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Akasha or Akash (Sanskrit ākāśa आकाश) means space or sky or æther in traditional Indian cosmology, depending on the religion. The term has also been adopted in Western occultism and spiritualism in the late 19th century. In many modern Indo-Aryan languages and Dravidian languages the corresponding word (often rendered Akash) retains a generic meaning of "sky".[1]

Religious background[edit]

The word in Sanskrit is derived from a root kāś meaning "to be". It appears as a masculine noun in Vedic Sanskrit with a generic meaning of "open space, vacuity". In Classical Sanskrit, the noun acquires the neuter gender and may express the concept of "sky; atmosphere" (Manusmrti, Shatapatha Brahmana). In Vedantic philosophy, the word acquires its technical meaning of "an ethereal fluid imagined as pervading the cosmos".


In Vedantic Hinduism, akasha means the basis and essence of all things in the material world; the first element created. A Vedic mantra "pṛthivyāpastejovāyurākāśāt" indicates the sequence of initial appearance of the five basic gross elements. Thus, first appeared the space, from which appeared air, from that fire or energy, from which the water, and therefrom the earth. It is one of the Panchamahabhuta, or "five gross elements"; its main characteristic is Shabda (sound). The direct translation of akasha is the word meaning "upper sky" or 'space' in Hinduism.

The Nyaya and Vaisheshika schools of Hindu philosophy state that akasha or aether is the fifth physical substance, which is the substratum of the quality of sound. It is the one, eternal, and all-pervading physical substance, which is imperceptible.[2]

According to the Samkhya school, akasha is one of the five Mahābhūtas (grand physical elements) having the specific property of sound.[3]

In the Shiva Purana, it identifies akasha as having "the only attribute of sound".[4]

In the Linga Purana, akasha is translated as "firmament" and listed as one of the 1,008 names of Lord Shiva.[5]

Adherents of the heterodox Cārvāka or Lokāyata philosophy held that this world is made of four elements only. They exclude the fifth, akasha, because its existence cannot be perceived.[6]


Akasha is space in the Jain conception of the cosmos. Akasha is one of the six dravyas (substances) and it accommodates the other five, namely sentient beings or souls (jīva), non-sentient substance or matter (pudgala), principle of motion (dharma), the principle of rest (adharma), and the principle of time (kāla).

It is all-pervading, infinite and made of infinite space-points.[7]

It falls into the Ajiva category, divided into two parts: Loakasa (the part occupied by the material world) and Aloakasa (the space beyond it which is absolutely void and empty). In Loakasa the universe forms only a part. Akasha is that which gives space and makes room for the existence of all extended substances.[8]

At the summit of the lokākāśa is the Siddhashila (abode of the liberated souls).[9]


In Buddhist phenomenology, akasha is divided into limited space (ākāsa-dhātu) and endless space (ajatākasā).[10]

The Vaibhashika, an early school of Buddhist philosophy, hold the existence of akasha to be real.[11]

Ākāsa is identified as the first arūpa jhāna, but usually translates as "infinite space."[12]

Modern reception[edit]

The Western mystic-religious philosophy called Theosophy has popularized the word akasha as an adjective, through the use of the term "Akashic records" or "Akashic library", referring to an etheric compendium of all knowledge and history.

Scott Cunningham (1995) uses the term akasha to refer to "the spiritual force that Earth, Air, Fire, and Water descend from".[13]

Ervin László in Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything (2004), based on ideas by Rudolf Steiner, posits "a field of information" as the substance of the cosmos, which he calls "Akashic field" or "A-field".[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dictionary of World Philosophy by A. Pablo Iannone, Taylor & Francis, 2001, p. 30. ISBN 0-415-17995-5
  2. ^ Indian Metaphysics and Epistemology by Karl H. Potter, Usharbudh Arya, Motilal Banarsidass Publications, 1977, p. 71. ISBN 81-208-0309-4.
  3. ^ Six Systems of Indian Philosophy; Samkhya and Yoga; Naya and Vaiseshika by F. Max Muller, Kessinger Publishing, 2003, p. 40. ISBN 0-7661-4296-5
  4. ^ Shiva Purana (First ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited. 1950. pp. 1, 743.
  5. ^ Linga Mahapurana. Translated by Lal Nagar, Shanti. Delhi, IN: Parimal Publications. 2011. pp. Volume I, Chapter 65, Page 261. ISBN 978-81-7110-392-8.
  6. ^ The Tale of Carvaka by Manga Randreas, Mangalakshmi Ravindram, iUniverse, 2005, ISBN 0-595-34955-2, pg, 270
  7. ^ Acarya Nemicandra; Nalini Balbir (2010) pp. 11–12
  8. ^ Encyclopaedia of Jainism by Narendra Singh, Anmol Publications, 2001, p. 1623. ISBN 81-261-0691-3.
  9. ^ Sharma, C. (1997). A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 81-208-0365-5, p.64
  10. ^ Buddhist Dictionary by Nyanatiloka, Buddhist Publication Society, 1998, pp. 24-35. ISBN 955-24-0019-8
  11. ^ Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy By Oliver Leaman, Contributor Oliver Leaman, Taylor & Francis, 2001, ISBN 0-415-17281-0, pg. 476
  12. ^ The Ideas and Meditative Practices of Early Buddhism by Tilmann Vetter, Brill: Leiden, 1988. pg. 65
  13. ^ Earth, Air, Fire & Water, Scott Cunningham (Llewellyn, 1995)
  14. ^ Gidley, J. The Evolution of Consciousness as a Planetary Imperative: An Integration of Integral Views, Integral Review: A Transdisciplinary and Transcultural Journal for New Thought, Research and Praxis, 2007, Issue 5, pp. 29–31.]