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  1. 1. Plato and Aristotle: Ideas; Substance; Form and Matter; Causation; Actuality and Potentiality

    1.1 Plato's Philosophy of Ideas
  2. 1.2 Plato's Understanding of Substance
  3. 1.3 Aristotle's Philosophy of Form and Matter
  4. 1.4 Aristotle's Theory of Substance
  5. 1.5 Plato's View on Causation
  6. 1.6 Aristotle's Four Causes
  7. 1.7 Actuality and Potentiality in Aristotle's Philosophy
  8. 1.8 Comparative Analysis of Plato and Aristotle's Philosophies
  9. 2. The Foundations of Rationalism: Method, Substance, God, and Mind-Body Dualism
    2.1 Rationalism (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz)
  10. 2.2 Cartesian Method and Certain Knowledge
  11. 2.3 Substance (Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz)
  12. 2.4 Philosophy of God (Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz)
  13. 2.5 Mind-Body Dualism
  14. 2.6 Determinism and Freedom (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz)
  15. 3. Empiricism (Locke, Berkeley, Hume)
    3.1 Introduction to Empiricism
  16. 3.2 Theory of Knowledge (Locke, Berkeley, Hume)
    3 Submodules
  17. 3.3 Substance and Qualities (Locke, Berkeley, Hume)
  18. 3.4 Self and God (Locke, Berkeley, Hume)
  19. 3.5 Scepticism (Locke, Berkeley, and Hume)
  20. 4. Kant
    4.1 Introduction to Kant's Philosophy
  21. 4.2 Kant: The Possibility of Synthetic a priori Judgments
  22. 4.3 Kant's Space and Time
  23. 4.4 Kant's Categories
  24. 4.5 Kant's Ideas of Reason
  25. 4.6 Kant's Antinomies
  26. 4.7 Kant's Critique of Proofs for the Existence of God
  27. 5. Hegel
    5.1 Hegel: Dialectical Method; Absolute Idealism
  28. 6. Moore, Russell, and Early Wittgenstein
    6.1 Defence of Commonsense (Moore, Russell, and Early Wittgenstein)
  29. 6.2 Refutation of Idealism (Moore, Russell, and Early Wittgenstein)
  30. 6.3 Logical Atomism (Moore, Russell, and Early Wittgenstein)
  31. 6.4 Logical Constructions (Moore, Russell, and Early Wittgenstein)
  32. 6.5 Incomplete Symbols (Moore, Russell, and Early Wittgenstein)
  33. 6.6 Picture Theory of Meaning (Moore, Russell, and Early Wittgenstein)
  34. 6.7 Saying and Showing (Moore, Russell, and Early Wittgenstein)
  35. 7. Logical Positivism
    7.1 Verification Theory of Meaning
  36. 7.2 Rejection of Metaphysics
  37. 7.3 Linguistic Theory of Necessary Propositions
  38. 8. Later Wittgenstein
    8.1 Meaning and Use (Later Wittgenstein)
  39. 8.2 Language-games (Later Wittgenstein)
  40. 8.3 Critique of Private Language (Later Wittgenstein)
  41. 9. Phenomenology (Husserl)
    9.1 Method - Phenomenology (Husserl)
  42. 9.2 Theory of Essences - Phenomenology (Husserl)
  43. 9.3 Avoidance of Psychologism - Phenomenology (Husserl)
  44. 10. Existentialism (Kierkegaard, Sartre, Heidegger)
    10.1 Existence and Essence
  45. 10.2 Choice, Responsibility and Authentic Existence
  46. 10.3 Being–in–the–world and Temporality
  47. 11. Quine and Strawson
    11.1 Critique of Empiricism (Quine and Strawson)
  48. 11.2 Theory of Basic Particulars and Persons (Quine and Strawson)
  49. 12. Cârvâka
    12.1 Cârvâka: Theory of Knowledge
  50. 12.2 Cârvâka: Rejection of Transcendent Entities
  51. 13. Jainism
    13.1 Jainism: Theory of Reality
  52. 13.2 Jainism: Saptabhaòginaya
  53. 14. Schools of Buddhism
    14.1 Pratîtyasamutpâda (Schools of Buddhism)
  54. 14.2 Ksanikavada (Schools of Buddhism)
