Jiva Tattvas

Lessons for juniors(8)

Jiva Tattva

In Jainism, Jiva and soul are more or less described synonymously. When the spiritual or psychic status is described it is referred to as the soul, and when the physical structure is described, it is called Jiva.

The jiva which grows, decays, fluctuates, varies, eats, sleeps, awakes, acts, fears, rests, has knowledge and perception, attempts to self defend, and reproduces. These and many more qualities of the jiva are obvious through a physical body when the soul is present in it but when the soul leaves these qualities cease. These qualities are external features and consciousness (chetan) is the basic inner feature of the soul. This also makes it clear for us that the body and the soul are separate entities.

Since the soul is flexible, it pervades the entire body it occupies. For example, the same soul can occupy the body of an ant or an elephant. Such bodies stay alive as long as there is a soul. A live body, or rather, a body with a soul is described here as a Jiva.

Jivas are categorized in two groups:

  1. Liberated or Siddha Jiva
  2. Non-liberated or Sansari Jiva.

Liberated souls have no karmas and therefore, they are no longer in the cycle of births and deaths. They do not live among us, but reside at the uppermost part of this universe called Siddhashila. They are formless and shapeless, have perfect knowledge and perception, and have infinite vigor and bliss. All Siddhas are equal, and there is no difference in their status.

On the other side, non-liberated (worldly) jivas have karmas, and are continually going through the cycle of birth and death. They experience happiness and pain and have passions, which in turn cause the soul to wander more. Except for the jiva of Arihants, non-liberated jivas have limited knowledge and perception.

Jivas are found on earth, as well as in water, air, and sky, and are scattered all over the universe. Human beings, celestial beings, infernal beings, animals, fish, birds, bugs, insects, plants, etc. are the most common forms of Jiva with which we can easily relate. However, Jain scriptures state that there are 8.4 million species of Jiva in all. They are known by the senses they possess. There are five senses in all, namely touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. Different types of Jivas possess one or more of these senses.

Based upon the number of senses and mobility, Jivas are classified into different categories.

Based on mobility, all Jivas are divided into two broad categories:

  1. Non-mobile or Sthävar Jiva – those that can not move on their own and have only one sense.
  2. Mobile or Trasa jiva – those that can move on their own and have two to five senses.


(A) Non-Mobile (Sthavar Jiva, Single Sensed Being, or Ekendriya Jiva):

Jivas having only one sense, the sense of touch are called Ekendriya. They are further divided into the following five sub-categories.

  1. Prithwikäya or Earth Bodied Jiva:Seemingly inanimate forms of earth are actually living beings, e.g. clay, sand, metal, coral, etc. They have earthly bodies, hence the name prithwikaya which is derived from the Sanskrit term for earth, which is prithwi.
  2. Apkäya or Water Bodied Jiva:Seemingly inanimate forms of different types of water are living beings. Examples are dew, fog, iceberg, rain, etc. They have water bodies, hence the name apkäya which is derived from the Sanskrit term for water, which is ap.
  3. Teukäya or Fire Bodied Jiva:Seemingly inanimate forms of different types of fires are living beings. Examples are flames, blaze, lightening, forest fire, hot ash, etc. They have fire bodies, hence the name teukaya which is derived from the Sanskrit term for fire, which is tejas.
  4. Väyukäya or Air Bodied Jiva:Seemingly inanimate forms of air are actually living beings. Examples are wind, whirlwinds, cyclones, etc. They have air bodies, hence the name vayukay which is derived from the Sanskrit term for gas, which is väyu.
  5. Vanaspatikäya or Plant Bodied Jiva:It is well known that plants grow, reproduce, etc., and they are accepted as living beings. Trees, plants, branches, flowers, leaves, seeds, etc. are some examples of plant life. The Sanskrit term for plant is vanaspati and therefore such jivas are called vanaspatikäya jiva.

A plant life can have one or more souls in a single body and, depending upon this, plant life is further divided into the following two sub-categories:

Pratyek Vanaspatikäya Jiva:

Pratyek means each or one. Such plant life have one soul in one body. Therefore, they are called pratyek vanaspatikäya. Trees, plants, bushes, stem, branches, leaves, and seeds, etc., are all examples of pratyek vanaspatikäya jiva.

Sädhäran Vanaspatikäya Jiva:

Sädhäran means common. In such plant life many souls occupy the same body making this type of plant life multi-organic. Therefore, such plant life is called sädhäran vanaspatikäya jiva. This kind of plants life have an infinite number of souls in one body are called “Anantkäya”. Roots such as potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, beats, etc., belong to this category.

(B) Mobile (Tras Jiva, Multi Sensed Being, Bahu Indriya) Jiva:

Mobile jivas have two, three, four or five senses and are divided into the following categories:

(1)Two Sensed Beings (Beindriya Jiva):

Two sensed beings have the senses of touch and taste. Examples are shells, worms, insects, microbes in stale food, termites, etc.


(2)Three Sensed Beings (Treindriya Jiva):

Three sensed beings have the senses of touch, taste, and smell. Examples are bugs, lice, white ants, moths, insects in wheat, grains, and centipedes, etc.

(3)Four Sensed Beings (Chaurindriya Jiva):

Four sensed beings have the senses of touch, taste, smell and sight. Examples are scorpions, crickets, spiders, beetles, locusts, flies, etc.

