The J?va (Sanskrit: ) or Atman (; Sanskrit: ) is a philosophical term used within Jainism to identify the soul. As per the Jain cosmology, j?va or soul is the principle of sentience and is one of the tattvas or one of the fundamental substances forming part of the universe. The Jain metaphysics, states Jagmanderlal Jaini, divides the universe into two independent, everlasting, co-existing and uncreated categories called the jiva (soul) and the ajiva (Sanskrit: ? non-soul). This basic premise of Jainism makes it a dualistic philosophy. The jiva, according to Jainism, is an essential part of how the process of karma, rebirth and the process of liberation from rebirth works.
Jains regard soul as one of the six fundamental and eternal substances (dravyas) which forms the universe. The two states of soul substance are mentioned in the Jain texts. These are -- Sv?bhva (pure or natural) and Vibh?va (impure or unnatural state). Souls in transmigration are in impure state and liberated ones are said to be in natural or pure state.
Jain philosophy is the oldest Indian philosophy that completely separates matter from the soul. According to The Theosophist, "some religionists hold that Atman (Spirit) and Paramatman (God) are identical, while others assert that they are distinct; but a Jain will say that Atman and Paramatman are identical as well as distinct."
The five vows of Jain practice are believed in Jainism to aid in freeing the j?va from karmic matter, reduce negative karmic effects and accrue positive karmic benefits.
According to Jain philosophy, rebirth occurs through soul. Depending on the karmic particles attached to a soul, Jain theology states a being is reborn in one of four gatis (states of existence), namely, heavenly being (deva), human (manushya), hell being (naraki) and animals and plants (triyancha). Besides this there also exist a sub-microscopic life form, Nigoda, possessing only one sense, i.e., of touch.
In Jain beliefs, souls begin their journey in a primordial state, and exist in a state of consciousness continuum that is constantly evolving through Sa?s?ra. Some evolve to a higher state, some regress asserts the Jaina theory, a movement that is driven by the karma. Further, Jaina traditions believe that there exist Abhavya (incapable), or a class of souls that can never attain moksha (liberation). The Abhavya state of soul is entered after an intentional and shockingly evil act. Jainism considers souls as pluralistic each in a karma-samsara cycle, and does not subscribe to Advaita style nondualism of Hinduism, or Advaya style nondualism of Buddhism.
The Jaina theosophy, like ancient Ajivika, but unlike Hindu and Buddhist theosophies, asserts that each soul passes through 8,400,000 birth-situations, as they circle through Sa?s?ra. As the soul cycles, states Padmanabh Jaini, Jainism traditions believe that it goes through five types of bodies: earth bodies, water bodies, fire bodies, air bodies and vegetable lives. With all human and non-human activities, such as rainfall, agriculture, eating and even breathing, minuscule living beings are taking birth or dying, their souls are believed to be constantly changing bodies. Perturbing, harming or killing any life form, including any human being, is considered a sin in Jainism, with negative karmic effects.
A liberated soul in Jainism is one who has gone beyond Sa?s?ra, is at the apex, is omniscient, remains there eternally, and is known as a Siddha. A male human being is considered closest to the apex with the potential to achieve liberation, particularly through asceticism. Women must gain karmic merit, to be reborn as man, and only then can they achieve spiritual liberation in Jainism, particularly in the Digambara sect of Jainism; however, this view has been historically debated within Jainism and different Jaina sects have expressed different views, particularly the Shvetambara sect that believes that women too can achieve liberation from Sa?s?ra.
In contrast to Buddhist texts which do not expressly or unambiguously condemn injuring or killing plants and minor life forms, Jaina texts do. Jainism considers it a bad karma to injure plants and minor life forms with negative impact on a soul's Sa?s?ra. However, some texts in Buddhism and Hinduism do caution a person from injuring all life forms, including plants and seeds.
According to the Jain text, Samayas?ra:
Know that the Jiva (soul) which rests on pure faith, knowledge, and conduct, alone is the Real Self. The one which is conditioned by the karmic matter is to be known as the impure self. - Verse 1-2-2
For instance, some religionists hold that Atman (Spirit) and Paramatman (God) are one, while others assert that they are distinct; but a Jain will say that Atman and Paramatman are one as well as distinct.