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. The word itself originates from the Sanskrit jivás, with the root jīv- "to live". It has the same Indo-European root as the Latin word vivus, meaning "alive".
Jiva in Jainism
In Jainism, jiva is the immortal essence or soul of a living organism (human, animal, fish or plant etc.) which survives physical death. The concept of Ajiva in Jainism means "not soul", and represents matter (including body), time, space, non-motion and motion. In Jainism, a Jiva is either samsari (mundane, caught in cycle of rebirths) or mukta (liberated).
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. The latter is sometimes referred to as jiva-atman (a soul in a living body).
Jiva in Hinduism
Jiva or the soul is described in a whole chapter in the Bhagavat Gita, (verses 13 to 30). A common metaphysical entity discussed in the seven schools of Vedant is the jiva or atman: the soul, or self.
बालाग्रशतभागस्य शतधा कल्पितस्य च । भागो जीवः स विज्ञेयः स चानन्त्याय कल्पते ॥ ९ ॥
- “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 ॥
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)
Jiva in Akshar-Purushottam Darshan
The Akshar-Purushottam Darshan, the classical name given to the set of spiritual beliefs based on the teachings of Swaminarayan, 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.”
“From all the Vedas, Purāṇas, Itihāsa and Smṛti scriptures, I have gleaned the principle that jīva, māyā, īśvara, Brahman and Parameśvara are all eternal.”
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.
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