8. The Soul (Jīva) | Śrī Vaishnavism

8. The Soul (Jīva)

The (category) Soul or Jīva will now be explained.

The characteristics common to Soul and God are:

(1) Interiority (pratyaktva),
(2) Rationality (cetanatva),
(3) Spirituality (ātmatva), and
(4) Agency (kartṛtva).

Pratyaktva or Interiority means to be self-luminous.
Cetanatva or Rationality is to be the seat (or involucre) of consciousness.
Ātmatva or Spirituality is to be the antithesis to body (matter).
Kartṛtva or Agency is to be the seat of consciousness, of the form of Will (saṁkalpa).

Having thus stated the common characteristics of Soul, the special (or singular) characteristics will now be stated:

The Soul is distinct from body, senses, mind (manas), breath, and intellect.

Distinct from body (Soul is) by reason of the experience:

'My body Distinct from the outer senses by reason of the experiences:

I see with (my) eyes”, “I hear with (my) sense of hearing”,
I speak with my tongue” and so forth;

Distinct from mind (manas) as this is known to be a sense;
from breath as indicated by the expression: “My breath”, and
from Intellect (buddhi) as borne out by the experience: “I know”.

It is atomic (or monadic) by reason of the Śruti (= Scriptures) stating that it (Soul) out-goes (from the body at time of leaving, and in-comes to the body at time of joining), confirmed by (our own) experience.

No question need arise how, if Soul is atomic, it is capable of cognising simultaneously many objects, for (its) attributive consciousness has the capacity for such diffusion.

By this (law), the assumption of many bodies (simultaneously) by such (sages) as Saubhari, and by the Freed (Muktas) becomes possible.

This (Soul) is Eternal, for it remembers what was experienced in the past. But it may be asked: how if Soul is eternal, they do speak of its being “born” and “dead”?

We reply that birth is because of the Soul’s bondage with body, and
death is, because of its severance therefrom.
Hence the nature of the Soul is Eternal.

Soul is distinct for each distinct body:

In a similar manner as the singular of the expression:

gold jar” is made use of for an “aggregate” of gold jars, all of the same dimensions,
and “grain” is used for an accumulation of grains,

is the (generic) term Soul used, as all souls share in common the attribute of consciousness. Hence there is no identity, as that conflicts with the Authorities (Vedas).

It is by nature Blissful (or essentially Joyous); but, infected by environment (upādhi), falls into migration (Samsāra).

It is Agent (Kartā), enjoyer (Bhoktā), the Bodied (Śarīri) and body (Śarīra):

It is the bodied with reference to matter; with reference to God (Īśvara), it is body.

That it is Self-luminous (svayam-prakāśa) is evident from Perception as well as Word (Scriptures). A syllogism may be constructed as follows: -

““The Soul is Self-luminous.
For it is conscious, (or rational).
Like the attributive consciousness.”

Consciousness-ness (jñānatva) and Stainlessness (or Purity, amalatva) etc., are qualities which determine its (Soul’s) Essence.


- the thesis of the Buddhists that as consciousness is momentary, Soul is the concatenation of (such) moments;

- the thesis of the Cārvākas that Soul is conterminous with the body, which is a compound of Four Elements;  

- the thesis of the Jainas that Soul is commensurate with the elephant’s body in the elephant, and commensurate with the ant’s body in the ant;

- the thesis of Yādava that Soul is a fragment of God (Brahman);

- the thesis of Bhāskara that Soul is a division of the conditioned God (Brahman)

- the thesis that Soul is a fabrication (effected) by nescience;

- the thesis that Soul is multiplied by reason of the limiting (or circumscribing) Inner Organ (Antahkaraṇa);

all other such objectionable theses are disannulled; and likewise the objection for its (Soul’s) infinitive nature (vibhutva).

But if it be asked, how, in case of not admitting the infinitive character of Soul, is its fruit in connection with other realms, determined by the 'unseen’ (destiny = adṛṣṭa), possible,

the reply is that though Soul has no local (or spatial) relation, yet the Unseen (destiny) determines it.

What is Destiny?

It is a species of consciousness attained as a consequence of good deeds done for winning the pleasure of God (Bhagavān).This consciousness is none other than Providence (or Will) of God, contingent on His infinitive (vibhu) nature.

(In) thus (predicating) the reaping of fruit (by the Soul), is not beset with difficulties.

This Soul is 3-fold:

(1) Bound (Baddha),
(2) Freed (Mukta), and
(3) Free or Eternal (Nitya).

Of these the Bound are those particular group of souls, from Brahmā down to the worm, inhabiting the 14 worlds comprising the “Oval Sphere.”