  55. 14.3 Nairâtmyavâda (Schools of Buddhism)
  56. 15. Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika
    15.1 Theory of Categories (Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika)
  57. 15.2 Theory of Appearance (Nyâya-Vaiśeṣika)
  58. 15.3 Theory of Pramâna (Nyâya-Vaiśeṣika)
  59. 15.4 Self, Liberation, God, Proofs for the Existence of God (Nyâya-Vaiśeṣika)
  60. 15.5 Theory of Causation & Atomistic Theory of Creation (Nyâya-Vaiśeṣika)
  61. 16. Sâmkhya
    16.1 Prakrti (Sâmkhya)
  62. 16.2 Purusa (Sâmkhya)
  63. 16.3 Causation (Sâmkhya)
  64. 16.4 Liberation (Sâmkhya)
  65. 17. Yoga
    17.1 Introduction to Yoga Philosophy
  66. 17.2 Citta (Yoga)
  67. 17.3 Cittavrtti (Yoga)
  68. 17.4 Klesas (Yoga)
  69. 17.5 Samadhi (Yoga)
  70. 17.6 Kaivalya (Yoga)
  71. 18. Mimâmsâ
    18.1 Mimâmsâ: Theory of Knowledge
  72. 19. Schools of Vedânta
    19.1 Brahman (Schools of Vedânta)
  73. 19.2 Îúvara (Schools of Vedânta)
  74. 19.3 Âtman (Schools of Vedânta)
  75. 19.4 Jiva (Schools of Vedânta)
  76. 19.5 Jagat (Schools of Vedânta)
  77. 19.6 Mâyâ (Schools of Vedânta)
  78. 19.7 Avidyâ (Schools of Vedanta)
  79. 19.8 Adhyâsa (Schools of Vedanta)
  80. 19.9 Moksa (Schools of Vedanta)
  81. 19.10 Aprthaksiddhi (Schools of Vedanta)
  82. 19.11 Pancavidhabheda (Schools of Vedanta)
  83. 20.1 Aurobindo: Evolution
  84. 20.2 Aurobindo: Involution
  85. 20.3 Aurobindo: Integral Yoga
  86. 21. Socio-Political Ideals
    21.1 Equality (Social and Political Ideals)
  87. 21.2 Justice (Social and Political Ideals)
  88. 21.3 Liberty (Social and Political Ideals)
  89. 22. Sovereignty
    22. Sovereignty: Austin, Bodin, Laski, Kautilya
  90. 23. Individual and State
    23.1 Rights (Individual and State)
  91. 23.2 Duties (Individual and State)
  92. 23.3 Accountability (Individual and State)
  93. 24. Forms of Government
    24.1 Monarchy (Forms of Government)
  94. 24.2 Theocracy (Forms of Government)
  95. 24.3 Democracy (Forms of Government)
  96. 25. Political Ideologies
    25.1 Anarchism (Political Ideologies)
  97. 25.2 Marxism (Political Ideologies)
  98. 25.3 Socialism (Political Ideologies)
  99. 26. Humanism; Secularism; Multiculturalism
    26.1 Humanism
  100. 26.2 Secularism
  101. 26.3 Multiculturalism
  102. 27. Crime and Punishment
    27.1 Corruption
  103. 27.2 Mass Violence
  104. 27.3 Genocide
  105. 27.4 Capital Punishment
  106. 28. Development and Social Progress
    28. Development and Social Progress
  107. 29. Gender Discrimination
    29.1 Female Foeticide
  108. 29.2 Land, and Property Rights
  109. 29.3 Empowerment
  110. 30. Caste Discrimination
    30.1 Gandhi (Caste Discrimination)
  111. 30.2 Ambedkar (Caste Discrimination)
  112. Philosophy of Religion
    31. Notions of God: Attributes; Relation to Man and the World (Indian and Western)
  113. 32. Proofs for the Existence of God and their Critique (Indian and Western)
  114. 33. The problem of Evil
  115. 34. Soul: Immortality; Rebirth and Liberation
  116. 35. Reason, Revelation, and Faith
  117. 36. Religious Experience: Nature and Object (Indian and Western)
  118. 37. Religion without God
  119. 38. Religion and Morality
  120. 39. Religious Pluralism and the Problem of Absolute Truth
  121. 40. Nature of Religious Language: Analogical and Symbolic
  122. 41. Nature of Religious Language: Cognitivist and Noncognitive
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16.1 Prakrti (Sâmkhya)

