In Hinduism and Jainism, a jiva (जीव, alternate spelling, jiwa) is a living being, or more specifically the immortal essence of a living being (human, animal, fish or plant etc...) which survives physical death. It has a very similar usage to 'atma', but whereas atma refers to 'the self', 'jiva' is used to denote a 'living entity' or 'living being' specifically. The concept of the jiva is similar, but not necessarily identical to, the concept of the soul as presented in Abrahamic religions. The word itself originates from the Sanskrit Jivás, with the root jīv- 'to breathe'. It has the same Indo-European root as the Latin word Vivus: "Alive".


In the Bhagavad Gita of Hinduism the jiva is described as immutable, eternal, and indestructible. It is said not to be a product of the material world (Prakrti), but of a higher 'spiritual' nature. At the point of physical death the jiva takes a new physical body depending on karma and the individual desires and necessities of the particular jiva in question.

For further explanations see reincarnation and transmigration.


Jain and Hindu scriptures describe the ultimate goal of the jiva as being either of the following (depending on the particular philosophical tradition):

  • 'liberation' from material existence (moksha)
  • obtaining pure love of God (bhakti)
  • or becoming liberated from the happiness and distress of the world, while still being existent within it (jivanmukta).

For further information see Dharmic Religions.

In Fiction

Jiva is the name of one of the main characters in Karmatrón, the Mexican comic book.

Certain characters in author Jennifer Roberson's Sword-Dancer series wield magical swords called jivatmas which contain the essences of vanquished opponents.

Jivas play a recurring role in the comics of Jim Woodring.


See also

External links

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