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In Hinduism and Jainism, the jiva (Sanskrit: जीव, jīva, alternative spelling jiwa; Hindi: जीव, jīv, alternative spelling jeev) is a living being, or any entity imbued with a life force.[1] The word itself originates from the Sanskrit jivás, with the root jīv- "to live".[2] It has the same Indo-European root as the Latin word vivus, meaning "alive".

Jiva in JainismEdit

In Jainism, jiva is the immortal essence or soul of a living organism (human, animal, fish or plant etc.) which survives physical death.[3] The concept of Ajiva in Jainism means "not soul", and represents matter (including body), time, space, non-motion and motion.[3] In Jainism, a Jiva is either samsari (mundane, caught in cycle of rebirths) or mukta (liberated).[4][5]

The concept of jiva in Jainism is similar to atman in Hinduism. However, some Hindu traditions differentiate between the two concepts, with jiva considered as individual self, while atman as that which is universal unchanging self that is present in all living beings and everything else as the metaphysical Brahman.[6][7][8] The latter is sometimes referred to as jiva-atman (a soul in a living body).[6]

Jiva in HinduismEdit

Jiva or the soul is described in a whole chapter in the Bhagavat Gita, (verses 13 to 30)[9]. A common metaphysical entity discussed in the seven schools of Vedant is the jiva or atman: the soul, or self.[10]


बालाग्रशतभागस्य शतधा कल्पितस्य च । भागो जीवः स विज्ञेयः स चानन्त्याय कल्पते ॥ ९ ॥[1]

“If the tip of the hair were to be divided in to one hundred parts and each part was divided into 100 more parts, that would be the dimension of the Jiva(soul) ’ Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad (5.9)

The Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad, compares the soul and the Supersoul (paramatma) to two friendly birds sitting on the same tree.

समाने वृक्षे पुरुषो निमग्नोऽनीशया शोचति मुह्यमानः । जुष्टं यदा पश्यत्यन्यमीशमस्य महिमानमिति वीतशोकः ॥ ७ ॥[2]

Two birds sitting in the tree (the body). One bird, the Soul (Jiva) is enjoying the fruits of the tree and the other the Paramatma is watching the Jiva. Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad (4.7)[11]

Jiva in Akshar-Purushottam DarshanEdit

The Akshar-Purushottam Darshan, the classical name given to the set of spiritual beliefs based on the teachings of Swaminarayan,[12] centers around the existence of five eternal realities, as stated in two of Swaminarayan’s sermons documented in the Vachanamrut, Gadhada 1.7 and Gadhada 3.10:

“Puruṣottama Bhagavān, Akṣarabrahman, māyā, īśvara and jīva – these five entities are eternal.”[13]

“From all the Vedas, Purāṇas, Itihāsa and Smṛti scriptures, I have gleaned the principle that jīva, māyā, īśvara, Brahman and Parameśvara are all eternal.”[13]

The jiva is defined as a distinct, individual soul, i.e. a finite sentient being. Jivas are bound by maya, which hides their true self, which is characterized by eternal existence, consciousness, and bliss. There are an infinite number of jivas. They are extremely subtle, indivisible, unpierceable, ageless, and immortal. While residing within the heart, a jiva pervades the entire body by its capacity to know (gnānshakti), making it animate. It is the form of knowledge (gnānswarūp) as well as the knower (gnātā). The jiva is the performer of virtuous and immoral actions (karmas) and experiences the fruits of these actions. It has been eternally bound by maya; as a result, it roams within the cycle of birth and death. Birth is when a jiva acquires a new body, and death is when it departs from its body. Just as one abandons one's old clothes and wears new ones, the jiva renounces its old body and acquires a new one.[14]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Matthew Hall (2011). Plants as Persons: A Philosophical Botany. State University of New York Press. p. 76. ISBN 978-1-4384-3430-8.
  2. ^ "Cologne Scan".
  3. ^ a b J Jaini (1940). Outlines Of Jainism. Cambridge University Press. pp. xxii–xxiii.
  4. ^ Jaini, Jagmandar-lāl (1927), Gommatsara Jiva-kanda, p. 54, archived from the original on 2006
  5. ^ Sarao, K. T. S.; Long, Jeffery D., eds. (2017). "Jīva (Jainism)". Buddhism and Jainism. Encyclopedia of Indian Religions. Springer Netherlands. p. 594. doi:10.1007/978-94-024-0852-2_100397. ISBN 9789402408515.
  6. ^ a b Jean Varenne (1989). Yoga and the Hindu Tradition. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 45–47. ISBN 978-81-208-0543-9.
  7. ^ Michael Myers (2013). Brahman: A Comparative Theology. Routledge. pp. 140–143. ISBN 978-1-136-83565-0.
  8. ^ The Philosophy of Person: Solidarity and Cultural Creativity, Jozef Tichner and George McClean, 1994, p. 32
  9. ^ Prabhupada, A. C. Bhaktivedanta (1993). |chapter-url= missing title (help). Bhagavad Gita. Bhaktivedanta Book Trust. ISBN 9780892132683.
  10. ^ Johnson, W. J., 1951- (12 February 2009). A dictionary of Hinduism (First ed.). Oxford [England]. ISBN 9780198610250. OCLC 244416793.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ "Bg. 2.22". Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  12. ^ Aksharananddas, Sadhu; Bhadreshdas, Sadhu (1 April 2016). Swaminarayan's Brahmajnana as Aksarabrahma-Parabrahma-Darsanam (1st ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199463749.003.0011. ISBN 9780199086573.
  13. ^ a b Sahajānanda, Swami, 1781-1830 (2014). The Vachanāmrut : spiritual discourses of Bhagwān Swāminārāyan. Bochasanvasi Shri Aksharpurushottama Sanstha. (First ed.). Ahmedabad. ISBN 9788175264311. OCLC 820357402.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ Paramtattvadas, Sadhu (17 August 2017). An introduction to Swaminarayan Hindu theology. Cambridge, United Kingdom. ISBN 9781107158672. OCLC 964861190.

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