(4)Five Sensed Beings (Panchendriya Jiva):

Five sensed beings have all the five senses of touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing. Examples are human beings, cow, lions, fish, birds, etc.

The following are four sub-categories of the Panchendriya Jivas.

  1. Näraki (Infernal) – Jivas living in hell,
  2. Tiryancha (Animals) – elephants, lions, birds, fish, etc.,
  3. Dev (Celestial) – heavenly beings,
  4. Manushya – Human beings.

Among the five sensed beings some have minds and some do not. Those having a mind are called sangni panchendriya and those without a mind are called asangni panchendriya.

Among all of these Jivas the most worldly happiness is found in the celestial being, while the most worldly suffering is found in the infernal beings. Neither celestial nor infernal beings can take any vows. They cannot attain salvation during that life. Animals possess limited restraint only and, therefore, they also cannot attain salvation directly. The human state of existence is the most preferable to attain salvation, because during that life one can use logic to the fullest extent, can perform austerities, can live with restrain. Thus, only through this human phase can a jiva attain salvation or Moksha.

All jivas have special attributes related to the body such as paryäpti (power) and pran (vitality). The inert substance or ajiva does not possess any such quality. The following is the discussion relating to paryapti and pran.


Paryapti means a special power through which the jiva takes in matter (pudgals) like food and converts it into separate kinds of energy. There are six kinds of paryaptis:

(1) Ahar (food) (2) Sharir (body)

(3) Indriya (senses) (4) Shwasochchhwas (respiration)

(5) Bhasha (speech) (6) Man (mind)

When the life of a jiva is over, the soul along with tejas and karman bodies leaves the current body and acquires a new body. As soon as a jiva is born, the first thing it does is consume food. The jiva, with the help of Tejas body, digests the food. After this, the jiva gradually attains the power of a body and the power of senses. The activities of consuming the food, developing the body, and forming and strengthening the sense-organs goes on continuously. The body is formed in a duration called the Antarmuhurt (within 48 minutes). Next, the jiva, receives the matter of respiration, which allows it to acquire the power of respiration and eventually the power of mind.

The ekendriya, one sensed jivas have (1) Ahar, (2) Sharir, (3) Indriya, and (4) Shwasochchhwas Paryaptis. The beindriya, the treindriya, the chaurindriya and the asangni panchendriya jivas also possess (5) Bhasha paryapti in addition to the above four. The sangni panchendriya jivas also possess (6) Man paryapti in addition to the above five. Depending upon the development of the paryaptis the jivas are also classified as (1) Paryapta Jiva, (2) Aparyapta Jiva. The paryapta jiva means that their corresponding paryaptis have developed to their fullest capacity. The aparyapta jiva means that their paryaptis are not developed to their full capacity.

Pran (Vitality):

Depending upon the development of the Jiva, there are up to ten kinds of prans or vitalities present in each jiva. These vitalities are:

  1. Sparsh-Indriya (Touch): The ability to feel the sensation of touch
  2. Ras-Indriya (Taste): the ability to taste
  3. Ghran-Indriya (Smell): the ability to smell
  4. Chakshu-Indriya (Vision): the ability to see
  5. Shravan-Indriya (Hearing): the ability to hear
  6. Mano-bal (Mind): the ability to think
  7. Vachan-bal (Speech): the ability to speak
  8. Kaya-bal (Body): the ability to move the body
  9. Shwasochchhwas (Respiration): the ability to inhale and exhale
  10. Ayushya (Longevity): the ability to live

The Ekendriya jivas possess only four prans:

(1) Touch (2) Respiration

(3) Body (4 ) Longevity

The beindriya jivas possess six prans. They possess the taste and speech vitality in addition, to the above four prans.

The treindriya jivas possess seven prans. They possess the smell vitality, in addition, to the above six prans.

The chaurindriya jivas possess eight prans. They possess the vision vitality in addition to the above seven prans.

The panchendriya jivas are divided into two groups: (1) The asangni (non-sentient) jivas, whose minds are not developed and (2) The sangni (sentient) jivas, whose minds are fully developed.

The asangni panchendriya jivas possess nine prans. They possess the hearing vitality in addition to the above eight prans.

The sangni panchendriya jivas possess ten pranas. They possess mind vitality in addition to the above nine prans.

The reason we need to know these prans is because any injury, no matter how little it may be to any of these prans, is considered himsa (violence). When himsa is done by us, our soul accumulates the bad karmas or pap (sin). Therefore to prevent accumulation of karma observe ahimsa (non-violence) related to all of these ten prans for all the categories of the Jivas. The first vow of non-violence is very important for the householders, monks and nuns. Now you may understand why we say “Ahimsa Parmo Dharma” (nonviolence is supreme religion), because by observing ahimsa we are protecting the vitality of the soul.

The summary of number of paryaptis and prans in various Jivas.

Abilities Paryaptis Prans

Ekendriya – those having one sense 4 4

Dwindriya – those having two senses 5 6

Treindriya – those having three senses 5 7

Chaurindriya – those having four senses 5 8

Asangni Panchendriya- those having five senses without a mind 5 9

Sangni Panchendriya- those having five senses with a mind 6 10