Prakriti

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The term 'Prakriti' or 'Prakruti' (Sanskrit: प्रकृति) literally means "making or placing before or at first, the original or natural form or condition of anything, original or primary substance."[1] Phenomenon of prakriti is fundamental to understanding the human life and its surroundings, especially, the practice of Ayurveda. Ayurvedic physician must be able assess deha prakriti of the patient before he can proceed further. Balanced deha prakriti represents health and degree of imbalance determines disease.

Contributors
Chapter/topic Prakriti
Author Deole Y.S.
Reviewed by Basisht G.
Affiliations Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.P.G.T.& R.A., Jamnagar
Correspondence email: carakasamhita@gmail.com
Date of first publication: January 12, 2020

Etymology and derivation

“Pra” prefix means “principal” and “Kriti” means “creation”. Thus the word convey the meaning “one that is principal factor for creation”. Some other derivations include: (b) “Pra” means “sattvik”, “Kru” means “rajasik” and “ta” means “tamasik” and the word “Prakriti” thus conveys the power of the three gunas. (c) “Pra” means “before” and “Kriti” means creation and so Prakriti means that which existed before creation.[2]

Contextual meanings

The Prakriti is applied at various places with following different meanings:[3]

  • Cause
  • Origin or source
  • Nature, character, constitution, temper, disposition
  • Fundamental form, pattern, standard, model, rule (especially in ritual)

Categories of prakriti

Every matter has its own constitution. This may be referred to as the fundamental structure. Therefore, prakriti can be classified into following categories for better understanding in healthcare systems.

  • Prakriti of a region, habitat and surrounding environment.

The constitution of a geographical region is specific.

  • Prakriti of a substance like a dietary article, a medicinal herb used in healthcare.

For example, the green gram is light to digest. Ginger is hot in its potency.

  • Prakriti of an individual who is seeking healthcare.

Some individuals have vata dosha dominance in their constitution, while others have pitta or kapha dosha dominance.

All above categories have different characteristics and properties. However, the origin is from Panchamahabhuta and their properties are decided by the proportion of Panchamahabhuta in it.

For example: If a substance has dominance of Vayu Mahabhuta, then it will be light in weight and light to digest.

Aspects of prakriti

Bhuta prakriti (sources of creation)

Prakriti means the source or origin or fundamental cause. The five subtle elements (viz. shabdatanmantra, sparshatanmantra, rupatanmantra, rasatanmatra and gandhatanmatra), buddhi (intellect), avyakta (prakriti or nature) and ahamkara (ego) are the eight sources of creation.

The eight bhuta prakriti are known as basic source of creation. Sixteen transformed and bio-transformed elements (vikara) viz. five sense faculties, five motor faculties, mind and five mahabhutas are originated from bhuta prakriti. [Cha. Sa. Sharira Sthana 1/63]

Deha prakriti (constitution of human being based on dosha dominance)

Image 1: Types of Deha Prakriti

Prakriti means basic constitution of human being depending upon dominance of dosha at the time of conception. This forms the deha prakriti meaning body constitution or trait . These are further categorized under four types. [Cha. Sa. Sutra Sthana 7/39-40]

These types of basic constitution are assessed upon specific characteristics shown by dominant dosha. [Cha. Sa. Vimana Sthana8/96-99]

The constitution (prakriti) associated with fetus (garbha) is determined by following factors:

  • constitution of sperm and ovum,
  • the time (of conception) and status of health of uterus
  • diet and lifestyle of mother (during pregnancy) and
  • interaction of mahabhutas. [Cha. Sa. Vimana Sthana 8/95]

The following factors also play important role in constitution of an individual.

Jati (origin as per social structure), Kula (race), Desha (place), Kala (time and season), Vaya (age), Pratyatmaniyata (individual habits and habitat). The different variations seen in persons are based upon their caste, race, place of living, season, age and individual habits. [Cha. Sa. Indriya Sthana 1/5] Thus the constitutional make-up is determined and influenced by above mentioned factors.

Samya (equilibrium or normal state)

The term prakriti is also used to denote normal state or equilibrium state of dosha and dhatu in the body. This balanced state determines health. [Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 9/4] The objective of all components of health care system is to restore status of equilibrium in body. Other references describing normal or balanced state of dosha are listed in table 1.

