Article: Soul

Contributed by Jasmine Kelly

The Jain faith revolves around the notion of the soul – jīva – which can also be understood as sentience or consciousness. The ultimate objective of the Jain religion is for the soul to attain self-realisation, which is liberationmokṣa – from the cycle of births.

The soul is a concept found in many religions but Jain beliefs about the soul or Self are very distinctive. For Jains there is an infinite number of individual souls. All souls are trapped by karmas in bodies within the cycle of rebirth until they reach liberation from the cycle of birth – saṃsāra. This occurs when a soul is free of all karmas and can realise its inherent attributes.

The innate qualities of the soul are obscured by karmas when the soul is embodied. The quantity and type of karmas bound to a soul stain it one of six colours. The soul's spiritual level corresponds with its leśyā.

Produced by activities, whether mental or physical, karmas are either negative or positive but all bind to the soul. Activities come from attachment to the world, which must be conquered to progress spiritually. The different kinds of karma attach to the soul, influencing the type of body it is born into in various lifetimes. Souls can be born into all kinds of living beings, but only souls born into human bodies can attain emancipation, by following the teachings of the Jinas.

Liberated souls – siddhas – are perfected and realise all their innate qualities. They exist without bodies at the top of the universe, in perpetual bliss.

Jain notions about the soul are similar to those of other religious faiths that first developed in India, but there are some key differences.

This piece is a summary of the article "Soul". The full article will be available soon.

Attributes

A typical Digambara representation of a siddha, shown as an empty space. This underlines the idea that a siddha has no body and is a soul that has recovered its original purity. It regains this purity when it is liberated from the cycle of rebirth. In thi

Image of a siddha
Image by Hindi Granth Karyala © Public domain

In Sanskrit, the soul or self is jīva – 'that which is sentient or has consciousness'. The opposite of jīva is ajīva, which can be described as the absence of soul. Ajīva characterises non-living things. Both forms of matter make up the universe, according to Jain cosmology.

In Jain cosmology the soul is one of the three types of substance – dravya. It is non-material, not made up of atoms or molecules. In its pure condition, the soul does not have material properties of colour, odour, form and taste. It is a pure substance with:

  • perception – darśana
  • energy – vīrya
  • bliss – sukha
  • knowledgejñāna.

The soul always has these innate qualities – guṇas – although karma may obscure them. The first two attributes together produce consciousness – caitanya. This awareness or sentience is jīva and distinguishes this non-physical substance from the other two substances – dravyas – in the universe.

There are infinite numbers of individual souls. The soul is either embodied or disembodied. Souls within bodies have karma bound to them, dooming them to be born and reborn within the cycle of birth until they can rid themselves of all karma. Souls that exist outside bodies are perfected souls, known as siddhas – liberated souls – because they are emancipated from the cycle of birth. This final liberation of the soul – mokṣa – is the ultimate objective of the Jain religion.

Some souls have the quality of abhavya, which means they lack the capability of achieving liberation. Most souls, however, are bhavya and can attain emancipation.

Karma and rebirths

In this manuscript painting, hellish beings endure some of the tortures of the lower world, such as being attacked by animals or other hell-beings. Suffering is a big part of living in the lower world of the three worlds of the Jain universe. Souls who ha

Infernal tortures
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Souls exist within bodies because they have karma bound to them. All souls are embodied at one stage, even those that have been liberated from the cycle of birth – saṃsāra – and are now perfect. To regain its original pure condition, the soul must rid itself of all karma by progressing spiritually.

There are many different types of karma, both positive and negative. Both kinds of karma limit and corrupt the soul, hiding its essential qualities and trapping it within the cycle of rebirth. Karma is both a product of the soul's embodiment and a source of it.

Leśyā

Being born into many different bodies, with attachments to the world they live in and passions or emotions, means the soul gets karma bound to it. A soul's level of spiritual development can be gauged by its leśyā.

Produced by the interaction between karma and soul, leśyā is a staining of the soul, making it certain colours. These six colours indicate spiritual level and have no bearing on the colour of the body.

