Akasha Mahabhuta: Qualities, Functions, How To Balance

Article by Dr Raghuram Y.S. MD (Ay)
It is really pleasant and soul soothing to catch up with and watch the blue sky with lot of twinkling stars and moon embedded within its soul.

It looks like the nature’s best canvas built in the form of a roof over the entire universe comprising of living and non-living things.
The sky or the space, which many of us have not conquered but have only, imagined manifests itself in different forms at different parts of the way. It takes the colors of manifestation of the Sun, Moon, Stars and various climates.

As we know, our body is also made up of 5 basic elements of nature, Aakasha or sky being one among them. Aakasha means space or sky. People also have called it Ether.

Our body is made up of lot of spaces for free movement of nutrition, elements of tissue formation, air, blood, metabolic wastes etc. these spaces are found within the organs of our body.

Example, space in the oesophagus or food pipe is essential for the food to reach the stomach, the space within the large intestines or Gut is needed to reabsorb the essential nutrients (from not being eliminated) and water and also to excrete the metabolic wastes of digestion, the stools or feces, the space in the heart enables it to pump and receive the blood, the space within the ureters (or tubes carrying urine) helps in excreting the urine, the space in the uterus (womb) helps in implantation and development of foetus, the space in the ears helps in conduction and understanding of sound waves, the space in the nose and wind-pipe helps in breathing in and breathing out the air, the space in the skull helps in accommodating and protecting the brain etc.

There is also space inside each cell and also outside each cell. These spaces enable the cell to function in a normal way. Small; minute pores in the skin helps in throwing out sweat and absorption of applied medicines.

All these large and small spaces in the body can be considered as Aakasha. They are actually formed by Aakasha Mahabhuta or Ether element during the development of foetus in mother’s womb.

Coming to the medical science, the medicines and diet too reach the target tissues after moving through various spaces and pores, i.e. through Aakasha within the body.
Read related: Panchamahabhuta: Application, Areas of Utility in Ayurveda treatment

Akasha Mahabhuta imbalance

Kha-Vaigunya, Imbalance of Aakasha Mahabhuta in the body –
Imbalance of Aakasha Mahabhuta can take place in 2 forms:
a. Increase in Aakasha Mahabhuta leads to increase in space and expansion of cells and organs beyond normal limits. Some expansions beyond limits can be reversed and some cannot be reversed.

It depends on the strength, texture and elasticity of that particular cell or tissue or organ to be able to manage and reverse the expansive changes happening in them.

If the cells and organs are not able to reverse themselves from undue expansions, the damage in the form of enlargement or dilatation will be permanent and irreversible.

Example – Cardiomegaly or increase in the size of heart, Hepatomegaly i.e. enlargement of Liver, Splenomegaly i.e. enlargement of Spleen, Aneurysm i.e. blood filled balloon like bulge in the wall of a blood vessel, Varicose veins i.e. enlarged or twisted veins etc.

In all these there is Aakasha Mahabhuta imbalance, in the form of increase in the spaces, which leads to dilatation of an organ or increase in the space or lumen of an organ beyond limits.

b. Decrease in Aakasha Mahabhuta or Space component leads to reduction of spaces, constrictions, contractures and physiological blocks. This leads to obstruction to free distribution of nutrients, medicines, oxygen and essential elements to the places of need and also to the excretion of waste elements or metabolic wastes.

Decrease of Aakasha Mahabhuta in the cells hampers the cellular functions and consequent damage of the cells, tissues and organs related to these tissues.

Example – Bronchiolar constriction i.e. narrowing in the space within the respiratory passages, Urethral stricture i.e. narrowing of the space in the tubes carrying the urine out of the body, Dysmenorrhoea i.e. difficult menstruation due to constriction of uterine passages etc. In all these there is Aakasha Mahabhuta imbalance in the form of decrease of space, which leads to constriction of an organ or decrease in the space or lumen of an organ.

