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Philosophical Foundations Of Jainism (An Introduction): [13] Jīva (Soul) : Its Nature and Lakṣaṇa

Published: 21.08.2008
Updated: 02.07.2015

Lakṣaṇa is the characteristic of particular object, which is always found in it and is absent in anyother object.

As said earlier, the Jain philosophy is dualistic, since it accepts independent existence of Jīva (Soul) as also of the Ajīva (non-soul). Temporally, both of them have neither beginning nor end. It is the consciousness which draws an eternal dividing line between them. Jīva has consciousness whereas Ajīva does not have it. The independent existence of Jīva is definitely due to the consciousness.

There are two kinds of tattva (metsa physical reality) viz., in the world - 'mūrta' (corporeal)—one which manifests itself into colour, smell, taste, touch and shape (varna, gandha, rasa, sparśa and ākāra) and amūrta which does not have all these. All of these attributes exist in the paramāṇu pudgala I.e., an atom of matter. That is why it is mūrta tattva. Jīva is an amūrta tattva because it is devoid of them. The amūrta tattva is imperceptible. Whatever is mūrta is not necessarily perceptible. But whatever is perceptible is always mūrta. The mūrta substances which have a subtle form are not accessible to sensory perception. Only that substance becomes perceptible which has a gross form. As the soul is amūrta, it cannot be perceived or known by the senses, mind and intellect. Its attribute is consciousness, which too is beyond the reach of perception. It (consciousness) can be known only through its function, but it cannot be directly comprehended through sensory perception. The denial of the existence of the soul may chiefly be attributed to its imperceptibility. It is pure consciousness. It can only be known by what it does and not known or felt through its physical form. Bhrigu Purohit,[1] illustrating the denial of soul, said to his sons, "The soul is created from the body, in the sameway as the fire from the araṇi (a special kind of wood), the butter from milk and oil from oilseeds. The soul does not have any independent existence. Had it been independent, we would have seen it directly in some form or shape of its own. The sons refuting this argument of their father said, It is not because of its non-existence, but because of it being amūrta, that we are not able to comprehend it in its original form."

Consciousness is Comparable to Sun

The soul illuminates itself as well as others. It is capable of knowing itself as well as the objective world. Its sentience generally exists in covered-cum-uncovered state. Sentience is like sun. The sun, which, even though overcast by the clouds, retains the power to reveal its appearance. In the same way, the consciousness in the form of knowledge, which exists in the soul, cannot be overshadowed by the veils (of karma). Some of the rays of the development of consciousness continuously remain manifest. If they do not manifest themselves, it would not be possible to draw a dividing line between the Jīva and Ajīva.

The process of knowledge does not continue in the state of covered-cum-uncovered sentience, when it is non-active (anupayoga). At that time, its knowledge remains only in 'existence'. Therefore, when the sentience of the soul is active, the soul makes an effort to know. At that time, it knows the object of knowledge. On the basis of this fact, two states of the soul do emerge:-

Covered-cum-uncovered sentience in non-active condition= Knowledge of the object to be known does not occur.

Covered-cum-uncovered sentience in active condition= knowledge of the object to be known occurs.

On reaching the climax of its own development, the soul becomes completely free from all the veils of knowledge-obscuring karma. In that state, the form of sentience is as follows:

Uncovered Sentience—Continued Activity—constant awareness of the jñeya (object to be known).

So consciousness is eternal. Any veil around the Jīva is temporary, since it is 'paudgalika', i.e., karma pudgala surrounding the Jīva only for a while, like a wave in the ocean. Jīva is ultimately able to redeem itself from that 'paudgalik' shell. But this happens only with human beings and does not relate to other living creatures.

The Soul: without a beginning and without an end

With respect to time, the soul is without any beginning or end. It is neither created nor produced and hence, it has no beginning. It is uncreated and imperishable. Consciousness is its fundamental characteristic or nature. Hence, it has no end. Therefore, it is too without beginning or end. From Anekānt point of view, each thing that exists is triune—utpād (origination), vyaya (cessation) and dhrauvya (persistence). All the three in an integrated from is the characteristic of substance (dravya) 'Persistence' is the natural attribute of the substance, related with the eternal aspect, whereas 'origination' and 'cessation' both are its natural attributes related with the transitory aspects. That is why every substance is eternal as well as non-eternal. As the existence of a substance never ceases, it is eternal. As it undergoes a continuous transformation, it is non-eternal.