Brahma is sprung from the navel-lotus of Śrīman Nārāyaṇa;

Rudra from Brahma; from Brahma again are sprung the Yogis Sanaka etc., the Devarṣis Nārada etc., the Brahmāṛṣi Vasiṣṭha etc. the Nine Prajāpatis, Pulastya, Marīchi, Dakṣa,; Kaśyapa etc.

From these sprang the Devas, the Regents of the Quarters (Dik-pālakas), the Fourteen Indras, the Fourteen Manus, the Āsuras, Pitris, Siddhas, Gandharvas, Kinnaras, Kimpuruṣas, Vidyādharas etc., the Vāsus, Rudras, Ādityas, the Aśvīns, and the Dānavas, Yakṣas, Rākṣasas Piśāchas, Guhyakas etc.

Thus there are many varieties of creatures of Deva-Origin.

The human class also has many varieties such as Brāhmaṇas, Kṣatriyas, Vaiṣyas, Śūdras etc.

So also is the animal species such as cattle, beasts, birds, reptiles, moths, worms etc.

The stationary class (vegetable and mineral kingdoms) is also diverse such as trees, bushes, creepers, shrubs, grasses etc.

Trees etc., possess sufficient consciousness (intelligence), necessary to imbibe water etc., as evident from the text:

That (consciousness) is meagre in the lowest forms of life.” (Vishnu Purāṇa VI. 7.64)

Thus the Bound (Baddha souls) are of the classes:

(1) Devas (celestial or superhuman),
(2) human,
(3) animal and
(4) stationary.

These are again (differently) classifiable as:

(1) womb-born,
(2) egg-born,
(3) seed-born and
(4) sweat- born.

The Devas and man are womb-born, (but)

among them Brahma, Rudra etc., Sanaka etc., Sītā, Draupadī, Dhriṣṭadyumna etc., are not thus born (ayonija), so are the Bhūtas, Bhetāḷas etc.

The animals etc. are (some) womb- born, (some) egg-born, and (some) sweat-born.

The Stationary etc., are seed-born.

The Bound (souls), thus delineated, are constantly whirled in the (material) wheel, fashioned from (the elements of) Avidyā (nescience), Karma (acts), Vāsanā (predispositions), Ruci (craving) and association with matter,

meandering like a stream with neither beginning nor end, or like the never-ending process of “seed and plant”;

subject to the chequered conditions (or plights) (of life known as):

gestation, birth, infancy, youth; waking, dream, sleep, trance, dotage, death; heaven (svarga), hell, etc.;

suffering terribly in untold ways the three kinds of afflictions and forfeiting the estate of God-bliss, - their rightful heritage.

Three kinds of afflictions are:

(1) ādhyātmika – self-inflicted;
(2) ādhibhautika – other –inflicted;
(3) ādhidaivika – divine or celestial created.

These (souls again) are of two classes:

(1) Subject to Śāstra, and
(2) Non-subject to Śāstra.

Among these, liability to Śāstra pertain to those Bound (souls) who have the (moral) consciousness dependant on the several senses.

Such is not the case with animals and stationary (creatures).

The (souls) subject to Śāstra are of two classes (again):

(1) coveters of material happiness (Bubhukṣu) and
(2) coveters of spiritual happiness (mumukṣu).

Bubhukṣu cling to the Triad of life-ambitions:

(1) Dharma (duty)
(2) Artha (wealth)
(3) Kāma (delights)

Bubhukṣu (again) are of two classes:

(1) those that ding to Wealth and Delights, and
(2) those that cling to Duty.

The former are those who labour under the notion that body is soul.

The latter are those who are launched on Sacrifices (yajña), Charity (dāna), Austerities (tapas), Pilgrimage (tīrtha- yātrā) etc., all falling under the head “Duty” as per the enunciation: -

Duty is that which paves the way for happiness to come (alaukika)”, and,
Duty is that which is the Way (or means), established by (incentive) Injunction.”

These are believers in the Soul as distinct from the body, and in that there is the other (highest or spiritual) world to come.

The partisans of Duty (dharma) are of two classes (again):

(1) those, adherents of other deities; and
(2) those, of God (Bhagavān).

The adherents of other deities are the worshippers of Brahmā, Rudra etc.

The adherents of God are those devotees who come under the text:

caturvidhā bhajante māṃ janāḥ sukṛtino'rjuna |
ārto jijñāsurarthārthī jñānī ca bharatarṣabha || Bhagavad Gītā 7:16

Four kinds of people who have done virtuous deeds worship Me, O Arjuna –

(1) the distressed person,
(2) the aspirant after knowledge,
(3)the seeker of wealth and
(4) the man of knowledge, O best of Bhāratas.

