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Ākāśa (T. nam mkha'; C. xukong) translates as space or sky. It is also called ākāśadhātu (space element).

Ākāśa has two main connotations:[1]

  • an absence which delimits forms, such as the hole in a nose, or the space inside a doorframe[1][2]
  • the emptiness of space[1], or absolute space[2] - an absence of obstruction that serves at the support for the four primary elements (mahābhūta).

In some texts, it is identified as one of five primary elements (mahābhūta).

Sanskrit tradition

In the Sanskrit tradition, ākāśa is identified as an unconditioned thing.

For example, ākāśa is identified as one of the three unconditioned factors within the seventy-five dharmas of the Abhidharma-kosha.

Pali tradition

A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma states:

Space, as understood in the Abhidhamma, is not bare geometric extension but the void region that delimits and separates objects and groups of material phenomena, enabling them to be perceived as distinct. The space element has the characteristic of delimiting matter. Its function is to display the boundaries of matter. It is manifested as the confines of matter, or as the state of gaps and apertures. Its proximate cause is the matter delimited.[3]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. ākāśa.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Rangjung a-circle30px.jpg nam_mkha'
  3. Bhikkhu Bodhi 2000, s.v. The space element.


External links