A perfect soul has no karmas, so its inherent purity and clarity can be seen. As a soul develops spiritually, it gets lighter and brighter.

Attachment and karma

A variety of animals is shown in this painting from a manuscript as examples of five-sensed beings. Throughout the cycle of birth, a soul is born in different types of body according to the karma it has collected from previous lives.

Five-sensed animals
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Karma is generated by activities, caused by attachments – kaṣāyas – to the world, which may be either negative or positive. Both types of attachments create karmas, which bind to the soul, weighing it down and obscuring its inherent attributes.

Karmas created in one lifetime or birth influence the later lives of the soul, such as:

Thus lots of negative karma will result in birth as a creature in hell, an animal or a being with limited senses, such as an insect, plant or single-celled microscopic organism. Negative karmas are produced by actions such as deliberate violence. Positive karma brings about birth as a god or human being.

Whether negative or positive, all karmas bind to the soul. This is why Jains believe that complete detachment from the world is necessary to destroy existing karmas and avoid producing new ones. Self-control and detachment thus underlie exemplary Jain behaviour, such as non-violence and practising asceticismtapas – which burns away karma.

Birth as a human being

Souls are found within all types of living beings, ranging from those with one sense to those with five. A soul contracts or expands to fill the available space inside a body, from a tiny, one-celled nigoda to a five-sensed blue whale.

Being born a human is vital for salvation because only human beings can reach omniscience and then liberation. It is rare, within the enormously long cycle of birth to be born a human being, so it is a good opportunity to make spiritual progress.

Guide to liberation

A wall of Jina figures dating from the 8th to 9th centuries. Cut into the rock face at the cave temple at Kalugumalai in Tamil Nadu, these images nearly all depict the 24 Jinas.

Carvings of Jinas
Image by Jennifer Howes © CC BY-NC 3.0

As found in the scriptures, the 24 Jinas preach the eternal truths of the universe and provide guidance on the correct mental attitudes and conduct to bring about spiritual progress.

As the soul travels up the 'scale of perfection'guṇa-sthāna – it reaches levels of spiritual development where it destroys the karma attached to it and stops new karma from sticking to it. It can thus attain, in stages, perfect knowledge – omniscience – and finally liberation.

Liberated souls

At the peak of the universe, the crescent-shaped siddha-śilā is where liberated souls – siddhas – exist in neverending bliss.

Siddha-śilā
Image by Anishshah19 © CC-BY-3.0

Souls emancipated from the cycle of birth are siddhas. They have reached perfection and are thus free of the flesh into which their karmas have bound them.

When they reach full spiritual development, souls are free of all karmas. This means that when the human being's lifespan ends, fulfilling its āyus-karma, and the body dies, the soul leaves the body permanently. It regains its original purity, realises its true nature. Therefore, instead of being born into another body again, the perfected soul rises to the siddha-śilā.

The siddha-śilā is also known as the siddha-loka or īśat-prāgbhārā-bhūmi. It is a space at the top of the universe, in which all the siddhas dwell for ever. They remain separate beings here, each experiencing absolute bliss.

Other terms for siddha – perfect, liberated soul – are:

Indian religions and the soul

Along with other religions that originated in India, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, Jains believe that souls:

  • are trapped in the neverending cycle of rebirth – saṃsāra
  • are reborn in different bodies according to the karma they have collected
  • can only break out of the cycle of rebirth by being born a human being, achieving enlightenment and then, leaving the body behind, reaching liberation
  • with karma attached to them can never be enlightened – the bondage of karma.

The Jain concepts of the soul and karma differ from those of the other Indian faiths, however. In Jainism souls are individual with the same innate qualities. They accrue karmas that are bound to them throughout the cycle of birth until they mature and fall away. Souls remain individual once they are perfected.