I. Introduction

Historical Background of Samkhya Philosophy

Origin and Development

Samkhya, one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy, traces its roots to the Rigveda. It was systematically developed by sage Kapila and finds mention in various ancient texts such as the Mahabharata and the Puranas.

Classical Texts

The Samkhya Karika by Ishvarakrishna is a foundational text in this school of thought. Other relevant texts include the Tattvasamasa and the Samkhyasutra.

Philosophical Importance

Samkhya forms the theoretical foundation for the practice of Yoga and is often paired with it. It also influenced other schools like Vedanta and Buddhism.

Core Concepts in Samkhya Philosophy

Dualism of Purusha and Prakrti

The philosophy is fundamentally dualistic, positing two ultimate realities: Purusha (consciousness) and Prakrti (matter).

The Twenty-Four Tattvas

Samkhya enumerates twenty-four tattvas or elements, starting from the most basic, Prakrti, to the most complex, like the mind and senses.

Causality and Evolution

The interaction between Purusha and Prakrti is considered the cause of the universe’s evolution, based on the principle of Satkaryavada, which asserts that the effect is preexistent in its cause.

What is Prakrti?

Definition and Nature

Prakrti is considered the primal matter, the root cause of the universe in Samkhya philosophy. It is unconscious and inert.

Three Gunas

Prakrti is composed of three gunas: sattva (purity), rajas (activity), and tamas (darkness).

Role in Evolution

Prakrti evolves into various forms, both conscious and unconscious, through its interaction with Purusha.

Significance of Prakrti in Indian Philosophy

In Yoga

In Yoga philosophy, mastering the gunas leads to a balanced mind and spirit, facilitating union with the divine.

In Vedanta

Prakrti is similarly foundational in Vedanta, though it is considered less absolute, subordinated to Brahman, the ultimate reality.

In Ayurveda

Prakrti is vital in Ayurvedic medicine, where it refers to one’s constitution and serves as a basis for individualized treatment.

Comparative Analysis

Samkhya and Buddhism

Though different in their core beliefs, both philosophies share similarities in their analytical approach and acceptance of suffering as an inherent part of life.

Samkhya and Western Philosophy

Samkhya’s dualistic framework bears resemblance to Cartesian dualism, yet diverges in its understanding of consciousness and matter.

II. Historical Overview of Prakrti

The concept of Prakrti is deeply rooted in Indian philosophy.

Origins in Ancient Texts

Rigveda and Samhitas

The Rigveda, one of the oldest Vedic texts, hints at the concept of Prakrti, even though the term is not explicitly used. It is also mentioned in various other Samhitas.


The Upanishads further develop the idea of Prakrti as the primal substance, intertwined with the concept of Brahman.

Epics and Puranas

In the Mahabharata and Puranas, Prakrti is often personified as a goddess, serving as a complement to the concept of Purusha.

Early Interpretations

In Samkhya

Prakrti was initially articulated in detail within the Samkhya school, describing it as an unconscious, inert primal matter that serves as the basis of all material existence.

Kapila’s Perspective

Sage Kapila, credited with formalizing the Samkhya philosophy, presented Prakrti as the unmanifest material cause of the universe.

Through the Lens of Yoga

The Yoga school adopted and adapted Samkhya’s concept of Prakrti, emphasizing the importance of mastering its three gunas to attain spiritual liberation.

Evolution of the Concept Over Time

Medieval Period

In the medieval period, scholars like Vijnanabhikshu and Gaudapada expanded on the idea of Prakrti by synthesizing it with Vedantic concepts.

Modern Interpretations

In modern times, Prakrti has been viewed through various lenses, including environmentalism, where it is associated with Mother Nature.

