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Sopadhi Jiva In Jainism – Soul In Jain Religion

Sopadhi Jiva is the soul in Jainism. In Jain religion, the term jiva is variously used; it denotes life, vitality, self and consciousness. Jivas are infinite in number and are of different kinds. A distinction is made between the liberated and the bound souls. Sopadhi jivas are bound souls and wander in the circle of existence.

Through ignorance, the jiva identifies itself with matter and its modifications. The term sopadhi indicates whatever is restricted to some conditions or limitations. The sopadhi jivas are limited by certain factors and hence have not reached the state of pure consciousness wherein the self is free from any taint of matter.

As the partnership between soul and matter has not been dissolved, the jivas are tied to the cycle of existence. They possess chetana (consciousness) to a limited extent. They have the capacity to take different states of existence through life. The self is co-existent with the body and possess just the size of the body it happens to occupy. Although itself formless, it takes the form of the body where it is present. Such jivasare found in association with karma (karma samyukta). They have life and have all life principles.

The bound sopadhi jivas are classified into two types – sthvara (immobile) and trasa (mobile). The immobile are considered to be one-sensed (possessing the tactile sensation alone) and are of five types, living respectively in the bodies of earth (prithvikaya), water (apkaya), fire (tejaskaya), air (vayukaya) and vegetable kingdom (vanaspatikaya). The mobile jivas are classified as those with two senses such as the snail, three senses such as the ant, four senses, such as the wasp, and five senses, which include the higher animals and man.

In the human being, the jiva has the capacity to act and has freedom of will, with the actions performed influencing the future destiny of the individual. The degrees of consciousness may vary according to the obstacles of karma. Such souls have the capacity for apprehension and comprehension. Hence, each of them is characterized as doer (karta) and real experient (bhokta). Although these mundane souls are bound to karma, all of them do not belong to the same class, since there are differences in stages or modifications among them. Jaina philosophers set out fourteen stages of development (gunasthanas) to show these differences. It is only by the destruction of all karma formations of various kinds that the soul can gain liberation from the bondage of matter and from the wheel of existence.