Followers of the Buddha do not believe in a soul in the same way as Jains and Hindus. The Buddha preached anatta – the doctrine of no soul – and that the cycle of birth involves a transfer of consciousness from one body to another, influenced by karma. Nirvāṇa is the term usually used for liberation or salvation – in which followers of the Buddha realise that there is neither self nor consciousness. It describes the extinguishing of the 'fires' of attachment, aversion and ignorance that cause suffering. Enlightened souls thus gain release from the cycle of births when they die – mokṣa – instead of another rebirth.

There is a variety of belief among Hindu traditions, although most Hindus believe in the soul or self – ātman – and liberation. Broadly, for Hindus ignorance of the true self or soul creates desire for and enjoyment of the world, which traps the soul in the cycle of birth. Karma comes from thoughts, words and deeds, and influences future lives. Between two births, the soul goes either to hell, to be punished for bad actions, or to heaven, where it enjoys rewards for good actions. Hindu mokṣa is the perfecting of the soul and release from the cycle of rebirths, although various schools differ on whether realisation of the soul can be achieved during or after life.

Images

  • Image of a siddha A typical Digambara representation of a siddha, shown as an empty space. This underlines the idea that a siddha has no body and is a soul that has recovered its original purity. It regains this purity when it is liberated from the cycle of rebirth. In this cycle, karma causes a soul to be born into a succession of bodies until it progresses spiritually to enlightenment and then to liberation. The siddhas exist without bodies in the siddha-śilā at the top of the universe in endless bliss.. Image by Hindi Granth Karyala © Public domain
  • Infernal tortures In this manuscript painting, hellish beings endure some of the tortures of the lower world, such as being attacked by animals or other hell-beings. Suffering is a big part of living in the lower world of the three worlds of the Jain universe. Souls who have been born into bodies in the seven hells suffer according to their karma, which is mainly decided by their bad behaviour in previous lives. . Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Five-sensed animals A variety of animals is shown in this painting from a manuscript as examples of five-sensed beings. Throughout the cycle of birth, a soul is born in different types of body according to the karma it has collected from previous lives. In traditional Jain cosmology, beings can be classed according to the number of senses they have. The animals pictured have the five senses of touch, taste, smell, sight and hearing. . Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)
  • Carvings of Jinas A wall of Jina figures dating from the 8th to 9th centuries. Cut into the rock face at the cave temple at Kalugumalai in Tamil Nadu, these images nearly all depict the 24 Jinas.. Image by Jennifer Howes © CC BY-NC 3.0
  • Siddha-śilā At the peak of the universe, the crescent-shaped siddha-śilā is where liberated souls – siddhas – exist in neverending bliss.. Image by Anishshah19 © CC-BY-3.0

Further Reading

Karma
Johannes Bronkhorst
Dimensions of Asian Spirituality series
University of Hawaiʻi Press; Honolulu, Hawai'i, USA; 2011

Full details

The Jains
Paul Dundas
Library of Religious Beliefs and Practices series; series editor John Hinnels and Ninian Smart; volume 14
Routledge Curzon Press; London, UK; 2002

Full details

The Jaina Path of Purification
Padmanabh S. Jaini
University of California Press; Berkeley, California USA; 1979

Full details

‘Bhavyatva and Abhavyatva: a Jaina Doctrine of Predestination’
Padmanabh S. Jaini
Collected Papers on Jaina Studies
Motilal Banarsidass; New Delhi, India; 2000

Full details

Harmless Souls: Karmic Bondage and Religious Change in Early Jainism with Special Reference to Umāsvāti and Kundakunda
William J. Johnson
Lala Sundar Lal Jain research series; volume 9
Motilal Banarsidass; Delhi, India; 1995

Full details

Commentary on Tattvārtha Sūtra of Vācaka Umāsvāti
Pandit Sukhlalji
translated by K. K. Dixit
L. D. series; volume 44
L. D. Institute of Indology; Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India; 1974

Full details

Historical Dictionary of Jainism
Kristi L. Wiley
Historical Dictionaries of Religions, Philosophies, and Movements series; series editor Jon Woronoff; volume 53
Scarecrow Press; Maryland, USA; 2004

Full details

Glossary

Abhavya

A soul that cannot attain the proper insight necessary for salvation – and therefore salvation itself – because it does not have the quality of bhavyatva.

