Jiva

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Jiva (devanāgarī: जीव jīva) is a Sanskrit word meaning "soul, life, vital breath". In Hinduism and Jainism, a jiva is a living being, or more specifically, the immortal essence of a living organism (human, animal, fish or plant etc.) which survives physical death. It has a similar usage to atma, "the cosmic self", although jīva denotes an individual 'living entity' or 'living being' specifically.

In Theosophy this word is frequently used as a synonym of the manifested "life-principle" (prāṇa).[1] However, sometimes the term is used in a more general way to refer to the universal life,[2] or even to the individualized life or Monad.[3] A related term is that of Jīvātman.[4]

General description

Jiva (or Jiv) is regarded as the universal principle of life manifested on the seven planes. This life is contained in every particle of matter though, in truth, life and matter are two aspects of the same reality:

Jiva—in its universal aspect—has, like Prakriti, its seven forms, or what we have agreed to call “principles.” Its action begins on the plane of the Universal Mind (Mahat) and ends in the grossest of the Tanmatric five planes—the last one, which is ours. Thus though we may, repeating after Sankhya philosophy, speak of the seven prakritis (or “productive productions”) or after the phraseology of the Occultists of the seven jivas—yet, both Prakriti and Jiva are indivisible abstractions, to be divided only out of condescension for the weakness of our human intellect.[5]

Although sometimes Jiva and Prāṇa are treated as synonyms,[6] the relationship between the two has been explained by Mme. Blavatsky as follows:

Jîva becomes Prâna only when the child is born. . . . As an example, a sponge may be immersed in an ocean; the water in the sponge’s interior may be compared to Prâṇa; the water outside is Jîva.[7]

However, there are also references to "Jivas" (in plural) as centers of consciousness--the reincarnating human Monads[8]--which are sometimes called the "Imperishable Jivas".[9] In this case the term seems to be used as an abbreviation of "Jīvātman" (see below). The confusion comes from the use of these words sometimes from the point of view of the occult teachings and at others from that of the Advaita Vedānta. As Mme. Blavatsky wrote:

The Jîva or the “life” of the Occultists and the Jîva or Jîvâtman (the only life or living soul) of the Vedântins are two ideas quite distinct one from the other . . . the Occultists call the second principle—Life—while the Vedântins, who do not recognize the Universal Life as the only Reality, and consider all the other Jîvas (or lives) as illusory, give that name only to the seventh principle—the divine monad in man—whose identity with the Parabrahm they maintain.[10]

Jivatman

A related concept to jīva in early Theosophical literature is that of Jīvātman. In Hinduism, the jīvātman refers to the individual spirit as opposed to the universal spirit or paramātman, the difference between the two being just an illusion.

In Theosophical literature this term frequently refers to the highest principle of unmanifested life--Ātman:

Esoteric Buddhists or Arhats, recognizing but one life, ubiquitous and omnipresent, call by the name of “Jiv,” the manifested life, the second principle; and by Atman or Jivatman, the seventh principle or unmanifested life.[11]
In other occasions, "Jivatman" does not refer only to the seventh principle but, rather, to the dual Monad Atma-Buddhi.[12]

However, in the Mahatma Letters jīvātma is sometimes used as a synonym of prāṇa.[13] Mme. Blavatsky explained the reason for this use as follows:

Jiva or Prana (Life principle). The word “Jivatma,” used only by the Buddhists, who make no difference between manifested and unmanifested Life outside of Esotericism, was through oversight erroneously used in Fragment No. I, and since then rectified. Jivatma is the 7th principle with the Vedantees and the Theosophists have agreed to use it but in the latter sense.[14]

In agreement with this, T. Subba Row, an early Theosophist and occultist belonging to the Advaita Vedanta philosophy, wrote:

The term Jîvâtma is generally applied by our philosophers to the seventh principle when it is distinguished from Paramâtma or Parabrahman.[15]

Online Resources

Articles

Notes

  1. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. V (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1988), 111.
  2. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. X (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 607, fn.
  3. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 238.
  4. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. IV (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1991), 547.
  5. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. IX (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1974), fn. 77.
  6. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. V (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1988), 111.
  7. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 707.
  8. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 216.
  9. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. I, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 218.
  10. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. V (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1997), 41.
  11. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. IV (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1991), 547.
  12. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. IV (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1991), 581.
  13. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence LBS-Appendix II (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 510.
  14. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. V (Los Angeles, CA: Philosophical Research Society, 1950), 409-410.
  15. Helen Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. III (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1968), 409-410.