In Hinduism, Prakriti is the goddess of mother nature. The Sankhya Karika tells us that Prakriti means “nature” and that Mula prakriti is “original and unoriginate substance whence all substances proceed” .
In Shamkaya, it is understood that the cosmos is made up of two poles: consciousness and matter. These two aspects are represented by puruṣa and prakṛti. The living soul (jiva) experiences a world in which purisha and prakriti are bound and fused. It is said that puruṣa, as the cosmic consciousness, merges or identifies with prakriti (in the jiva) out of ignorance.
In Samkya, Moksha (enlightenment) is obtained through the realization of the distinction of purusha and prakriti. The Sankhya Karika says:
“The secretion of milk is for the growth of the calf, so the proceedings of nature (prakriti) take place for the liberation of soul.”
In Tantric philosophy, these two poles are expressed in terms of Shiva and Shakti, as the Cosmic Self and the power of the Self.
Prakriti is expressed through the three gunas: sattva (truth, reality), rajas (passion, action, change, generation), and tamas (darkness, stupor, ignorance). The Sankhya Karika offers a discussion of the nature of prakriti, in particular focusing on the emergence and functioning of prakriti. For example,
“Mala (the root) prakriti (nature) is pradhdna (chief), from its being the root of the seven principles which are productions and productive; such nature is the root…. It is not produced from another : on that account nature (prakriti) is no product of any other thing. The seven principles are Intellect, Egotism, and the five subtle rudiments (sound, touch or substance, form, flavor, and smell)”
- Samkhya karika by Isvara Krsna