Akasha mahabhuta

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The word Akasha literally means ‘a free or open space’ or ‘the ether’, ‘sky’ or ‘atmosphere’.[1] It is one of the panchamahabhuta [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 1/27]. In human biology, the empty space in the body or cavity corresponds to akasha mahabhuta. Akasha is one of the five basic constituents or fundamental elements of the universe.

Contributors
Section/Chapter/topic Sharira / Pachamahabhuta / Akasha
Authors Aneesh E.G., Deole Y.S.
Reviewed by Basisht G.
Affiliations Charak Samhita Research, Training and Development Centre, I.P.G.T.& R.A., Jamnagar
Correspondence email: carakasamhita@gmail.com
Date of first publication: April 10, 2020
DOI 10.47468/CSNE.2020.e01.s09.007

Etymology and derivation

The word akasha is derived from Kashru-deptau dhatu, meaning ‘that spreads all over’.[2]

Synonyms

Nabha, gagana, vyoma, nakshatra loka, divyaloka, viyat, antariksha and kha[2]

Contextual meanings

The term Akasha denotes mainly the following meanings

  1. Akasha mahabhuta
  2. Sky
  3. Space/ether

Evolution of Akasha mahabhuta

In the sequence of the evolution process of panchamahabhuta, Akasha is the first mahabhuta. It evolves from subtle form of sound, ‘shabdatanmatra.’[3]

Numerology of Akasha

Akasha is unique(eka) [Tarkasangraha].[2] It is eternal and spreads all over. [Chakrapani on Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana 1/50].

General characteristics

A material with the predominance of Akasha mahabhuta possesses the following characteristics.

  • Soft (mrudu)
  • Light( laghu)
  • Subtle (sukshma)
  • Smooth (shlakshna)[Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana.26/11]
  • The abundance of sound (shabdaguna). This property is unique for akasha mahabhuta only [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana.1/27].

Specific characteristics

Free flow/unobstructability (apratighatatva) is the characteristic feature of akasha mahabhuta [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 01/29]. Free flow or transport of nutrients in transportation systems (srotasa) indicates this feature of akasha. The empty space or hollow cavities in biological systems are denoted.

Importance

Akasha mahabhuta is one of the basic six constituents of purusha or holistic human being. [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 05/04]

In the constitution of garbha (fetus) and embryogenesis

Sound (shabda), audition (shrotra), lightness (laghava), fineness(saukshmya ) and disintegration (viveka) in the fetus are attributed to akasha mahabhuta[Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana04/12]. Akasha mahabhuta is a factor responsible for determining constitution (prakriti) of human being formed in embryonic life. It is categorized under mahabhutavikara prakriti. [Cha.Sa.Vimana Sthana.08/95] After the formation of fetus(garbha), akasha is responsible for enlargement(vivardhana) [Su.Sa.Sha 5/3]. It provides space for enlargement of the size of the fetus.

Organs and constituents in the body

  • Sound, auditory organ, all orifices and distinctness (bones, blood vessels, ligaments etc) in the body are attributed to akasha mahabhuta [Su.Sa.Sha 1/19].
  • In the person, akasha is represented in the form of embodiment, space [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 5/5].

Inherent properties

  • Akasha mahabhuta in its subtle form is one among eightfold nature of all beings (ashta prakriti) [Cha.Sa.Sharira sthana 1/64]
  • It is most subtle in nature and as a result, it is the lightest among mahabhuta [Cha.Sa.Sharira Sthana 4/12]
  • Akasha possesses dominance of sattva guna. Hence it shows the purest form. [Su.Sa.Sha 1/20]

Importance in clinical practice

  • The vatadosha is constituted from vayu and akasha mahabhuta [AS.Su.20/2]. In vata prakriti individual, the dominance of properties of akasha mahabhuta are observed.
  • Similarly, in conditions of vatadosha aggravation, akasha mahabuta predominance is observed. The treatment of such conditions is done by avoiding diet and lifestyle measures with akasha predominance.
  • On the other side, the akasha mahabhuta dominant regimen is indicated in conditions of kaphadosha aggravation.
  • The action of drugs having more akasha mahabhuta is pacification of dosha (shamana) [Su.Sa.Su.41/6-9]. Akasha predominant drugs are selected for pacifiying (shamana) treatment.
  • The drugs which are bitter in taste (tikta) have panchabhuta constitution as vayu and akasha[Su.Sa.Su.42/3]. This can produce softness (mardava), porousness (saushirya) and lightness(laghava) in the body [Cha.Sa.Sutra Sthana.26/11]. Therefore these are part of reducing(langhana) treatment prescribed in diseases due to over-nutrition.

Current views and researches

The tanmatra form of all mahabhuta is considered as eternal. During the evolution the ‘indistinct’ (avyakta) acts as a seat for mass and energy. Due to the potential difference in the energy, elementary forces come into action to produce vibrations. These vibrations produce the sound potential first or shabdha tanmatra. [4] In view of quantum mechanics, the akasha mahabhuta corroborates to spin 2 (graviton) and superfield gravity. In the body, it corresponds with the body channels and spaces.[5]

More information

Related articles

The list of references for Akasha in Charak Samhita can be seen here

References

  1. Monier-Williams, Monier-Williams Sanskrit- English Dictionary, 1st edition; Oxford University Press, akasa, Page 126-27
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Dingarilakshmanachary.Acharya’sAyurvedeeyapadarthavigyana. Delhi: Chaukhamba Sanskrit pratisthan;2012.Chapter 11,Akasha nirupana;page 64-65
  3. BK Dwivedi.Padarthavijnana. Varanasi: Chowkhambakrishnadasacademy;2003.Chapter 2,Dravya vigyana;page 70
  4. Nalage D H. A study of Samskara and its role in alteration of Pancha-Bhautika composition of Dravya [MD Dissertation]. Jamnagar: Gujarat Ayurved University; 2004
  5. Sharma Hari,Christopher Clark. Contemporary Ayurveda: Medicine and Research in Maharishi Ayur-Veda.Churchill Livingstone; 1 edition;1997,36-37