The distressed (ārta) is he who has lost his fortune and is desirous of recovering it.
The ambitious (arthārthi) is he who longs to grow rich anew.

The Seekers (of redemption, Mumukshu) are of two classes, viz.:

(1) those who - wish for Self-Realisation (kaivalya, isolation) and
(2) those who wish for Divinity (moksha).

Kaivalya or Self-Realisation is the metaphysical soul-bliss secured by the Path of Knowledge (jñāna):

This Soul-bliss is isolate from God-bliss, and is experienced in a Corner of the Spiritual Universe, - in the manner of the wife who has lost her husband, - after travelling along the Way of Light etc. (arcir-ādi- mārga).

Some opine that as those who have travelled along the Path of Light can no more return, there is a Corner assigned in the Physical Universe itself, where they are absorbed in their own Soul-bliss (ātmā anubhāva).

The Aspirers for Divinity or God-bliss are of two kinds:

(1) The God-lovers (bhaktas), and
(2) the Surrendered (prapannas).

The God-lovers are those who have learnt the Vedas with all its limbs and the Upanishads, become versed in the metaphysics of the Vedas, early and later parts thereof,

thereby acquiring the Knowledge of God (Brahman),

- as Him who is distinct from (the Categories) of Conscious (cit) and Non- Conscious (acit),
- as Him whose essential nature is bliss, exalted and measureless,
- as Him who is hostile to all evil and full of all Holy Graces;

... and then resort to the Path of Love (bhakti) leading to Him, thereby aspiring to reach salvation (Moksha).

The Fitness for (the Path of) Love abide in the:

(1) 3 upper Varṇas (Brāhmaṇas, Kṣattriyas, Vaiṣyas),
(2) as also in the Devas (deities or superhuman creatures);

... for in these the attitude of supplication (arthitva), and ability to perform (bhakti) (sāmarthya), subsist.

The Śūdras are not entitled thereto, for reasons argued out in the Apa-Śūdra Section in Vedānta Sūtras.

The Character of (God-) Love has been delineated in the Section on Consciousness (VII).

The (God-) Lovers are of two kinds:

(1) those who practise love with a Motive (sādhana), and
(2) those who practise the same as an End in itself (sādhya).

Vyāsa etc., belong to the former class;
Nātha (muni) etc., to the latter.

The Surrendered (prapanna, or God-Leaner) is he who is distinguished by the qualifications of being without a Path or Resort and reposes (solely) on the Lord (Bhagavān).

He (or It) is of two sorts:

(1) who longs for the Triad of objects – Dharma, Artha, Kāma;
(2) and who longs for emancipation (Moksha).

The aspirer for the Triad is he who longs for the fulfilments of duty, for wealth and for joys.

The aspirer for emancipation (or the Supreme Goal) is he who by association with the good (and wise) has acquired discrimination of what is lasting and what fleeting, what transcendent and what insignificant,

and thereby loses all relish (vairāgya) for worldliness (saṁsāra) and pants for salvation (moksha).

To attain this desired end he repairs to a Spiritual Teacher (ācārya), who is endued with adequate qualities as per text: -

The Teacher is the versed in the Vedas etc.“

and through him seeks Śrī the (Saviour), in Whom vests the function of mediation (puruṣa- kāra) and ...

(finally), realising his lack of power to pursue the Paths of Love etc., and therefore realising his position as one who is bereft of all Ways and Means,

accepts as his sole Means of salvation, the Holy Feet of the Blessed Lord (Śrīman Nārāyaṇa). Such is the Surrendered (prapanna).

Surrender (prapatti) is the High Path to all. The surrendered is of two sorts:

(1) the One-pointed (Ekāṅtī) and
(2) the One- only-pointed (Paramāikāṅtī).

The One-Pointed is the person who addresses himself to God alone for the grant of other (i.e. worldly) boons as well as salvation (moksha); and is therefore one to whom other deities (or demigods) are of no account.

The One-only- pointed is the person who does not crave for any boons even from God Himself except Knowledge and Love (of Him).

This latter is again of two sorts:

(1) the Patient and
(2) the Impatient.

The Patient is he who bows to the inevitable suffering-out of the fruitful (prārabdha) karma, according to the text: -

Inevitably it must be suffered etc.,” and (patiently) waits for salvation to follow on the expiry of (the term of) this body.

The Impatient is he who feels his presence in worldliness unbearable, as if he were placed in the midst of raging flames, and pants for deliverance (or redemption) immediately on craving God therefor.

The Freed (mukta or the Absolved) is he who has accepted the Path, and performs all duties: routine, casual, and all decrees of the Divine, primary and secondary, for the sake of duty.

