The word chidakasha is made of chit plus akasha, which means the inner firmament of consciousness. Chit means consciousness and when we say firmament, akasha, we imply an infinite space or the expanse of consciousness from its limited horizon to infinity. In other words, the extension of consciousness from the field of the limited objective universe to the infinite realms of the cosmos is the meaning of chidakasha. Here it must be remembered that chit is not to be confused with chitta. The latter is one of the constituents of anatahkarana, which is composed of manas, buddhi, chitta and ahamkara. Chit here means consciousness. Chidakasha dharana is the technique by which the individual consciousness which is playing in and is tied down to the world of grossness is to be made subtler and expansive and taken to the realms of infinite or pure consciousness.
The term akasha means sky or space which is endless. The Smritis have described three kinds of akasha: the ordinary akasha, the chittakasha, the sky of the mind, and the chidakasha, the sky of the intelligence. The latter is by far the most subtle since it implies pure and absolute unconditioned consciousness. The Yoga Upanishads, however, refer to five kinds of akasha. These are 1) the akasha, 2) the parakasha, 3) the mahakasha, 4) the tattwakasha and 5) the suryakasha. Of these, the first represents the natural sky which is endless and seen objectively. The second, parakasha, symbolizes the darkness which pervades inside and outside; the third, mahakasha, represents the fire-like glow which is experienced within and without; the fourth, tattwakasha, represents the experience of the essence of the inner individual self enclosed in space; and the last, suryakasha, represents the form of the pure Self which is radiant like the splendour of a hundred thousand suns.
These are all the stages of dharana through which the sadhana has to pass from one stage to another. This is a matter of practical realization, but these akashas have been described by way of information for those who wish to pursue the subject from a higher spiritual standpoint. Chidakasha dharana covers in a sense, the vyoma panchaka, the five subtle spaces within consciousness, described above and is, therefore, more important.
Here it is necessary to understand the meaning of the word dharana also. In the Yoga Sutras of Rishi Patanjali, dharana has been defined as the fixing of mental faculties in one region or on a single objective. In other words, the mind has to be one-pointed or in the ekagra stage as opposed to its three preceding stages: kshipta, distracted, mudha, inert, vikshipta, alternating between steadiness and distraction. To make the mind steady on one objective is the meaning of the word dharana and the yoga sadhanas include various types of dharanas. The Yoga Chudamani Upanishad mentions sixteen adharas, three lakshyas and the five akashas. We have described the five akashas which form the objectives of dharana. Besides, there are three lakshyas, objectives, which are classified as internal, external and middle. The sixteen adharas, foundations, refer to the sixteen psychic centres of consciousness which are comparatively secondary in relation to the other main centres described later. But for preparing the mind by the method of dharana and leading it to the stage of contemplation and thence to samadhi, these centres are regarded as useful. Yoga sadhana requires a patient and assiduous practice to reach perfection, for after all, its goal is union with pure consciousness.
In the practice of this chidakasha dharana, the first step is to chant Aum thirteen times. At the end of the sadhana also it has to be repeated thirteen times. It will, therefore, be of interest to understand the significance of this particular aspect.
In the mantra shastras, Aum is regarded as the setu or bridge. Whenever any mantra is to be repeated it has to be preceded by Aum and ended with Aum. Then only the chanting of the mantra is said to be complete. Therefore, Aum is regarded as the dam which holds the power of the mantra. It is claimed that the mantra will be chaitanya, or alive, and reveal its potency only if it is recited in this way. The chanting in this sadhana has similar import.
However apart from that, Aum has a wider and deeper meaning. In Sage Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, Aum has been defined as the symbol ofIshwara, the supreme reality. It has also been stated that since Ishwara pranidhana is a part of kriya yoga, the chanting of this syllable with an abiding awareness of its meaning is necessary. Since ancient times, Aum has been accepted as the symbol of the Paramatman, the Supreme Self. If the syllable is separated and analysed, it will be found that it is composed of four matras, measures, the A, the U, the M and the ardha chandra, half moon, with the bindu.
The Mandukyopanishad as well as some of the Yoga Upanishads discuss in detail the meaning of this symbol. The Aum is the symbol of pure consciousness and its matras represent the gross or subtle manifestations of the great power of the purusha which manifests itself in this universe. The Upanishads say that the three matras represent the three lokas, dimensions, bhu, bhuvaha, and swaha, the three Vedas, Rigveda,Yajurveda, and Samaveda, and the three states of waking, dreaming and sleeping. The fourth matra represents the transcendental state or the eternal Brahman.
It is said that the A is symbolic of the waking state, the U of the dream state, the M of the sleep state. The places of the matras are in the eyes in the first stage, because it is with the eyes that we see the gross universe, in the throat in the second, dream state, and in the heart in the last stage. A represents the gross, the vishwa or virat, the cosmos and the individual self, U the subtle or the Hiranyagarbha or tejas, the subtle body as opposed to the physical, and M the causal state or the prajna or the unmanifest.
A represents Brahma and the rajoguna because of the activity of creation; the Urepresents sattwa, and Vishnu, the sustainer, and M represents Rudra, the destroyer, and tamoguna. The pranava or sacred Aum in essence being the highest transcendental entity, Brahma merges with the A matra, Vishnu with the U matra and Rudra with the M matra. The gross, subtle and the causal, Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra or three states of ichha, will, jnana, knowledge, and kriya, action, are all the gross or subtle form of the self same purusha, pure chaitanya, or consciousness.
In the body the six centres from mooladhara to ajna represent the five maha bhootas, elements, and the five subtle elements. The chanting of the syllable Aum from the base, or mooladhara with earth as its element, in such a manner that the vibrations roll on from the psychic passage of sushumna to sahasrara, is prescribed with a view to lift the consciousness from the gross plane of the earth and all that is earthly to the higher, transcendental plane.
Further, the chanting of Aum and the vibrations it creates have the effect of removing sloth, inertia and indolence which a sadhaka may feel in the starting stage of his sadhana. The injunction to repeat it at the end is also done with a view to bring out the sadhaka from the meditative state in a fit, introvert condition with a sense of peace and bliss. The atmosphere and the imperceptible yet definite state of mind which the practice of this sadhana creates have to be kept up and not diffused suddenly by extroversion. The sadhaka will continue to remain in a peaceful, enjoyable and stable mental state even after he finishes the sadhana and goes about doing his normal work.