābhūtādimavyayam .. 9.13 ..
In the above verses two types of Prakṛtis are described.
Verses 9.7 to 9.10 mention as to how the Supreme Being uses his Prakṛti that is made up of the three Guṇas – Sattva, Rajas and Tamas and utilizes it as the source of creation and source of merging back of the manifest universe. Ācāryaśaṅkarabhagavatpāda clarifies that this is what is termed as AparāPrakṛti (Lower nature) in the previous chapter. (प्रकृतिंत्रिगुणात्मिकाम्अपरांनिकृष्टांयान्तिprakṛtiṃtriguṇātmikāmaparāṃnikṛṣṭāṃyānti – shreshankarabhashya 9.7)
Verses 9.12 and 13 describe about the two types of Prakrtis – rākṣasī /āsurīPrakṛti and DaivīPrakṛti. Here the word Prakṛti is used in the sense of svabhāva– nature/behavioural predisposition. Those with demonic dispositions see Lord Kṛṣṇa as mere human being, where as those with divine dispositions understand the divinity of the Lord Kṛṣṇa.
idānīmasmisaṃvṛttaḥsacetāḥprakṛtiṃgataḥ .. 11.51 ..
This sole reference from the 11th chapter has a unique expression – prakṛtiṃgataḥ – attaining one’s own normal nature. Arjuna who was dazed and bedazzled by the baffling manifestation of the Lord in the course of Viśvarūpa comes back to his normal self – prakṛtiṃgataḥ – when he sees the human form of Śrīkṛṣṇa once again.
vikārāṃścaguṇāṃścaivaviddhiprakṛtisambhavān .. 13.19 ..
puruṣaḥsukhaduḥkhānāṃbhoktṛtveheturucyate .. 13.20 ..
puruṣaḥprakṛtistho hi bhuṅkteprakṛtijānguṇān .
kāraṇaṃguṇasaṅgo’syasadasadyonijanmasu .. 13.21 ..
yaevaṃvettipuruṣaṃprakṛtiṃ ca guṇaiḥsaha .
sarvathāvartamāno’pinasabhūyo’bhijāyate .. 13.23 ..
bhūtaprakṛtimokṣaṃ ca ye viduryāntiteparam .. 13.34 ..
The Prakṛti mentioned in all the verses of this chapter points to the primordial material cause of the universe, which is made of the three Guṇas. It is stated here that a) It is from this beginning less Prakṛti all manifestation of the physical world happens (13.19) b) Doer-ship in the creation process rests with Prakṛti (13.20) c) Consciousness/ Puruṣa merely experiences the attributes/manifestations of the Prakṛti (13.21) d) Knowing the true nature of such Prakṛti and Puruṣa helps avoid rebirth and leads to liberation (13.23 & 34)
Chapters 14, 15 & 18
nibadhnantimahābāhodehedehinamavyayam .. 14.5 ..
manaḥṣaṣṭhānīndriyāṇiprakṛtisthānikarṣati .. 15.7 ..
sattvaṃprakṛtijairmuktaṃyadebhiḥsyāttribhirguṇaiḥ .. 18.40 ..
In the three references from chapters 14, 15, and 18 – it has been stated respectively, that – the Guṇas emerge from the Prakṛti (chapter 14), the sense organs with the mind have Prakṛti as their substratum (chapter 15) and nothing in this world is free from the influence of the three Guṇas.
Haṭhayogapradīpikā- Reference not found in this text
Tabulation of Textual References 10.3
It is interesting to note that -of the three texts taken up for discussion – the philosophical/ontological entity of Prakṛti is discussed only in Yogasūtras and the Bhagavadgītā. The Yoga practice oriented treatise – Haṭhayogapradīpikā- does not indulge in the elaboration of the term.
Though in Yogasūtras the term Prakṛti is found in just one occasion – in the context of the asaṃprajñātasamādhi – the concept has been discussed using other nomenclatures such as Pradhāna and Aliṅga. This highlights the importance of the term to Yogasūtra.
With 19 references Bhagavadgītā indeed discusses Prakṛti elaborately, bringing out the significance of the concept in the Gītā’s framework.
It could be seen that Prakṛti is used broadly to indicate two ideas –
a) The Primordial cause of the material world
b) Simply the nature of a person
a) Primordial material cause: with regard to Primordial cause of the material world – Prakṛti is spoken – a) as being the source of the three Guṇas b) Prakṛti provides the material ground for the supreme consciousness to manifest c) depending upon the level of evolutes -Prakṛti itself is classified in the Gītā as parā-Prakṛti(higher) and Aparā-prakṛti (lower) d) it is stated that nothing in this world is bereft of influence of the Prakṛti e) the knowledge that the doer is Prakṛti and the experiencer is Puruṣa (consciousness) will lead to clarity and liberation. It has to be noted that – it is this Prakṛti that the Yogasūtra alludes to.
b) Nature: a) It is stated that one acts according one’s nature determined by past actions b) this nature is also classified as rākṣasī/āsurīPrakṛti and daivīPrakṛti – which elaborated in the 16th chapter of the Bhagavadgītā c) the expression going to back to Prakṛti is also used to denote the attainment of one’s normal self from a state of excitement or fear.
Thus this śabdayoga analysis of the term Prakṛti brings out the various shades of meanings and the subdivisions of the term Prakṛti as discussed in the Yoga texts.
 8 meaning to the word ‘pra’ is given in the Avyayakosha with meanings can be seen here – https://archive.org/details/avyaya-kosa-srivatsankacharya/page/262/mode/2up?view=theater
Unit 10 To be Continued…
Links for previous posts in this unit
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article belong to the author. Indic Today is neither responsible nor liable for the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information in the article.