Prakrti in Ayurveda (प्रकृतिः)

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Prakrti (Samskrit : प्रकृतिः) refers to the the latent source and progenitor of all the material things in this world. In the context of Sharira (शरीरम्), Prakrti means the basic body type of an individual according to Ayurveda. This term is also used in the sense of personality. Prakrti is said to be the unique body constitution of each individual which is formed on the basis of specific dosha levels in the body right at the time of conception. Thus, it is also called as Deha-prakrti (देहप्रकृतिः) or Dosha-prakrti (दोषप्रकृतिः) and it remains unchanged throughout the life for that individual. Sushruta has also used the term Kaya Prakrti (कायप्रकृतिः) and Maha Prakrti (महाप्रकृतिः) in the same sense.

परिचयः ॥ Introduction

Ayurveda has mentioned numerous attributes of doshas and how they affect individual's physiology based on the dominance of one or more doshas. This dominance of a dosha or a specific combination of doshas is responsible for one's structural and functional peculiarities, state of health and well-being and also for one's response to external stimuli. Although one of the 3 doshas might be dominant and displays major role in body functions, this is not considered as an abnormality. This state of doshas at the very beginning of life is believed to be the natural constitution for that particular individual and thus called as Prakrti or original body-mind type of that individual. The prakrti of a person is quite capable of providing a fair indication of physiological strengths and weaknesses, mental tendencies, and susceptibility to illnesses of various types. Therefore, understanding Prakrti is crucial while making healthcare choices for any person and his treating Vaidya.

व्युत्पत्तिः ॥ Etymology

As per the etymology of the word Prakrti,

प्रक्रियते कार्यादिकमनयेति प्र+कृ+क्लिन् ।

Prakrti is that entity which intensifies. In this context, intensification of expression of original status of doshas at the time of origin or conception should be considered.[1] Such an in depth and meticulous thinking behind the personality, health and well-being or even diseased state of an individual could be found only in Ayurveda! The nirukti of Prakrti can be found in commentaries of Ayurveda treatises. According to Chakrapani, Prakrti is nature.

प्रकृतिस्तु स्वभावः।

While, commentator Arundatta has opined that Prakrti is 'body type'.

प्रकृतिः शरीरस्वरुपम्।

In a nutshell, Prakrti refers to the specific body type/ nature/ constitution of the individual.

परिभाषा ॥ Definition

The term Prakrti is defined by Acharya Charaka and Acharya Sushruta on the basis of its relation with doshas and tie of its formation.

Acharya Charaka states that, the Prakrti is the expression of the result of close connection of body with doshas; while acharya Sushruta stated that, Prakrti is formed by the most profound dosha at the time of union of Shukra (sperm) and Shonita (Ova).

शुक्रशोणितसंयोगे यो भवेद्दोष उत्कटः | प्रकृतिर्जायते तेन.. (Sush. Samh. 4.63)[2]

One more definition of Prakrti in literature provides basic insights about it.

प्रकृतिः नाम जन्ममरणान्तरकालभाविनी, गर्भावक्रान्तिसमये स्वकारणोद्रेकजनिता निर्विकारिणी दोषस्थितीः (Rasa. Samh. 1.6)[3]

From these statements it is concluded that, Prakrti is the expression of the individual with reference to one's own specific body structure, function, behavior and relation to ecology. [1]

प्रकृतिभेदाः ॥ Classification of human personality as met in Ayurveda

In Astanga Hrdya, the divisions of classification based on above mentioned two biases are called Dosamayi and Gunamayi Prakrti (A.H.II. 3.83/104) Charaka and Sushruta describe different typologies from humoral (physiological homeostasis) and Psychological (the Predominance of three Ansas of Sattva) point of view. Sushruta gives another typology of Bhautik Prakrti (S.S.III. 4.79). The bias of Bhautik Prakrti is based on physical considerations.

