by Jayaram V
In Jainism, a jiva is the embodied being. It is the subject, the
knower and the
enjoyer. In its original and purest state it is eternal
and bliss consciousness. Unlike the atman of the Upanishads which is considered to
be infinite, without form, without qualities and without blemish, in
Jainism, the Jiva
or the soul has variable dimensions and liable to change, expanding and contracting, depending upon the
size of the body and
the nature of karma. It remains small, like a seed in the in the womb before
birth. After the birth, it grows in proportion with the body and envelops
the latter from all sides. Jains believe that jiva cannot be smaller than
the body in which it resides. It has to be larger to be able to fully
grasp the sense objects through its sense organs. At the time of death, it contracts and
becomes a tiny seed once again to start a new life in a new body according
to its karma.
According to Jainism, the jivas are infinite in number
and exist in the universe eternally. No one created them and none can destroy
them. Their number also remains the same through out, though they may move
from one plane of existence to another and also assume different forms in
different things, depending upon their level of evolution and previous
activity. Some times multiple jivas or clusters of jivas may occupy one body
forming complex organisms. Some jivas reside in gross matter, which is
within the grasp of the sense and some occupy subtle bodies which are
beyond the reach of senses. Nigodas are huge aggregates of innumerable
jivas who live together like complex organisms in the subtle world and
fill the vast spaces of the earth, supplying souls whenever an empty
space is vacated by a departing soul. Jain scriptures of Jainism
mention the following
categories of jivas.
1. Nirtya Siddhas- the ever perfect souls.
2. Muktas- the liberated souls who would never take birth
3. Baddha: the bonded souls, who are bound to this world,
undergo repeated births and deaths and are subject to continuous inflow of
karmic material into their bodies.
Having been freed form all notions of association with
matter and bondage, the mukta jivas enjoy unlimited consciousness, infinite
knowledge, infinite perception, infinite power and infinite joy. The ordinary jivas suffer from ignorance and illusion.
They remain enmeshed in the matter till they are liberated. Besides in their
ordinary state they are never free from the inflow of karma into their
bodies. According to Jainism, karma is not a mere effect of some
action, but a kind of subtle matter or flowing energy that enters the body
of a jiva and imparts to it varying degrees of grossness, making the
liberation of the jiva increasingly difficult.
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