Influence on Other Philosophical Schools

In Advaita Vedanta

Prakrti is considered a lower reality, subordinate to Brahman, the ultimate reality, in the Advaita Vedanta school.

In Nyaya and Vaisheshika

These logical and atomistic schools acknowledge Prakrti but place more emphasis on other aspects like logic and categorization.

In Buddhism and Jainism

Though not part of their core doctrine, both Buddhism and Jainism have been influenced by the idea of Prakrti in certain philosophical discussions.

III. The Basic Nature of Prakrti

The concept of Prakrti in Indian philosophy is both intricate and nuanced.

Defining Characteristics

Inherent Traits

Prakrti is often described as the primordial, undifferentiated substance that forms the basis for material reality.

Unconscious and Inert

Prakrti is devoid of consciousness, acting solely as the substratum for the evolution of the material universe.

Dynamic and Mutable

Despite its inert nature, Prakrti is dynamic, capable of transformation into various forms, both animate and inanimate.

Material vs Immaterial Aspects

Physical Manifestations

Physical entities, from subatomic particles to galaxies, are considered manifestations of Prakrti.

Immaterial Qualities

Prakrti also governs qualities like emotions, thoughts, and desires, though it is fundamentally unconscious.

Relationship with Purusa

Conceptual Dualism

In Samkhya, Prakrti and Purusa are two independent, co-existing realities, integral to the understanding of the cosmos.


Although distinct, Prakrti is influenced by its interaction with Purusa, which leads to the formation and evolution of the universe.

Three Gunas: Sattva, Rajas, Tamas


Sattva represents purity, harmony, and balance. It is the lightest of the three gunas and often associated with divinity.


Rajas embodies activity, restlessness, and passion. It is the force that drives change and motion in the world.


Tamas signifies darkness, inertia, and ignorance. It is the heaviest of the gunas, often responsible for stagnation and deterioration.

Role in the Formation of the Universe

Cosmological Significance

In Samkhya, Prakrti is considered the material cause of the universe, responsible for its formation and its diverse manifestations.

Principle of Satkaryavada

According to the principle of Satkaryavada, the effect (universe) preexists in its cause (Prakrti), setting the stage for cosmic evolution.

IV. Prakrti in Classical Texts

Prakrti plays a crucial role in Indian classical texts

References in the Upanishads

Conceptual Foundations

The Upanishads serve as an essential framework for Prakrti, linking it with the idea of Brahman and the ultimate reality.

Philosophical Inquiry

Prakrti is often discussed in the context of metaphysical questions about the nature of reality, existence, and consciousness.

Explanation in the Bhagavad Gita

Krishna’s Discourse

In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna elaborates on Prakrti as the material cause of the universe and its relationship with Purusa.

Ethical and Spiritual Dimensions

Krishna also delves into how understanding Prakrti can guide ethical conduct and lead to spiritual liberation.

Discussion in Sâmkhya Karika

Ishvarakrishna’s Contributions

Sâmkhya Karika, attributed to Ishvarakrishna, serves as a pivotal text for the Samkhya philosophy, providing detailed definitions and explanations of Prakrti.

The Twenty-Four Tattvas

The text elaborates on how Prakrti evolves into twenty-four tattvas or elements, forming the basis for all creation.

Comparative Analysis of Textual Representations (Table)

Classical TextDefinition of PrakrtiRelationship with PurusaEthical and Spiritual Implications
UpanishadsLinked with BrahmanOften implicitExplored in philosophical context
Bhagavad GitaMaterial causeExplicitly describedGuiding ethical conduct
Sâmkhya KarikaDetailed definitionsIntegral to theoryBasis for understanding reality

Prakrti plays a significant role in various cosmological theories in Indian philosophy

Satkaryavada Principle

This principle posits that the effect pre-exists in the cause, and in this case, the universe pre-exists in Prakrti.

Asatkaryavada Opposition

Some schools of philosophy oppose Satkaryavada, arguing that the effect does not pre-exist in the cause.

Mahat and Ahamkara

Mahat: The Cosmic Mind

Mahat, the first product of the evolution of Prakrti, represents cosmic intelligence and is often equated with Buddhi.

