“… The combination of the three modes, which are eternal and unmanifested, is the cause of the manifested state, and is called Pradhana …”
In the commentary to the verse Srila Prabhupada says:
“… Pradhana is the subtle, undifferentiated total sum of all material elements …”
Pradhana is therefore the set of non-differentiated and unmanifested material elements. Something similar to what scientists call “cosmic soup”, even before it is manifested outside. In that stage all the characteristics (the gunas) are perfectly balanced, none exceeds the other. Precisely for this reason the material nature is in the latent state and cannot move or activate the mechanism of creation.
Then (in the same verse):
“… is called Prakrti when (it is) in the manifested stage of existence.”
In the same comment by Srila Prabhupada:
“… when they are manifested (the elements) … that (state) is called Prakrti …”
So Prakrti is when Pradhana becomes manifested. But the Srimad-Bhagavatam is clear on this point: without the intervention of the Supreme Entity Pradhana could never have developed into Prakrti.
Then the following stage:
“Thus, after manifesting the variety, the effulgent mahat-tattva which contains within itself all the universes …”
Mahat is therefore the state in which the elements differentiate and become ready for the creation of forms.
- Manonatha Dasa (ACBSP)