Primary imbalance

Primary Imbalance of Akasha Mahabhoota –
When the Akasha Mahabhuta or the Sky (space or ether) element is individually imbalanced all by itself, independent of the involvement or association of other factors, it will be considered as primary imbalance of Akasha Mahabhuta. In this, there will not be association of other Mahabhuta’s in the causation of disease pathology. Only the Akasha Mahabhuta will be disturbed and will be competent enough to produce a disease process.

Depending on the magnitude of dilatation or constriction of a tissue or organ, the prognosis of Akasha Mahabhuta vitiation or imbalance can be determined.

If the dilatation or constriction is chronic and has affected tissue or organ damage, the pathological condition caused by such morbid Aakasha Mahabhuta would be irreversible or difficult to manage.

If the pathology is of a short duration and of less severity, the condition would be managed with good medicines and treatment after a proper diagnosis.

Secondary imbalance

Secondary Imbalance of Akasha Mahabhoota –
In this, the imbalance of Aakasha Mahabhuta occurs as a result of the influence of other factors and the relation of Akasha Mahabhuta with other Mahabhuta’s at a given point of time.

When the lesion or damage related to space in the form of expansion or constriction occurs as a result of the vitiation or imbalance of some other Mahabhuta, the condition will be called as secondary imbalance of Aakasha Mahabhuta. In this condition the other Mahabhuta’s will be associated with the morbid Akasha Mahabhuta in the causation of disease pathology.

Example – Aakasha and Vayu (space and wind elements) combine together to form Vata Dosha in the body. If there is an imbalance between these two components, the enlargement and constriction will be caused by their mutual imbalances, as it happens in Bronchial Asthma. In this disease, there will be obvious imbalance between the input and output of air (inspiration and expiration).

Thus, there will be overall imbalance in the air pressures within the lungs and the whole of breathing apparatus. This might put a pressure over the walls of the respiratory passages (tubes or ducts carrying air) and expand (dilate) the tubes at some points and constrict some tubes at other areas. In this, the pathological changes can take place in both ways.

Aakasha Mahabhuta imbalance causing Vayu Mahabhuta imbalance (primary imbalance of Akasha Mahabhuta)
Vayu Mahabhuta imbalance leading to Akasha Mahabhuta imbalance (secondary imbalance of Akasha Mahabhoota)

Relation with other Mahabhutas

Similarly the impact of the imbalance of other mahabhutas over akasha mahabhuta should be understood –
If there is excessive accumulation of phlegm and exudates (morbid Kapha) or imbalanced Jala (water) and or Prithvi (Earth) in the cells of the respiratory passages and lungs, constricting the pathway of air flow (Akasha element imbalance), it will be considered as secondary Akasha Mahabhuta imbalance or vitiation.

The passages can either dilate (expand) or constrict depending on the gradient of imbalance of water and space elements (relatively) and also depend on how they are afflicting each other in the causation of pathology.

In conditions like bronchitis, the imbalance of Agni Mahabhuta (fire element) or Pitta will bring about inflammation in the tissues leading to the constriction of air spaces

In conditions like Hepatomegaly, Cardiomegaly etc, if the imbalance of Prithvi (Earth element) component of the organ happens first, leading to expansion or enlargement of the organ, it will be considered as secondary imbalance of Akasha Mahabhuta. In this, the imbalance of Aakasha will happen, secondary to that of Prithvi Mahabhuta.

In conditions like Sinusitis, the accumulation and consolidation of Jala Mahabhuta in the sinuses (air spaces) will cause obstruction to free movement of Vayu and fill up the Aakasha (sinus spaces) leading to headache and painful conditions. Here also, the Aakasha mahabhuta vitiation or imbalance takes place secondary to that of Jala Mahabhuta vitiation.

Similar studies may be made regarding the Mahabhuta involvement in causation of other diseases.

Note –
Pressure on the hollows and spaces of the body by tumors, cysts etc over growths, deposition of fat and fluid etc will be considered as secondary vitiation of Aakasha components in the causation of disease pathology.