Caitanya (consciousness or sentience) is an eternal characteristic of the soul, but its veil is a non-eternal aspect. It is, in fact, paudgalika, i.e., it is essentially material or physical in nature; it is antagonistic to the real nature of the soul. The veil comes as an influx and goes away after the expiry of its duration. The veil can be removed by resorting to appropriate measures.

We can see the veil in two forms:

(1) The veil over knowledge, which is beginningless and endless (because of the lack of proper endeavour).

(2) The veil over knowledge, which is beginningless but with end (because of the administration of proper means).

The last one is the only eternal factor in dravya. The substance never ceases to exist; from this point of view it is eternal. It continuously undergoes transformation; from this point of view it is non-etemal. Chaitanya is eternal, but the veil is its non-eternal aspect. The process of removal of the shell of such bondages could be seen in varying degrees among different Jīvas. Total unveiling is possible only in case of humans.

The Soul and the Body

Each worldly Jīva has three kinds of bodies—

1. Audārika Body (gross body) or the physical body

2. Taijas Body (subtle body) or the electromagnetic body

3. Karmic (or Kārmaṇa) Body (subtler body) or the karmic body.

The first one is built by the soul at the time of birth and ceases with death. It is built in correspondence with the 'Karmic' body and therefore, all the centres of 'Karmic' body which are responsible for the development and obstruction of chetanā (sentience) have their corresponding centres in the physical or gross body. The 'Karmic' body controls attitudes, behaviour and conduct of a person. The 'Taijas' and the 'Karmic' bodies continuously accompany the Jīva, even between the intervening period i.e., the death and the next birth, which is called the 'antaral gati'—transmigratory motion. The re-incarnation of the soul and building of the new physical body is possible due to them. In the case of the super-normal attainments or highly developed spiritual faculties, there are two extra type of bodies viz.,' Vaikriya' and 'Āhāraka'. The former is the protean body, which enables the 'Jīva' to take different forms at will. The latter one 'Āhāraka' which enables the Jīva to communicate his thoughts with the omniscient souls to quench the curiosity regarding any difficult subject. However, the 'Vaikriya' body can also be found in the Jīvas like gods, internals and air-bodied beings. Such body is built into their life-system itself.

Prāṇa: A Bridge

'Prāṇa' (vital energy) is a bridge between the soul and the body. It is the Prāṇic energy which directs actions, speech and emotions of the living body. The Prāṇa can be divided into ten kinds based on the different functions that each of our limbs perform. In the first five, the Prāṇa is related to the sense-organs. The other five are responsible respectively for the activities of physique, respiration, speech, mind and the duration of life-span. In nutshell, all our activities are directed by the 'Prāṇaśakti'.

Classification of Jīva on the basis of the material of the body

In physiological terms, the 'Jīva' is classified with respect to six kinds of material used to build the body:

1. Pṛthvikāyika (earth-bodied)

2. Apakāyika (water-bodied)

3. Taijaskāyika (fire-bodied)

4. Vāyukāyika (air-bodied)

5. Vanaspatikāyika (vegetation-bodied)

6. Tṛskāyika (mobile-bodied)

Generally, people consider only the 'Tṛaskāyika' Jīva as the living being due to the mobility of its body. Some people consider plants as, also living. But, the Jain philosophy says that even the earth, water, fire and air are the forms of 'Jīva'. (Plants are also Jīva. According to Jainism, the whole of the physical or the gross world which is perceptible to us is created by the Jīva. The visible world consists of either the body of the Jīva which is living or that of a Jīva which has died i.e., has left the body, making it devoid of life. In other words, the physical world is nothing but a mixture of living bodies as well as dead bodies of the Jīvas. No such element of the physical world is a visible object which has not been transformed into a body of the Jīva.

Among the six kinds of Jīvas enumerated above, the 'Vanaspatikāya' is an unexhausitible store-house of Jīvas which are infinite [2] in number. It is from this stage that further evolution of any life-form takes place.

Jīva and Ātmā

In the Bhagavatī Sūtra, Jīva has been described through 23 synonyms such as Prāṇa, Bhūta, Jīva, Satva etc.. Literally, Jīva means 'one who has life' and Ātmā i.e., soul denotes the 'spirit' which experiences various states of consciousness. However, in mundane terms, both Jīva and Ātmā are treated to be totally synonymous. (The nuance is important when the soul is a liberated soul).

