Prakrti (Sanskrit, “making first”) in Sanskrit literature denotes primordial material nature. Prakrti in mythology is personified as a goddess or cosmic energy, Shakti, the female counterpart of every god. In Vedanta, prakrti is synonymous with cosmic manifestation, hence as appearance, maya. In Samkhya-yoga prakrti plays an important part as the ultimate material reality juxtaposed with purusa, the ultimate spiritual reality. Here prakrti is the matrix of the universe, the material cause of all manifest matter and energy. As such, prakrti is composed of three gunas (Sanskrit, “strands”) or constituent modes that, not in equilibrium, combine to generate all other material principles (tattva), intellect (buddhi), ego (ahamkara), mind (manas), the five sense capacities, the five action capacities, the five subtle elements, and the five gross elements. The creative display on prakrti is unconscious. Purusa, as pure consciousness, illumines prakrti and inspires her evolutionary dance, the manifestation and continuous transformation of the universe. A.G.H.
Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 76