दोषप्रकृतिभेदाः ॥ Types of Dosha Prakrti

Ayurveda described 7 basic types of Prakrti. These are decided on the basis of dominance of one or 2 doshas among 3 doshas. Thus total 7 types of Prakrti are listed below,

  1. Vata dominant (वातप्रधाना)
  2. Pitta dominant (पित्तप्रधाना)
  3. Kapha dominant (कफप्रधाना)
  4. Samadhatu (all 3 doshas in equilibrium) (समधातु)
  5. Vata-pitta dominant (वातपित्तप्रधाना)
  6. Vata-kapha dominant (वातकफप्रधाना)
  7. Pitta-kapha dominant (पित्तकफाप्रधाना)

In some individuals one dosha while in some individuals 2 doshas are dominant at the time of genesis of Prakrti. It is believed that, among these 7 types, Samadhatu i.e. Prakrti formed by all 3 doshas in equilibrium is the best one, however it is almost impossible to find such a constitution due to various factors beyond control of an individual. Vata predominant prakrti is called as Hina (हीना), Pitta prakrti is called as Madhyama (मध्यमा) while Kapha prakrti is believed to be Uttama (उत्तमा). Rest of the prakrtis having 2 doshas dominant are considered contemptible owing the vulnerability of these individuals for falling sick. [4] [5]

प्रकृतिविशिष्टानि लक्षणानि ॥ Characteristics of 3 basic Prakrtis

Ancient Ayurveda scholars have stressed upon understanding constitutional, temperamental, psychological and emotional aspects of personality while discussing Prakrti. The dominant one or two doshas manifest their properties in the form of specific constitutional features, psychological aspects, behavior, emotions and all the body functions. Thus, all 7 types of prakrtis are different presenting specific charecteristics based on their dosha dominance. Some characteristics of Vat, pitta and kapha dominant prakrti are described below. For rest of the types where 2 doshas are dominant attributes of both of them are presented in that individual.

कफ प्रकृतेः लक्षणानि ॥ Kapha dominant Prakrti

Owing to the core properties of Kapha dosha which is dominant in this kind of Prakrti, one can find that, the person with Kapha prakrti has natural smoothness in body structures and functions. These individuals usually have compact and stable body. They are dull/ slow in activities, diet and speech. Their experience little hunger, thirst, heat and perspiration as compared to the other people around them. They usually possess well united and strong joint ligaments and stable steady gait. Clarity is the best quality of non-vitiated kapha dosha which imparts clarity to the eyes, complexion and voice as well. They are believed to have abundant strength of reproduction, libido and more progeny in turn. Because of presence of these qualities the kapha dominated personality i.e. shleshmala persons are strong, wealthy, learned, brave, calm and long lived.[6]

पित्त प्रकृतेः लक्षणानि ॥ Pitta dominant Prakrti

Pitta is hot and sharp by nature and affects body, mind and senses with these properties. As a result, individuals with Pitta dominant prakrti are intolerant to heat, excessive hunger and thirst. Due to the fast paced digestion and metabolism, they posses delicate body and features. They show excess perspiration, defecation, urination. The hot, sharp and liquid nature of dominant pitta in their bodies causes early signs of ageing like appearance of wrinkles, graying of hairs, plenty of moles, freckles etc. By nature, these individuals possess sharp intellect, sharply acting and valor, anger and lack of endurance. They consume plenty of food as well as water and are usually unable to suppress them since that causes quick imbalance and suffering in different ways. They are usually believed to have less semen, libido and few progeny; because of presence of these qualities persons having predominance of pitta are moderate in strength, lifespan, knowledge, understanding, wealth and means.[7]

वात प्रकृतेः लक्षणानि॥V ata dominant Prakrti

Vata dominant prakrti is considered to be the worst among vata, pitta and kapha dominant prakrtis. This naturally indicates that body, mind and behavior of individuals having this prakrti will show features and signs that are not very supreme in the context of surviving smoothly in this Ayu. Individuals with vata dominant prakrti usually have short or very tall but underdeveloped or abnormal and rough features. They are mostly intolerant to cold and continuously inflicted with cold, shivering and stiffness. Rough nature of vata imparts roughness to their body, voice, hair, skin, nails. Cracks in body parts are common in such people. They show fast paced movements but with unstable joints and gait. Sound in joints while making movements can be observed in them. One can find such individual making constant abnormal movements of extremities, eyes, lips and any other body part. They show hasty initiation, quick irritation and disorder. Vata dominant prakrti makes one quick in fear attachment and disenchantment, quick in acquisition but with a poor memory (retention). Because of presence of these qualities the persons having predominance of vata have mostly low degree of strength, life-span, progeny, means and wealth.[8]

गुणप्रकृति भेदाः ॥ Types of Guna Prakrti

Sattva, Rajas and Tamas are considered as the 3 gunas of Manas (Mind). Each of them is responsible for display of specific characteristics. On the basis of their dominance Guna Prakrti is classified primarily into 3 heads as below.

