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Short description: Term for space or æther in traditional Indian cosmology

Akasha or Akasham (Sanskrit ākāśa आकाश) means space or sky or aether 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 Akasham) retains a generic meaning of "sky".[1]

Etymology and meaning

The word in Sanskrit is derived from a root kāś meaning "to be".[citation needed] It appears as a masculine noun in Vedic Sanskrit with a generic meaning of "open space, vacuity".[citation needed] 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".[This quote needs a citation]


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.[citation needed]

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 (Volume I, Chapter 65), akasha is translated as "firmament" and listed as one of the 1,008 names of Lord Shiva.[5]


Main page: Religion:Ākāśa (Jainism)

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).[citation needed]

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.[6]

At the summit of the lokākāśa is the Siddhashila (abode of the liberated souls).[7]


In Buddhist phenomenology, akasha is divided into limited space (ākāsa-dhātu) and endless space (ajatākasā).[8] The Vaibhashika, an early school of Buddhist philosophy, hold the existence of akasha to be real.[9] Ākāsa is identified as the first arūpa jhāna, but usually translates as "infinite space."[10]

See also


  1. Iannone, A. Pablo (2001). Dictionary of World Philosophy. Taylor & Francis. p. 30. ISBN 0-415-17995-5. 
  2. Potter, Karl H. (1977). Indian Metaphysics and Epistemology. Usharbudh Arya: Motilal Banarsidass Publications. p. 71. ISBN 81-208-0309-4. 
  3. Müller, F. Max (2003). Six Systems of Indian Philosophy; Samkhya and Yoga; Naya and Vaiseshika. Kessinger Publishing. pp. 40. ISBN 0-7661-4296-5. 
  4. Shastri, J. L., ed (2017). Ancient Indian Tradition and Mythology. IV: The Siva Purana. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. p. 1743. ISBN 978-8120838710. 
  5. Linga Mahapurana. 1. Delhi: Parimal Publications. 2011. p. 261. ISBN 978-81-7110-392-8. 
  6. Singh, Narendra (2001). Encyclopaedia of Jainism. Anmol Publications. p. 1623. ISBN 81-261-0691-3. 
  7. Sharma, C. (1997). A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. p. 64. ISBN 81-208-0365-5. 
  8. Nyanatiloka (1998). Buddhist Dictionary. Buddhist Publication Society. pp. 24–35. ISBN 955-24-0019-8. 
  9. Leaman, Oliver (2001). Leaman, Oliver. ed. Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy. Taylor & Francis. p. 476. ISBN 0-415-17281-0. 
  10. Vetter, Tilmann (1988). The Ideas and Meditative Practices of Early Buddhism. Leiden: Brill. p. 65. ISBN 978-9004089594.