Origin of Akasha Mahabhuta –
Tasmaat vaa etasmaat aatmanaha aakaashaha sambhootaha (Ref – Taittareeya Upanishad)
Akasha Mahabhuta gets its origin from ‘this Atma’ (Paramatma or cosmic soul) or ‘that Atma’ (Jeevatma or soul in our body). Jeevatma is a fractional part of Paramatma. All the living things get a portion of Paramatma in the form of Jeevatma. When the life ends (death), the Jeevatma returns back to Paramatma.

Akasha is the first Mahabhuta to be formed. Since it is a space, it is directly derived from Paramatma. As we know that the external world or macro-universe is represented in our body in the form of micro-universe, the Aakasha of our body takes its origin from the Aatma of our body i.e. Jeevatma.

Aakasha takes its birth from Shabda Tanmatra (the microscopic form of Shabda or sound, which later manifests as the quality of Aakasha Mahabhuta). Following the chronology of Srushti Utpatti (origin of creation) the creation starts from Atma. When Ahankara (egoism or wish to create) occurs in the Aatma (cosmic soul), the universe is created.

From the Ahankara or cosmic egoism, the Pancha Tanmatras i.e. minute forms of senses namely, Shabda (sound), Sparsha (touch), Rupa (sight or vision), Rasa (taste) and Gandha (smell) take their origin. Aakasha Mahabhuta takes its origin from its parent Tanmatra i.e. Shabda Tanmatra.

Aakaashasya tu vigneyaha shabdo vaisheshiko gunaha (Ref – Kaarikaavalee)

Shabda gunakam aakaasham
Tat cha ekam vibhu nityam cha (Ref – Tarka Sangraha)
‘Shabda’ or sound is the Vaisheshika Guna or special quality of Akasha Mahabhuta. Akasha Mahabhoota does not have the other Gunas i.e. Sparsha guna (touch of Vayu mahabhuta), Rupa guna (sight of Agni mahabhuta), Rasa guna (taste of Jala mahabhuta) and Gandha guna (smell of Prithvi mahabhuta).

Aakasha can neither be touched nor seen. Different colours of Akasha like blue, orange, black etc we see are actually illusions but are not actual colours. The illusion is created by the empty space.

We may get a doubt ‘If we cannot see Aakasha, then how can we acquire its knowledge?’ Answer is – ‘through its Shabda guna or sound quality’.

The sound in the Akasha helps us to perceive the knowledge. Example, when we blow into the conch, we get a sound. Logically thinking the substance with which the conch is made does not have Shabda Guna (sound quality).

If the conch naturally had ‘sound’ in it, it would have produced the sounds at all the times. When we blow air into the space within the conch, the sound is produced, not otherwise.

This shows that when air is blown into the space (Aakasha) it produces sound. Since the Akasha is all pervading, the sound wave produced in the space of conch moves in the open space and is carried to our ears, through the larger Akasha (space).

Shravanendriya or ear is an organ belonging to Aakasha Mahabhuta. The bottom line is that Shabda or sound is naturally present in Aakasha or space. Sound can be produced if any disturbance is produced in the space.

Therefore Akasha and Shabda Guna have an inseparable relationship. So, the inference is that, whenever sound is produced, the Aakasha definitely exists (the converse is also true).


Akasha Linga – The signs of Aakasha –
Nishkramanam praveshanam iti aakaashasya lingam (Ref – Vaisheshika darshana 2/1/10)
Nishkramana and Praveshana are the signs of Akasha
Nishkramana means to exit
Praveshana means to Enter

When entry and exit is possible, the Akasha exists there. Other than Aakasha, we don’t find any other Mahabhuta giving entry to other objects or materials into them or their places.

This quality enables the nutrients, tissues, doshas, air, water, excreta etc and other elements of the body to freely move from one place to the other or from the point of their production to the point of utilization or elimination.


