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A Sanskrit term derived from the root jiv, “live,” “be alive.” It designates different beings in different Indian philosophical systems. In JAINISM, for instance, it is the ultimate life unit. In ADVAITA VEDĀNTA, however, it is ātman associated with and limited by the vehicles of personality. Some writers equate it with the vital breath of life, i.e., PRĀṆA, though this is somewhat misleading since prāṇa is a vital force and jīva is a unit of life-consciousness.

Helena P. BLAVATSKY has given an example of how the jīva may be regarded in early theosophical literature. She writes, “For the Monad or Jīva per se cannot be even called spirit: it is a ray, a breath of the Absolute; or the Absoluteness rather and the Absolute Homogeneity, having no relations with the conditioned and relative finiteness, is unconscious on our plane” (SD I:247). In other words, her conception of it is similar to that of Advaita Vedānta, but more abstract.


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