He avoids all offences against God and the Godly; and at the time of casting off the body, bequeaths His merits and demerits to his friends and foes (respectively);

and rests in peace in the Supreme Lord who abides in the heart, as stated in the text:

Rest speech in mind etc.” (Kaṭha Upanishad III. 13)

(After resting thus a while), It (the Soul) alters into the organ (called the) Sushumna, the door to the Spiritual State (mukti), and thence emerges out of the (head-) Orifice (called the) Brahma-Randhra.

Accompanied by the Lord (abiding) in the heart, It thence passes along the rays of the Sun to the world of Fire (agṇi-loka), and thence journeys on,

adored on the Way by the Presiding Deities of the Day, the Half-month, the Summer Solstice, the Year etc., and (the Deity) Air.

From there It speeds through the sphere of the Sun, and through the wheel of his chariot and the stars, enters the world of the Sun.

Thence again It is conducted in great ceremony by the Hosts of Guides (ātivāhika), the Moon, the Lightning (-Lord), Varuṇa, Indra, Prajāpati, etc.

Passing thus through the several realms owned by these, It crosses (the River) Virajā, the boundary dividing matter from Vaikuṇṭha.

Here It casts off the subtle body, and is received by Amānava. It (the Soul) is now robed in an immaterial divine Form, four-armed, and is decorated Brahman- fashion.

It (now) enters the City of Vaikuṇṭha, with the permission of the sentinels bearing the names Indra and Prajāpati.

Passing through a towered gate flying with banners and flanked by stretching ramparts, It feasts its eyes with the nectar-lake the Airammada, and the figs tree the Soma-savana.

It is now greeted by five hundred damsels, in groups of hundred, as stated in the text: -

A hundred (damsels) with garlands in hand etc.,” and is beautified by Brahma-perfume etc. It then salutes (the Eternals or Archangels) Ananta, Garuda, Viṣvaksena etc., resident there and is equally treated so in return.

It then proceeds to the Superb-gemmed Pavilion, and renders obeisance, at the (blessed) Seat, to Its Spiritual Teachers (who are there).

Now It (Soul) approaches nearer the (Divine) Seat, where It finds the throne thereon, Dharma (etc.).,-made, the Lotus over it, and Ananta over again.

On the sides stand Vimalā etc., with fans (waving) in their hands, serving God (Bhagavān), Who is installed there

- with His (Queens) Śrī, Bhū and Nīla;

- Who is bedecked with the Divine Weapons: Conch, Discus etc.;

-Who is blazing with the countless Divine Ornaments, the Crown, the Diadem;

and, for the head, ears, neck, breast, arms, wrists, waist and ankles, such (jewels) as Cūdāvataṁsa, Makara- Kuṇḍalā, Graiveyaka-hāra, Keyūra, Kaṭaka, Śrī- vatsa, Kaustubha, Muktā-damodara-bandhana, Pitāmbara, Kāñcīguṇa, Nūpura, etc. ;

-and Who is the boundless Ocean of Graces.

God so installed, the Soul sees; and approaching, plants Its foot on the Seat and is received into the lap of the Lord:

- To the inquiry “Who art thou?”
- Soul says, “I am Thy-make”, and His benign looks are dowered on It.

From the ineffable bliss ensuing on joying with the Lord, Soul is lovingly established in Service to Him, at all places and for all times, in all situations and for all varieties (of service).

The 8-fold Graces (Chāṇḍogya VIII 1. 5) dawn on the Soul, and It is forever more installed in the joy of the Lord (Brahmā-anubhāva).

Such Soul is the Absolved (mukta):

Its equality with the Lord (Brahman) is as respects the bliss alone thereof; for all concern with cosmic functions is precluded by hypothesis.

It could assume any form and visit any part of the Universe (at will):

But if it be asked how, if the Absolved (mukta) returns not, as it is said, It can be free to roam there,

we say: Not so, the return precluded is that (entailed) by karma; not excursions at Its own (freed) will (and pleasure). Hence the Absolved Soul, ever in harmony with the Will of the Lord (Bhagavān), freely everywhere tours.

The Eternals (Nityās or the Ever-Free), are those whose function is never at variance with the Will of the Lord (Bhagavān), and never therefore are they subject to their consciousness (ever) becoming dimmed:

They are Ananta, Garuda, Viṣvaksena and others:

The functions appointed them in perpetuity are determined by the Eternal Will of God. Their Incarnations, like the Incarnations of God Himself, are determined by choice (i. e. not compelled by karma).

In the manner aforesaid, the (Category of) Soul, comprised of the varieties of bound (baddha), freed (mukta), and eternal (nitya), has been depicted.

Thus ends Chapter 8,
The Treatment of the Soul (Jīva) in the
“Light of the School of Rāmānuja.”