Aakash Gunas (qualities of Aakasha) –
The below mentioned are the qualities of Aakasha:
Shabda – sound
Sankhya – number
Parinama – transformation or change
Pruthaktva – segregation
Samyoga – unification
Vibhaga – division

ear anatomy

Akashatmaka bhavas

Aakashatmaka Bhavas (Factors and things belonging to Akasha) –
Tasya aakaashaatmakam shabdaha shrotram laaghavam soukshmyam vivekaha cha (Ref – Charaka Shaareera 4/12)
The below said factors, things and elements belong to Akasha Mahabhuta or Akasha is richly present in them or in close relation to them.
Shabda – Sound
Shrotrendriya – organ of hearing or ear
Laaghava – lightness
Soukshmya – minuteness, microscopic nature
Mukha – mouth
Kantha – throat
Oshta – lips
Viveka – separation or demarcation, Aakasha keeps segregated materials of different categories in the body, i.e. it separates structures like sira (veins), snayu (ligaments), asthi (bones) etc structures by being present in between them.

At the beginning of Shrushti (creation) only Akasha is present. At the end of creation i.e. Pralaya (or at the death of an individual) only Aakasha remains.

All the other elements of nature have their origin from Aakasha and all the elements resolve back into the Aakasha. Prithvi (earth element) gets dissolved into the Jala (water element), Jala gets dissolved into Agni (fire element), Agni gets dissolved into Vayu (air element) and finally Vayu gets dissolved into Aakasha (sky, space or ether element).
Akasha Mahabhuta its role in formation of Garbha (foetus) –
Since we are made up of Panchamahabhutas all the 5 elements of nature have a role to play in the formation of our body. The function of Vivardhana of Garbha is attributable to Akasha Mahabhuta

Vivardhana – Akasha or space creates spaces within the foetus and helps in development of the foetus. This happens following the Vibhajana Karma (division of foetus into different fragments or Cell division) of Vayu.

Akasha helps in differentiation of cells and helps in forming many organs and organ systems. The spaces within the cells, in between the cells, in the lumen of many hollow organs etc are created by Aakash Mahabhoot.

We can tell that the cell division takes place by Aakasha. The Garbha or foetus grows due to the involvement of Aakasha Mahabhuta.

Akash Mahabhoot and health

If Akasha Mahabhuta is balanced in the body, the physical and mental health will be at their best. When Akasha Mahabhuta is balanced, all the spaces in the body are intact and there are no blocks anywhere. This enables free movement of elements in the body.

Relation to body entities

Organs predominantly made up of Aakasa Mahabhoota –
Since the whole body is made up of lot of spaces, all the openings like openings of ears, nose, orbits, mouth, vagina etc and all the lumen of the visceral organs, the intercellular and extracellular spaces are made up of Aakasha Mahabhuta.

Aakaasheeya or Ether elements form organs and entities which are light and intense in nature. Example, Akasha causes discrimination and spacing between blood vessels, muscle, tendons and soft tissues, the passages in the channels and ducts of the body, orifices and lumen, ear etc

Akash Mahabhut and diseases

We have already discussed the relationship between Aakasha Mahabhuta and disease formation under the heading ‘Kha-Vaigunya, Imbalance of Aakasha Mahabhuta in the body’ earlier in this article.

Kha Vaigunya

Kha means space and Vaigunya means deformity. Deformity of space is said to be the main cause for the manifestation of majority of diseases in Ayurveda

Kupitaanaam hi doshaanaam shareere paridhaavanam
Yatra sangaha kha vaigunyaat vyaadhihi tatra upajaayate (Ref – Sushruta Sootra 24/10)
The aggravated doshas are circulating all over the body. Wherever the circulating doshas are obstructed due to Kha Vaigunya (deformity of space) the diseases are produced in that very place.
Kha vaigunya correlates to the imbalances of Akasha Mahabhuta in the body.


Diagnosis of Akasha Mahabhuta imbalances –
Akasha is represented by the Shabda or sounds.

Therefore any variations of sounds in the body will indicate the disturbance of Aakasha Mahabhuta in the body (of course it may be associated with the disturbances of other Mahabhutas also). Thus detection of normal and or abnormal sounds in the body will indicate the status of Aakasha mahabhuta in the body.