As said earlier, the 'Jīva' is of two types—'Baddha' (bonded) and 'Mukta' (liberated from the bonds of Karma). In the former case, it is prone to birth and rebirth and in each birth, it is influenced by the external factors like Karma, environment and circumstances, which modify its form. Sometimes, it takes the human form; at other times, it may be an animal, and so on. Sometimes, it undergoes evolution and sometimes, it undergoes devolution. The descent from a developed into an undeveloped state and the vice-versa—both are due to the free will of consciousness itself. Internally, the kaṣāya (passions) are responsible for that. The laws that govern the non-living physical matter are not binding on pure consciousness. On the other hand, the 'mukta Ātmā' is free from all such bondages and it remains eternally in its pure elemental form. In the mundane state, there is both evolution and devolution, whereas in the liberated state there is neither of two, since all the attributes of soul like knowledge, intuition, bliss and power have attained the irreversible and supermost stage of infinity.

Dual Personality

The psychologists believe that the brain of some persons has two layers. Sometimes, when only one of them works, or at other times, when the other one works, you can notice the difference in one's behaviour in accordance with the state of brain. According to the Jain philosophy, in the life of a 'Jīva', sometimes the 'karma pudgala' are active while other times they are dormant. The former stage reflects the 'audayika' personality, whereas the other is known as 'kṣāyopaśamika'.

 (1) Lack of capacity to know and perceive,

(2) Infatuation due to the impulses of anger, fear and libido.

In the Audāyika one, the karma are in the state of rising, in the kṣāyopaśamika, they are in the state of elimination-cum-subsidence. There are seven characteristics of the Audārika personality:

(3) Experience of powerlessness.

(4) Experience of pain or pleasure.

(5) Experience of high or low status.

(6) Experience of auspicious and inauspicious things.

(7) Experience of life and death.

There are four characteristics of the Kṣāyopaśamika personality:

(1) Capacity to know and see things

(2) Amūrchā (freedom from infatuation), Abhaya (fearlessness) and Ananda (bliss).

(3) Experience of powerfulness and

(4) Freedin frin experiencing (pleasure and pain).

The symptoms of Audayika and Kṣāyopaśamika personalities are just the opposite of each other. When the Jīva settles down in the state of 'Chaitanya' i.e., pure consciousness, its dual personality fades out and one attains a truly 'Kṣāyika' (emancipated) personality due to total annihilation of all the Karma.

Soul With and Without body

The Jīva in the mundane state has a form, and a body—the Jīva has the extension in the body equivalent to its size—'dehaparimāṇa'. The iīva acts through the nervous system and the 'nāḍi sansthāna' thus reaching out to the entire body. In the first moment of 'mukti' (Liberation or Emancipation) the Jīva becomes free from body. At that time even, it does not become ubiquitous, but it occupies the space which is equivalent to 1/3 of his body's size. There, it attains the final stage by becoming totally free from 'Pudgala' and rests in pure 'Chaitanya' and that is the Etenal Bliss—ever free from physical effects.


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This is an edited version of the author's work:
Jain I Darshan ke Mool Sutra
Translated by Prof. M. P. Lele under the guidance of Muni Mahendra Kumar ji and Muni Dulahraj ji, Senior disciples of Acharya Mahprajna.

© Adarsh Sahitya Sangh. New Delhi Published by:
Kamlesh Chaturvedi
Adarsh Sahitya Sangh
210, Deendayal Upadhyay Marg
New Delhi - 110002 (India) Printed at:
R-Tech Offset Printer Delhi-110032

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Abhaya
  2. Ajīva
  3. Amūrta
  4. Anger
  5. Audayika
  6. Bhagavatī Sūtra
  7. Body
  8. Brain
  9. Caitanya
  10. Chaitanya
  11. Consciousness
  12. Dhrauvya
  13. Dravya
  14. Environment
  15. Fear
  16. Fearlessness
  17. Gandha
  18. Jain Philosophy
  19. Jainism
  20. Jīva
  21. Karma
  22. Karmic Body
  23. Kaṣāya
  24. Lakṣaṇa
  25. Omniscient
  26. Paramāṇu
  27. Protean Body
  28. Prāṇa
  29. Pudgala
  30. Rasa
  31. Soul
  32. Space
  33. Sūtra
  34. Tattva
  35. Varna
  36. Vyaya
  37. Ātmā
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