by Swami Sivananda
The word 'Akasa' must be understood as Brahman.
Akasastallingat I.1.22 (22)
The word Akasa i.e., ether here is Brahman on account of characteristic marks (of that i.e. Brahman being mentioned).
Akasah: the word Akasa as used here; Tad: His, of Brahman; Lingat: because of characteristic mark.
Brahman is shown to be Akasa in this Sutra. The Akasa of Chh. Up. I-9 is Brahman.
In the Chhandogya Upanishad I-9 the following passage comes in. "What is the origin of this world? 'Ether' he replied". Because all these beings take their origin from the ether only, and return into the ether. Ether is greater than these, ether is their ultimate resort (Dialogue between Silak and Prabahana). Here the doubt arises – Does the word 'ether' denote the Highest Brahman or the Supreme Self or the elemental ether?
Here Akasa refers to the Highest Brahman and not to the elemental ether, because the characteristics of Brahman, namely the origin of the entire creation from it and its return to it at dissolution are mentioned. These marks may also refer to Akasa as the scriptures say "from the Akasa sprang air, from air fire, and so on and they return to the Akasa at the end of a cycle". But the sentence "All these beings take their origin from the Akasa only" clearly indicates the highest Brahman, as all Vedanta-texts agree in proclaiming definitely that all beings take their origin from the Highest Brahman.
But the Purvapakshin or the opponent may say that the elemental Akasa also may be taken as the cause viz., of air, fire and the other elements. But then the force of the words "all these" and "only" in the text quoted would be lost. To keep it, the text should be taken to refer to the fundamental cause of all, including Akasa also, which is Brahman alone.
The word "Akasa" is also used for Brahman in other texts: "That which is called Akasa is the revealer of all forms and names; that within which forms and names are, that is Brahman" Chh. Up. VIII-14-1. The clause "They return into the ether" again points to Brahman and so also the phrase 'Akasa is greater than these, Akasa is their final resort', because the scripture ascribes to the Supreme Self only absolute superiority. Chh. Up. III-14-3. Brahman alone can be "greater than all" and their "ultimate goal" as mentioned in the text. The qualities of being greater and the ultimate goal of everything are mentioned in the following texts: "He is greater than the earth, greater than the sky, greater than heaven, greater than all these worlds" Chh. Up. III-14-3. "Brahman is Knowledge and Bliss. He is the Ultimate Goal of him who makes gifts" Bri. Up. III-9-28.
The text says that all things have been born from Akasa. Such a causation can apply only to Brahman. The text says that Akasa is greater than everything else, that Akasa is the Supreme Goal and that it is Infinite. These indications show that Akasa means Brahman only.
Various synonyms of Akasa are used to denote Brahman. "In which the Vedas are in the Imperishable One (Brahman) the Highest, the ether (Vyoman)" Tait. Up. III-6. Again "OM, Ka is Brahman, ether (Kha) is Brahman" Chh. Up IV-10-5 and "the old ether" (Bri. Up. V-1.)
Therefore we are justified in deciding that the word Akasa, though it occurs in the beginning of the passage refers to Brahman, it is similar to that of the phrase "Agni (the fire) studies a chapter", where the word Agni, though it occurs in the beginning denotes a boy. Therefore it is settled that the word Akasa denotes Brahman only.