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Akasha – Space In Samkhya Philosophy

 In Samkhya philosophy, the word akasha or space assumes a more palpable personality as it imbibes a living force of prana which means the vibration of a conscious field. What modern science knows as nature, the Samkhya philosophy calls prakriti. The root structure of the word prakriti means the entire complex of events and actions taking place in the complex of events and actions taking place in the world. In the material context, both are equivalent but Hindu metaphysics does not intend to banish mind from the realm of nature, since it considers mind itself as a finer form of matter and draws the conclusion that mind is as much a product of nature as other gross bodies are. In that event, the same prakriti, wherein mind and matter mingle together indistinguishably, is designated ‘avyaktam’ – the undifferentiated. It is also known as salila – the casual waters, in which space and time lie hidden and all the patchy manifestations stand wholly dissolved in the abysmal depth of ground reality.

The whole of nature, according to Samkhya, is a play and display of prana and akasha. Prana is conceived as a multiplicity of jivas the monads of particularized consciousness scattered throughout the ethereal expanse as the honeyed quanta of light (Madhur Vidyut), restlessly beating about all over the space and asking for ever more of it. Akasha is the subtlest substance, invisible and intangible, yet its existence if felt on account of the fact that nature abhors a vacuum. Akasha, as it were, leaves an imprint and makes its presence felt on the universe before toppling into an unknown void. Though it does exist, in a sense, even beyond the murky end of the spectrum, it is like the point of singularity in a realm of the dark unknown. Since a part of the same atmosphere of a system is blissfully ignorant of the system as a whole, the atoms of the human brain, being infused with an identical element of akasha, maintain a serene indifference to it. On the empirical plane it is not possible to discern the existence of matter without force or of force without matter. On the superfine level, the same principle reincarnates itself as prana and akasha. Prana is the controlled spontaneity of vibration in the quantum-fluidity of space. In other words, prana is a fleeting intimation of the rippling state of space. The interaction between prana and akasha produces vayu (air), the gaseous matter and, thereafter, the random collisions among air particles generate tejas (heat). With the passage of time, the heat dissipates and the hot gaseous substance cools off and becomes apah (liquid). As further condensation takes place, solid matter comes out of the liquefied state. It is called bhuta shrishti (creation of matter). But this state of affairs does not hold on indefinitely. In fact, after a long lapse of time (kalpa), the cycle of evolution goes backwards, the process is reversed and gradual dissolution begins. Solid substances crumble to pieces, dissolve into liquid phase and that, in turn, gets converted into gaseous particles. At the end of the cycle it is all space once again. Thus, in short, the Samkhya School of thought considers akasha as the unique fount of all multiplicity whereas akasha itself is a product of the primal impulse of Brahman spread out over the tranquil extension of infinite existence.