Asceticism

The practice of rigorous, even extreme, physical hardships in the belief that it leads to a higher spiritual condition. Asceticism involves self-denial – for example refusing tasty food or warm clothes – and sometimes self-mortification, such as wearing hair-shirts or whipping oneself.

Buddha

Title meaning ‘Enlightened One’ in Sanskrit and Pali. It is most frequently used for Siddhārtha Gautama, whose teachings form the basis of the Buddhist faith. He lived about 563 to 483 BCE in the north-eastern area of the Indian subcontinent, around the same time and in the same area as Mahāvīra, the last of the 24 Jinas.

His life story is similar to that of the Jinas in certain ways, such as:

  • his mother had significant dreams on the night of conception
  • he was born a prince into a kṣatriya family
  • as an adult he renounced his wealthy, pleasurable life to seek the meaning of life through asceticism.

After six years he reached enlightenment while meditating and from then on was known as Buddha – 'Awakened One' or 'Enlightened One'.

Buddhism

The religion founded by Buddha, often called the 'Middle Way' between the self-indulgence of worldly life and the self-mortification of a very ascetic way of life. Buddhism has similarities to Jain belief but some significant differences. For example, Buddhists hold that the world around us is a short-lived illusion and do not believe in individual, everlasting souls.

Cosmology

A belief system about the universe that covers its origin, structure and parts, and natural laws and characteristics such as space, time, causality and freedom.

Deity

A god or divine figure, often with physical powers beyond those of a human and with superhuman abilities.

Detachment

Not feeling attached to any things, people or emotions in the world, whether positive or negative. Jains believe that detachment from the world is necessary to progress spiritually towards the ultimate aim of freeing the soul from the cycle of rebirth.

Doctrine

A principle or system of teachings, especially religious philosophy.

Dravya

Substance. There are two main types of substances in the universe in Jain belief:

  • jīva – non-material, sentient substance
  • ajīva – substance without soul.

The second type is divided into pudgala – non-sentient matter – and the non-material substances of:

  • ākāśa – space
  • dharma-dravya – principle of motion
  • adharma-dravya – principle of rest
  • kāla – time.

The last is not always included in this category.

Hindu

Follower of the majority faith in India and an adjective describing something belonging to Hinduism. Hindus have numerous gods and diverse beliefs and practices, though many believe in the soul, karma, the cycle of births and liberation. Roughly a billion Hindus comprise the third largest religion in the world.

Hinduism

The majority faith in India, often called Sanātana Dharma or Eternal Law. With no single named founder, Hinduism has a pantheon of gods and a range of different beliefs. Most Hindu traditions revere the Veda literature but there is no single system of salvation or belief, although many Hindus believe in the soul, karma, the cycle of births and liberation. Large Hindu communities exist in southern Asia, with smaller groups across the world.

Jain

Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.

Jina

A 'victor' in Sanskrit, a Jina is an enlightened human being who has triumphed over karma and teaches the way to achieve liberation. A synonym for Tīrthaṃkara, which means 'ford-maker' or one who has founded a community after reaching omniscience through asceticism. The most famous 24 – Ṛṣabha to Mahāvīra – were born in the Bharata-kṣetra of the middle world, but more are found in other continents. There have been Jinas in the past and there will be some in the future.

Jñāna

'Knowledge', of which there are five main types:

  • mind-based and sensory knowledge – mati-jñāna
  • scriptural knowledge – śruta-jñāna
  • extra-sensory knowledge or clairvoyance – avadhi-jñāna
  • knowledge of others’ minds or telepathy – manaḥparyaya-jñāna
  • omniscience or absolute knowledge – kevala-jñāna.

With spiritual progress, one can gain the different types of knowledge.

Also one of the 14 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā or 'soul-quest'.

Karma

Action or act, thought of as physical in Jainism. Created by mental or physical action, karma enters the soul, which then needs religious restraints and practices to make it flow out. Karma can be both:

  • negative – deriving from harmful acts
  • positive – arising from beneficial actions.