  1. Sattvik (सात्त्विक)
  2. Rajas (राजस)
  3. Tamas (तामस)

Since this type of Prakrti is related to one's psychological status, emotions and instincts, it can be called as mind-type of an individual. Acharya Sushruta has further classified these 3 types into more subtypes as follows,

सात्विकप्रकृतिभेदाः ॥ Sub-types of Sattvik Prakrti

  1. Brhma (ब्राह्मकाय)- शौचमास्तिक्यमभ्यासो वेदेषु गुरुपूजनम् | प्रियातिथित्वमिज्या च ब्रह्मकायस्य लक्षणम् ||८१|| (Sush. Samh. Shar. 4.81)
  2. Mahendra (माहेन्द्रकाय) - माहात्म्यं शौर्यमाज्ञा च सततं शास्त्रबुद्धिता | भृत्यानां भरणं चापि माहेन्द्रं कायलक्षणम् ||८२||
  3. Varuna (वारुणकाय) - शीतसेवा सहिष्णुत्वं पैङ्गल्यं हरिकेशता | प्रियवादित्वमित्येतद्वारुणं [१] कायलक्षणम् ||८३||
  4. Koubera (कौबेरकाय)- मध्यस्थता सहिष्णुत्वमर्थस्यागमसञ्चयौ | महाप्रसवशक्तित्वं कौबेरं कायलक्षणम् ||८४||
  5. Gandharva (गान्धर्वकाय)- गन्धमाल्यप्रियत्वं च नृत्यवादित्रकामिता | विहारशीलता चैव गान्धर्वं कायलक्षणम् ||८५||
  6. Yamya (याम्यकाय)- प्राप्तकारी दृढोत्थानो निर्भयः स्मृतिमाञ्छुचिः | रागमोहसहायता्वेषैर्वर्जितो याम्यसत्त्ववान् [३] ||८६||
  7. Rshi (ऋषीकाय)- जपव्रतब्रह्मचर्यहोमाध्ययनसेविनम् | ज्ञानविज्ञानसम्पन्नमृषिसत्त्वं नरं विदुः ||८७||

राजसप्रकृतिभेदाः ॥ Sub-types of Rajas Prakrti

  1. Asura (आसुरकाय) - ऐश्वर्यवन्तं रौद्रं च शूरं चण्डमसूयकम् ||८८|| एकाशिनं चौदरिकमासुरं सत्त्वमीदृशम् |
  2. Sarpa (सर्पकाय)- तीक्ष्णमायासिनं भीरुं चण्डं मायान्वितं तथा ||८९|| विहाराचारचपलं सर्पसत्त्वं विदुर्नरम् |
  3. Shakuna (शाकुनकाय))- प्रवृद्धकामसेवी चाप्यजस्राहार एव च ||९०|| अमर्षणोऽनवस्थायी शाकुनं कायलक्षणम् |
  4. Rakshasa (राक्षसकाय)- एकान्तग्राहिता रौद्रमसूया धर्मबाह्यता ||९१|| भृशमात्रं तमश्चापि राक्षसं कायलक्षणम् |
  5. Paishach (पैशाचकाय)- उच्छिष्टाहारता तैक्ष्ण्यं साहसप्रियता तथा ||९२|| स्त्रीलोलुपत्वं नैर्लज्ज्यं पैशाचं कायलक्षणम् |
  6. Preta (प्रेतकाय)- असंविभागमलसं दुःखशीलमसूयकम् ||९३|| लोलुपं चाप्यदातारं प्रेतसत्त्वं विदुर्नरम् |

