In the list of 24 categories of reality in SAMKHYA and YOGA, prakriti refers to nature or the phenom-enal universe. It is seen as an eternal reality that always existed and always will exist. That is to say, phenomenal reality is not a created entity but is an eternal real that always was and always will be.
   Prakriti is seen as an unconscious force that creates and dissolves universes; when a universe is dissolved, prakriti becomes an inert unmanifest reality, which will once again come forward to produce a new creation. The task of Samkhya and most yogas is to learn how to dissociate the intellect, the highest discriminatory faculty, as much as possible from the whirl of prakriti, phenomenal existence.
   This task requires the devotee to develop an immunity of sorts to the pulls and pushes of mani-fest reality. Meditative practice and other yogic practices are designed to firm up the discrimina-tive faculty against the pull of the fluctuations of reality. A yogi learns not to be influenced by either the good or the bad that comes her or his way, but to remain calm and steady in the face of all phenomena. When the highest discrimination (viveka) is awakened in the intellect, then the dormant consciousness or PURUSHA becomes fully aware that it is not of the stuff of prakriti or nature but is a conscious eternal entity of its own sort. Then occurs release from prakriti and the cycles of birth and rebirth, though one may remain in a bodily state afterward.
   Further reading: Knut A. Jacobsen, Prakrti in Samkhya-Yoga: Material Principle, Religious Experience, Ethical Implications (New York: Peter Lang, 1999); Gerald Larson and Ram Shankar Bhattacharya, eds., Encyclo-pedia of Indian Philosophies: Samkhya a Dualist Tradition in Indian Philosophy, vol. 4 (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987); Kapila Vatsyayan, ed., Prakrti: The Integral Vision, 5 vols. (New Delhi: Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, 1995).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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