Abnormal sounds like Crepitus, wheeze etc (abnormal sounds of lungs), gurgling of abdomen (abnormal intestine sounds), murmers (abnormal heart sounds), crepitus of joints (abnormal sounds in bony joints) etc suggest abnormalities pertaining to Aakasha Mahabhuta or pathology related to Akasha Mahabhuta disturbance or imbalance in the mind.

Similarly normal sounds of different organs can be known by –
Auscultation (hearing through instruments like stethoscope) and percussion (tapping the hollow organs)


Treatment approach of Aakasha Mahabhuta imbalance –
Treating Vayu –
Akasha and Vayu Mahabhuta make up the Vayu or Vata dosha in the body. Therefore Vata vitiation is evident by pathological changes in the nature and behaviour of Vayu Mahabhuta and Akasha Mahabhuta.

The Vata disturbance or signs and symptoms of Vata vitiation indicate Akasha Mahabhuta disturbances. Therefore Anti Vata treatments and remedies are necessarily remedies for the Akasha Mahabhuta disturbances.

Vata alleviating foods and life style activities should be advised. Medicines and Treatments which control Vayu are also helpful.

Treating Kha Vaigunya and Sroto Dushti (Removing the secondary causes) –
Akasha Mahabhuta disturbance also denotes Kha Vaigunya in the body (deformity of space). We have already discussed the ways in which Akasha Mahabhuta might get disturbed due to primary and secondary causes.

The increase or decrease in the potential spaces of the body will be the pathological manifestation of Akasha Mahabhuta imbalance. Measures to regress and reverse the Kha vaigunya (space deformity) should be done.

Kha Vaigunya necessarily denotes the sroto dushti (vitiation or damage to the channels of the body which are transporting the essential nutrients and tissues from the place of production to place of need or disposal). This inturn reflects the dhatu dushti (tissue damage) and consequent disease formation.

The Kha Vaigunya or sroto dushti will show its symptoms in accordance to the tissues or materials the srotas is carrying.

Example, Medo vaha sroto dushti (vitiation of channels carrying or transporting fat tissue or channels responsible to carry on the fat metabolism in the body)may cause increase of fat deposition in the body tissue leading to the conditions like obesity (putting pressure on the abdominal organs and causing imbalance in the space of hollow viscera, this in turn imparting pressure on the chest and compressing the spaces of lungs and heart causing disorders related to them), high lipids and cholesterol in the blood (obliterating spaces in the blood vessels and causing akasha mahabhuta imbalance, which in turn leads to deficit blood supply to the tissues in the line of the blood vessels) etc.

These pathological changes will cause obstruction in various places of the body and cause Kha vaigunya (obliteration of spaces). This may shrink or dilate the organ or cell or tissues beyond normal proportions.

If these conditions are diagnosed and treated promptly, the Kha vaigunya will be regressed and the Akasha Mahabhuta will start functioning properly. In the above said examples, treating obesity, high cholesterol etc can open up the blocked Akasha Mahabhuta.

Other factors which help in restoring Akasha Mahabhuta imbalance –
Maintaining perfect balance of Tridoshas by following and adapting systematic protocols of diet intake; lifestyle, daily living and seasonal living will help in restoring Akasha Mahabhuta imbalance.

Not withholding the natural impending reflexes of the body, like the urges for hunger, thirst, sleep, defecation etc.
Good exercises, Yoga and Pranayama will be extremely helpful in combating the Akasha Mahabhuta imbalance (primary).

Just before Finish –
To preserve, conserve and protect the beautiful interior of our body, we need to find ways to balance the imbalances occurring in the elements which make up the tissues and organs of our body, the elements which represent the nature beyond us, the nature outside us.

The interior nature is a replica of the external nature. It is our prime duty to take care of both the natures in order to survive and enjoy comprehensive health.
Consult Dr Raghuram By Email or Skype: [email protected]

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