तामसप्रकृतिभेदाः ॥ Sub-types of Tamas Prakrti

  1. Pashava (पाशवकाय)- दुर्मेधस्त्वं मन्दता च स्वप्ने मैथुननित्यता | निराकरिष्णुता चैव विज्ञेयाः पाशवा गुणाः ||९५||
  2. Matsya (मत्स्यकाय)- अनवस्थितता मौर्ख्यं भीरुत्वं सलिलार्थिता | परस्पराभिमर्दश्च मत्स्यसत्त्वस्य लक्षणम् ||९६||
  3. Vanaspatya (वानस्पत्यकाय)- एकस्थानरतिर्नित्यमाहारे केवले रतः | वानस्पत्यो नरः सत्त्वधर्मकामार्थवर्जितः ||९७||

जात्यदिप्रकृती ॥ Jatyadi Prakrti

Jatyadi Prakriti are not actually Prakriti these are the six factors which influence the Prakriti. Acharya Charaka described six types of jatyadi Prakriti in Indriyasthana. [9] External factors, age, habits and environmental factors are closely associated with the dosha levels in the sharira of an individual. Alike effect of prakti forming dosha leveles, one's characteristics are also influenced by these factors to the great extent and thus these factors have been given importance. Ayurveda acharyas had very much recognized the peculiar characteristics of individuals belonging to particular race, particular region, lineage, age group etc. Hence few characteristics of an individuals which might not be coherent with the dosha prakrti of that person could be the result of Jatyadi prakrti as described in Charaka Samhita. In Ashtangasangraha, all these are described as factors influencing the formation of Prakriti.

  1. Jatiprasakta (जातिप्रसक्ता । racial peculiarities)
  2. Kulaprasakta (कुलप्रसक्ता । familial predisposition)
  3. Deshanupatini (देशानुपातिनी । demographic)
  4. Kalanupatini (कालानुपातिनी । Seasonal effect)
  5. Vayonupatini (वयोनुपातिनी । natural changes according to age)
  6. Pratyatmaniyata (प्रत्यात्मनियता । personal habits & individuality, idiosyncrasy)

प्रकृतिजनकहेतवः ॥ Factors responsible for genesis of Prakrti

(TBE)According to Charak samhita, Prakriti of an individual depends on Shukra Prakriti (sperm), Shonita Prakriti (ovum), Kala Prakriti (time or season), Garbhashaya Prakriti (condition of uterus), Maturahar-vihar Prakriti (diet and behaviour of mother) and Mahabhutavikar Prakriti

Charak has also describe some other factors which play important role these factors are; jatiprasakta (racialpeculiarities), kulaprasakta (familial predisposition), deshanupatini (demographic), kalanupatini (seasonal effect), vayonupatini (natural changes according to age), pratyatmaniyata (personal habits and individuality, idiosyncrasy).

प्रकृतिज्ञानस्य लाभः ॥ Significance of knowing one's Prakrti

Since prakriti is related to certain physical and mental tendencies that determine susceptibility to diseases, the ancient texts of Ayurveda also provide guidelines for maintaining lifestyles in accordance with one's prakriti for continued healthy living in a personalized manner.

The Ayurvedic system of diagnosing Prakriti offers a unique approach in understanding and assessing one’s health. Prakriti has prime importance in both healthy and diseased persons. Prakriti pariksha is the component of Dashavidhapariksha (दशविधपरीक्षा). Determination of Prakriti not merely helps diagnosis and but also guide to adopt healthy life style for good health. It provides detailed instructions to adopt one’s food and behavior to suit one’s own Prakriti.

Prakrti determines the Bala (natural strength of body and mind) , Susceptibility to different diseases, diagnosis, important for deciding the line of management, Drug Doses, Preventive measures and Prognostic importance.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Dhargalkar ND, Sharira Kriya Vidnana (A textbook of physiology in Ayurveda), Section 1, 1.13, Pg 146, Chawkhamba Sanskrit Series office, Varanasi
  2. Sushruta Samhita (Sharirasthanam Adhyaya 4 Sutra 63)
  3. Rasavaisheshika Sutra 1.6
  4. Ashtanga Hrudayama (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 1 Sutra )
  5. Charaka Samhita (Sutrasthanam Adhyaya 7 Sutra 39-40)
  6. Charaka Samhita (Vimanasthanam Adhyaya 8 Sutra 96)
  7. Charaka Samhita (Vimanasthanam Adhyaya 8 Sutra 97)
  8. Charaka Samhita (Vimanasthanam Adhyaya 8 Sutra 98)
  9. Charaka Samhita (Indriyasthanam Adhyaya 1 Sutram 5)