Both types of karma trap a soul in continual rebirth. A pan-Indian concept, karma has extremely complex, detailed and technical divisions and subdivisions in Jainism.

Kaṣāya

'Passion' that causes activity, which results in new karma binding to the soul. It must be eliminated by restraints or austerities so the soul can be liberated. Passion may be attraction – rāga – or aversion – dveṣa – and has degrees of intensity. There are traditionally four passions:

  • anger – krodha
  • pride – māna
  • deceit – māyā
  • greed – lobha.

Also one of the 14 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā – 'soul-quest'.

Kevala-jñāna

Omniscience, enlightenment or perfect knowledge – the highest of the five types of knowledge, where one knows everything wherever and whenever it is. It is extremely difficult to attain, equivalent to the 13th stage of spiritual purity in the guṇa-sthāna. Digambaras believe only men can achieve it whereas Śvetāmbaras believe that both men and women can become enlightened.

Leśyā

Karmic stain, the colour of which indicates a soul’s degree of purity. There are traditionally six colours:

  • kṛṣṇa – black
  • nīla – blue
  • kāpota – ‘pigeon-colour’, usually grey
  • tejas – ‘fiery’, usually red or yellow
  • padma – ‘lotus colour, usually yellow or pink
  • śukla – white.

Also one of the 14 'gateways' or categories of investigation of mārgaṇā or 'soul-quest'.

Loka

The universe in Jain cosmology, composed of the upper, middle and lower worlds. Human beings can live only in part of the Middle World.

Mokṣa

The 'liberation' of the soul from its body and thus from the cycle of rebirth because it has no karma and becomes omniscient. The ultimate aim of Jainism is to achieve mokṣa and become a liberated soul in siddha-śilā.

Naraka

Hell. There are seven levels of hells in the lower world of Jain cosmology.

Nigoda

The most basic form of vegetable life in which an infinite number of souls live together in a sub-microscopic body. Born and dying together, they breathe and eat together, and pervade the entire universe.

Paramātman

The highest soul, the liberated soul, the Absolute, often used instead of siddhi. Jains believe that a soul or ātman can achieve liberation from the cycle of birth through its own spiritual development. This concept has been called God in Western thought since the start of the Christian era.

Preach

To deliver a speech on a religious topic, usually given by a prophet or member of the clergy. It may be a formal task of a religious office or open to all believers in a religious faith. Often covering social and moral subjects, preaching may be intended to:

  • remind hearers of religious principles and rules
  • encourage piety
  • persuade non-believers of the correctness of the preacher's religious beliefs.

Pudgala

Matter. One of the five insentient material substances of dravya that make up the universe along with the sentient substance, jivastikaya.

Saṃsāra

Cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth caused by karma binding to the soul as a result of activities. Only by destroying all karma can this perpetual cycle finish in mokṣa – liberation. The karma gained in life affects the next life, and even future lives, for example:

  • in which of the three worlds the life is lived out
  • which of four conditions – gati – the body takes, namely human, divine, hellish or as a plant or animal.

Sanskrit

A classical language of India, originally used by priests and nobility. Sanskrit has a rich literary and religious tradition. With only a few thousand native speakers nowadays, it is predominantly used in Hindu religious ceremonies and by scholars.

Siddha

An omniscient soul that has achieved mokṣa. All liberated souls live in the siddha-śilā, at the top of the universe, in perpetual bliss.

Siddha-śilā

The realm of liberated souls, at the apex of the universe. All the liberated souls – siddha – dwell there in eternal bliss.

EXT:mediabrowse Processing Watermark

Related Manuscripts

Related Manuscript Images

http://www.jainpedia.org/themes/principles/jain-beliefs/soul/mediashow/print.html - All text is © JAINpedia / Institute of Jainology 2020 under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 licence The Jain universe online at www.jainpedia.org

Unless images are explicitly stated as either public domain or licensed under a Creative Commons licence, all images are copyrighted. See individual images for details of copyright.