Ahamkara: The Cosmic Ego

Ahamkara evolves from Mahat and is responsible for the notion of individuality in living beings.

Creation and Dissolution of the Universe

Process of Manifestation

Prakrti undergoes a process of transformation to create the material world, following the principle of Satkaryavada.

Cycle of Dissolution

The material universe eventually dissolves back into its primordial state, merging back into Prakrti.

Contrasting Theories in Other Philosophical Systems (Table)

Philosophical SystemView on PrakrtiCreation TheoryDissolution Theory
Advaita VedantaLower RealityVivarta VadaMerges into Brahman
Nyaya-VaisheshikaInexistent ConceptParamanu TheoryDissolution into atoms
BuddhismNon-core conceptDependent OriginationCessation of Phenomena

VI. Metaphysics of Prakrti

The concept of Prakrti extends far beyond materiality, touching upon various aspects of metaphysics.

Subtle Body

Elements and Properties

The subtle body, known as “Sukshma Sharira,” is an intermediary between the physical and causal bodies, encompassing mental and vital aspects.

Connection to Prakrti

The subtle body emanates from Prakrti and is the seat of emotions, intellect, and ego, ultimately impacting our life experiences.

Causal Body

Conceptual Description

Known as “Karana Sharira,” the causal body is the most elusive and subtle layer, enveloping both the physical and subtle bodies.

Origin in Prakrti

The causal body is considered to emerge from Prakrti and serves as the root cause of both the subtle and physical bodies.

Prakrti as the Unconscious

Psychological Dimension

Prakrti is also considered the unconscious mind, which governs emotions, instincts, and hidden desires.

Transpersonal Implications

The unconscious aspect of Prakrti has profound implications for transpersonal psychology and spirituality.

Influence on Metaphysical Discourse

Historical Impact

The metaphysical aspect of Prakrti has been instrumental in shaping philosophical debates and ideas through history.

Modern Applications

The concept is still actively discussed and applied in contemporary metaphysical and philosophical debates.

VII. Psychological Dimensions of Prakrti


The relevance of Prakrti extends to psychology, affecting cognitive and emotional aspects. This chapter explores Prakrti’s impact on psychology and contemporary theories.

Role in Cognitive Processes

Memory and Learning

Prakrti is believed to be instrumental in cognitive functions like memory retention and learning processes.

Decision Making

The innate qualities governed by Prakrti can significantly impact an individual’s ability to make decisions.

Emotional Aspects

Emotional Regulation

Prakrti’s influence can be observed in how individuals manage and express their emotions.

Emotional Intelligence

Understanding the role of Prakrti can offer insights into the development of emotional intelligence.

Three Gunas and Psychology

Sattva: Purity and Knowledge

The quality of Sattva is associated with clarity, knowledge, and purity and is considered beneficial for mental well-being.

Rajas: Passion and Activity

Rajas is linked to activity, restlessness, and desires, impacting an individual’s emotional and mental state.

Tamas: Inertia and Darkness

The quality of Tamas is associated with laziness, delusion, and ignorance, which can hinder psychological well-being.

Prakrti in Contemporary Psychological Theories

Integration with Western Theories

Prakrti’s conceptual framework can be integrated into Western psychological theories to offer a more comprehensive understanding.

Current Research

Modern psychology increasingly considers Prakrti as a relevant concept for understanding various psychological phenomena.

VIII. Prakrti and Ethics


The concept of Prakrti has implications not only for metaphysics and psychology but also for ethics. This chapter delves into the ethical dimensions of Prakrti.

Ethical Considerations of Human Interaction with Prakrti

Individual Responsibility

Understanding Prakrti leads to greater awareness of the ethical responsibility one has toward nature and fellow beings.

Ethical Conduct

Prakrti serves as a basis for Dharma, which outlines ethical conduct for humans in alignment with natural laws.

Social and Moral Implications

Community Values

The concept of Prakrti plays a role in shaping community values, emphasizing harmony and sustainability.

Gender Roles

Some interpretations of Prakrti influence traditional gender roles and norms within society.

