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Akash (Ether?)
Akash is a difficult word to translate as are indeed all the other four elements so-called. For pant is not mere water in the original, nor vayu wind, or prithvi earth, or teja light. Akash is ether least of all. Perhaps the nearest equivalent is emptiness taken in its literal sense. And it is horribly inexpressive of the original. All the five in the original are as living as life. It, however, we take ether as the nearest equivalent for akash, we must say that we know very little about ether itself and akash much less. Our knowledge of its therapeutic uses is still more limited. Akash might be taken for the empty space surround­ing the earth and the atmosphere round it. On a clear day, on looking up, one sees a beautiful mauve blue canopy which is known as the akash or sky. So far as we are concerned, this sky or the ether is limitless. We are surrounded by it on every side, and there is no nook or corner without it. Generally we imagine that the sky is something resting upon the high — it is the blue canopy above us. But the sky is as much above us as below and all round us. We move round and round with the earth. Therefore the akash is round and everybody is within it. It is an envelope whose outermost surface is measureless. The lower strata of the akash for a number of miles are filled with air. But for this man would become suffocated in spite of the emptiness. True, we cannot see the air but we can feel it when in motion. Sky or the ether is the abode of atmosphere. One can pump out air, say from an empty bottle and create a vacuum, but who can pump out the vacuum itself? That is akash.
This akash we have to make use of to maintain or to regain health. Air being most essential to sustain life, Nature has made it omnipresent. But the omnipresence of air is only relative. It is not limitless in reality. Scientists tell us that after a certain number of miles above the earth there is no air. It is said that earthly creatures cannot exist outside this atmos­phere. This statement may or may not be true. All that we are concerned with here is that akash extends beyond the atmos­phere. Some day the scientists might prove that what we call ether is also something which fills the empty space —akash. Then we will have to discover a new name for the empty space that holds neither air nor the ether. Be that as it may, the mystery of this empty space all around us is most intrigu­ing. We cannot solve it unless we can solve the mystery of God himself. This much might be said that the more we utilize this great element akash the healthier we will be. The first lesson to be learnt is this, that we should not put any partition between ourselves and the sky —the infinite—which is very near and very far away. If our bodies could be in contact with the sky without the intervention of houses, roofs and even clothes, we are likely to enjoy the maximum amount of health. This is not possible for everyone. But all can and should accept the validity of the statement and adapt life accordingly. To the extent that we are able to approach the state in practice, we will enjoy contentment and peace of mind.
This train of thought will make the thinker keep his surroundings as open as possible. He will not fill the house with unnecessary furniture and will use the minimum of clothes that are necessary. Many households are so packed with all sorts of unnecessary decorations and furniture which one can very well do without, that a simple living man will feel suffocated in those surroundings. They are nothing but means of harbouring dust, bacteria and insects.
My desire to be in tune with the infinite has saved me from many complications in life. It led not merely to simplicity of household and dress but all round simplicity in the mode of my life. In a nutshell, and in the language of the subject under discussion I have gone on creating more and more contact with akash. With the increase in the contact went improvement in health. I had more contentment and peace of mind and the desire for belongings almost disappeared. He who will establish contact with the infinite possesses nothing and yet possesses everything. In the ultimate analysis, man owns that, of which he can make legitimate use and which he can assimilate. If everybody followed this rule, there would be room enough for all and there would be neither want nor overcrowding.
It follows that one should make it a point to sleep in the open. Sufficient covering should be used to protect oneself against the inclemencies of the weather—against cold and dew. In rainy season an umbrella-like roof without walls should be used for keeping the rain out. For the rest, the starlit blue canopy should form the roof, so that whenever one opens one's eyes, he or she can feast them on the ever- changing beautiful panorama of the heavens. He will never tire of the scene and it will not dazzle or hurt his eyes. On the contrary, it will have a soothing effect on him. To watch the different starry constellations floating in their majesty is a feast for the eyes. One who establishes contact with the stars as living witnesses to all his thoughts will never allow any evil or impurity to enter his mind and will enjoy peaceful, refresh­ing sleep.
Let us descend from the akash above to the akash within and immediately about us. Thus the skin has millions of pores. If we fill up the empty space within these pores, we simply die. Any clogging of the pores therefore must interfere with the even flow of health. Similarly we must not fill up the digestive tract with unnecessary foodstuffs. We should eat only as much as we need and no more. Often one overeats or eats indigestible things without being aware of it. An occasional fast, say once a week or once a fortnight, will enable one to keep the balance even. If one is unable to fast for the whole day, one should miss one or more meals during the day. That Nature abhors a vacuum is only partially true. Nature constantly demands a vacuum. The vast space surrounding us is the standing testi­mony of the truth.
Key to Health, pp. 75 to 81