Swabhava (fundamental nature)

Prakriti is also used to denote fundamental nature of a substance or basic pattern of external environment or surroundings. Each substance in the surroundings has specific natural characteristics and functions that are performed according to it. This is termed as swabhava . Each sense and motor organ has its own specific constitution and action. The sense organs and motor organs are the tools to maintain equilibrium. The equilibrium of sense organs with mind leads the intellect to indulge in enhanced self-consciousness. [Chakrapani on Cha. Sa.Sutra Sthana 8/15-16]. For the preservation of mental and intellectual health, it is important to maintain equilibrium in co-ordination with sense and motor organs, mind and intellect. [Chakrapani on Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 8/17]

Marana (death)

The term prakritistha is used to denote death of an individual. [Cha.Sa. Sutra Sthana 9/26] It means that the physical body merges with nature and the soul returns to its origin or source or creation.

Relation between these meanings

It is worthy to note how a single word prakriti can be applied in different contexts. However, deep insights can clearly connect these meanings together to indicate a process of creation from source and unification with the source.

Origin of purusha is from the prakriti. The principle of prakriti and purusha states that we are part of our surroundings. Our internal environment is constantly interacting with external environment. Therefore we should live in harmony with nature. After death, we merge with nature.

Components of circle of life

Image 2:Circle of life in reference to prakriti

Importance of knowledge of prakriti

  1. Status of health directly depends upon the balanced state of body components.
  2. Lifespan of an individual depends upon his prakriti.
  3. Prakriti assessment is important for knowledge of disease process.
  4. Prognosis depends upon interaction of normal dosha and affecting dosha known as causative factor of disease.
  5. Every substance has its own prakriti and it acts according to the specific characters. It is important to know the basic characters before applying it in healthcare management.
  6. The quality and quantity of diet shall always lead to equilibrium of dosha and dhatu in the body. The diet of an individual should be prescribed to maintain balanced state and should be conducive to preservation of health.
  7. Hazardous nature of a disease depends upon its prakriti and interaction of dosha-dushya.
  8. In education system, the assessment of prakriti of disciple and teacher is important for perceiving knowledge.
  9. In personalized medicine, prakriti assessment is important for decision of correct choice of drug in patients.

Current researches

Currently, research in scientific community is focused upon concept of deha prakriti only. The researchers have conceptualized the correlation between phenotype of an individual and his prakriti. Genomic variations with the classification of prakriti are studied. It is observed that PGM1 correlates with phenotype of pitta prakriti. This suggests that the phenotypic classification has a genetic basis; and its prakriti-based practice resonates with personalized medicine. [4]

The researchers studied relation between clinical phenotype and predisposition of disease. The study was undertaken to determine the association of Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) C677T and A1298C with type 2 diabetes and prakriti. An extremely strong association between prakriti (kaphaja/kapha-pittaja) and type 2 diabetes (P < 0.00001) was detected in this study. [5]

More information

  1. Naveganadharaniya Adhyaya
  2. Rogabhishagjitiya Vimana

List of references in Charak Samhita

The list of references about prakriti in Charak Samhita can be seen here.

Abbreviations

Cha. = Charak, Sa. = Samhita

References

  1. Monier-Williams (1899), Monier William's Sanskrit-English Dictionary, 2nd Ed., Oxford University Press, Prakriti, page 654 available on Prakriti
  2. Available from https://www.wisdomlib.org/definition/prakriti
  3. Available from https://www.sanskritdictionary.com/?edd=1&q=prak%E1%B9%9Bti&iencoding=iast&lang=sans&x=65&y=14
  4. Govindaraj, P. et al. Genome-wide analysis correlates Ayurveda Prakriti. Sci. Rep. 5, 15786; doi: 10.1038/srep15786 (2015)
  5. Gupta A, Ali A, Tewari P, Agrawal NK, Patel R, Byadgi PS. Association of kaphaja and kapha-pittaja prakriti and methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase C677T allele with type 2 diabetes. AYU [serial online] 2018 [cited 2020 Jan 5];39:146-50. Available from: http://www.ayujournal.org/text.asp?2018/39/3/146/255251