Prakrti in Environmental Ethics

Ecological Balance

Understanding Prakrti in the context of environmental ethics helps to develop a balanced relationship between humanity and nature.

Environmental Stewardship

The concept encourages a sense of stewardship, advocating for sustainable and respectful interaction with the environment.

IX. Comparative Analysis

The idea of Prakrti is not isolated to Indian philosophy but finds parallels in other cultural and philosophical contexts.

Prakrti vs Maya in Advaita Vedanta

Conceptual Differences

While Prakrti is about the material cause of the universe in Samkhya, Maya is an illusory force in Advaita Vedanta.

Ontological Status

Prakrti is considered real in its own right, whereas Maya is often seen as an illusion that veils the ultimate reality.

Prakrti and Qi in Chinese Philosophy

Basic Understanding

Qi in Chinese philosophy is akin to Prakrti, serving as a vital force that constitutes the world.

Philosophical Interpretations

Both concepts underscore the importance of balance and harmony but are framed within different philosophical systems.

Prakrti and Matter in Western Philosophy

Historical Background

The concept of matter in Western philosophy has evolved over time, with roots in Greek thought.

Similarities and Differences

While matter is often separated from consciousness, Prakrti encompasses both material and immaterial aspects in its definition.

Comprehensive Comparison (Table)

Advaita Vedanta

Exploration of the similarities and differences between Prakrti and Maya, including their ontological status and roles in cosmology.

Chinese Philosophy

A detailed comparison of Prakrti and Qi, focusing on their roles in cosmology and the understanding of the natural world.

Western Philosophy

An analysis that contrasts Prakrti with the concept of matter in Western thought, examining historical evolution and philosophical implications.

X. Criticisms and Responses


The concept of Prakrti, while foundational, has been the subject of critique and defense within Indian philosophy and beyond. This chapter examines these discussions.

Criticisms from Nyaya and Mimamsa

Nyaya’s Logical Scrutiny

The Nyaya school of philosophy argues that Prakrti lacks empirical verification, challenging its conceptual validity.

Mimamsa’s Ritualistic Challenge

Mimamsa contends that Prakrti cannot be reconciled with the ritualistic principles it advocates, questioning its theological basis.

Modern Philosophical Critiques


Some modern critics argue that the Prakrti concept is outdated in the light of contemporary scientific understanding.

Dualism vs Monism

The dualistic approach of Prakrti and Purusa faces critiques from monistic philosophical systems.

Defense of Prakrti

Logical Coherence

Defenders argue that Prakrti is logically coherent and offers a comprehensive framework for understanding the universe.

Alignment with Modern Science

Some posit that Prakrti’s principles are not only compatible but also complementary to modern scientific theories.

Ongoing Debates

Academic Circles

Current discussions in academic settings explore the adaptability and relevance of Prakrti in modern discourse.

Public Discourse

Public debates often revolve around how Prakrti is understood in relation to social, ethical, and scientific concerns.

XI. Prakrti in Modern Discourse

Prakrti is not just a relic of ancient philosophy; its influence permeates modern discourse, including philosophy, spirituality, and even science.

Influence on Modern Indian Philosophy

Revival Movements

Prakrti features prominently in modern philosophical revivals that seek to adapt ancient wisdom to current contexts.

Academic Engagement

In academic circles, Prakrti continues to be a subject of study and interpretation, often alongside Western philosophies.

Adaptations in New Age Movements

Prakrti and Wellness

New Age movements have incorporated Prakrti into wellness practices, such as yoga and mindfulness.

Spiritual Interpretations

Modern spirituality has reinterpreted Prakrti in the context of holistic living and metaphysical exploration.

Relevance in Contemporary Science

Intersection with Quantum Physics

Some theorists propose that Prakrti has similarities with concepts in quantum physics, such as quantum entanglement.

Environmental Conservation

Prakrti’s emphasis on balance and harmony can be employed as a framework for environmental ethics and sustainability.

Integration in Modern Spirituality

Prakrti and Consciousness

Modern spiritual movements often integrate Prakrti in their understanding of consciousness and self-realization.

Spirituality and Technology

The concept of Prakrti is even explored in the relationship between spirituality and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence.


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