Life / Rebirth / Jiva / Atma / Manas

What is Jiva

Jīva (also pronounced as jeeva), is the innate or primordial force which inherits this body. It tethers both the physical body (Sthula:Śarīra) and the subtle body (Sukshma:Śarīra), and wears it like a cloth. It is not bound by kālá/kālám (time), meaning it doesn’t age, nor grow weak. This Jīva makes one recognize one’s own existence in a given time but is not aware of its true self or its true source. It can be interpreted as a soul, but is really nothing but agitation or vibration of Brahmān. This agitation within Brahmān is to create a temporary state of “absence-of-consciousness-of-Brahmān”, meaning Brahmān (the infinite awareness), with its infinite possibilities, thinks/creates a momentary agitation to temporarily mask the notion of the supreme consciousness. This temporary absence-of-consciousness-of-Brahmān is called the Jīva. Hence, Jīva is attributed to śakti (agitation) and not to Consciousness, whereas Ātman is attributed to Consciousness. This Jīva is unaware of itself and the supreme consciousness, so thinking and imagination manifest in its Antahkarana (psychological framework), and consequently the mind manifests as a psychological process. Though in this momentary state, the Supreme-Infinite-Consciousness abandons the thought of its Infinite state, there is no real transformation in Brahmān as there are no two entities, one Brahmān and other Jīva. It is like an actor rehearsing his character in a play. During rehearsal the actor temporarily drops his/her identity and imagines a new character to play the role. This “Psychological Framework” of a Jīva is called the Antahkarana (which constitutes of Chitta, Mānas, Ahaṃkāra and Buddhi/Viveka). This mind (psychological framework) is vague and imaginative due to the lack of clarity of its true self. This thinking then entertains the five elements and merges with them as a basis to physicality (Prakṛti aspect of śakti), and so results in the manifestation of sense organs and comes under the influence of Guṇa in Prakṛti. The mind and the sense organs, though separate, coincide with each other in perfect rhythm, as if they are the same. This Cosmic Jīva is a cumulative of all Jīvas, utters AUM (the prāṇava) – resulting in the manifestation of various objects. This Cosmic Jiva now imagines so many objects, and itself in so many ways – filling creation with a multitude of combinations and flavors of jivas. A Jiva traverses from one body to another and accumulates various tendencies (Vāsanā) in each life, then takes a new host to shed its karma:phala. The destiny of a Jīva is to shed its Vāsanā (an inherent habit which constitutes the mānas) and realize itself to be the Ātman. In many cases, a Jīva falsely associates itself to physicality. (Swami Venkatesananda. 1993)

A sloka from Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2 of Sankhya Yoga, Sloka 13, in which Gitacharya (Sri Krishna) says:

देहिनोऽस्मिन्यथा देहे कौमारं यौवनं जरा।
तथा देहान्तरप्राप्तिर्धीरस्तत्र न मुह्यति।।

Meaning, this innate Jīva that dwells within a physical body witnesses childhood, youth, old age, and death, but also takes up a new host body and continues the same cycle again. Hence, for this Jīva, there is no death and the wise who realize this have nothing to grieve.

Maharśi Vaśiṣṭha explains the passage of Jīva to Sri Rama in his Yoga as:

“when there is a cessation of the flow of the life-breath (prāṇa), the consciousness of the individual becomes utterly passive. When the life-breath ceases, the body is said to be ‘dead’ or ‘inert’. The life-breath returns to its source – air – and consciousness, freed from memory and tendencies, remains as the self. That atomic ethereal particle which is possessed of these memories and tendencies is known as the jiva: and it remains there itself in the space where the dead body is. That jiva now abandons its ideas and what it had been seeing till then, and perceives other things as in dreaming or day-dreaming. After a momentary lapse of consciousness, the jiva begins to fancy that it sees another body, another world, and another life-span.”

(Swami Venkatesananda. 1993)

In this article let’s look into the following questions, What is the purpose of a Jīva? How does one reach “jiva Brahmā:ikya:siddhi”? After attaining Jiva:brahmā:ikya:siddhi does the Jīva leave the body? Will everyone reach “Jīva Brahmā:ikya:siddhi”? Can one be happy all the time? In order to explore this, let us learn some core definitions.

Samashti (Samashṭi) Jīva (Cosmic Soul)

When this entire creation and all its beings are considered as one single entity with a life force that drives its existence in māyā (illusion), that cumulative life force (in all beings as one) is called Samashṭi Jīva. Brahmā (one of the trinity, not Brahmān), also referred to as Hiranyagarbha (golden womb) is considered as the Samashṭi Jīva or the Cosmic Jīva. The story goes as follows. When the concept of creation (within the māyā) germinated in Brahmā, He created various worlds and beings with life force (subsets of Samashṭi Jīva), which grew without end or demise. This caused Rudra to emerge and advise Brahmā to replicate the cosmic loop of creation-dissolution at all levels within His creation. To do this, a being called Mrityu Devi (Goddess of Death) was born of Him (hence became His daughter) so as to constantly sprout creation (animation of smaller entities) within the broader creation, and then the dissolution of that animation back into the source. Hence creation and dissolution became a duet (or a dance) that exists in the smallest aspect of creation to the highest. (Sri Garikapati. N.J.V, n.d., p.1470-1490, Swami Venkatesananda. 1993)

What is Upādhi

Upādhi is the physical form, like animal form, human form, plant form or other celestial forms that a Jīva wears to sustain in this physical reality of Prakṛti. These forms have six aspects known as Shedurma (Shed means six, and Urma means attributes), which are Hunger (Bhuk), Thirst (Daha), Sickness (Jara), Death (Marana), Anguish (Shoka) and finally Desire (Moha or kama). Without these, a physical form has no purpose in this reality. The purpose of a Jīva to take up an upādhi is to shed its karmaphala (karma:phala).

Pancha Kosha – 5 layers of a being

What is Kosha

Kosha means layers. A being’s (upādhi) existence is compartmentalized into five layers called the Pancha Kosha (pancha means five). The following is their classification, and the definition of each layer will follow in this article.
Annamāyā Kosha: This is the physical layer which is the body of the being (upādhi) that is sustained by food (Anna).
Prāṇamāyā Kosha: This is the layer of life, which consists of five varieties of air (vayu). It allows the physical body to grow and regenerate.
Manomāyā Kosha: This is the layer that is non-physical and operates on like (preeti/raga) and dislike (dveṣa), and is under constant flux.
Vijnanmāyā Kosha : This is the layer of pure intelligence that is unblemished by desire or selfishness.
Anandamāyā Kosha: This is the final layer, which taps into the supreme bliss that extends as the Ātman of a being (upādhi).

What is Sthula Śarīra

This body (physical body born from Prakṛti), as per Yoga Shastra (Śāstra), is called Sthula Śarīra, wherein Sthula means physical or solid, and Śarīra means body or being. This Sthula Śarīra is constituted of seven elements called Dhatu (Sapta Dhatu), which are a part of five aspects of creation called Bhoota (Pancha Bhūta). This Sthula Śarīra belongs to the Annamāyā Kosha.

Pancha Bhūta : 5 elements of nature (Ayurveda) Panchmahabhuta – The Five Elements. (2015)

Pancha Bhūta: Pancha means five and bhūta means beings. The five bhūta are Fire or Heat (Agni), Water (Aapas),  Vayu (Wind/air), Aakas or Aakash (Ether, Space, Fabric-of-space) and Prithvi (soil/earth/stone/land).

Sapta Dhatu : Seven elements of body. Orientation to Ayurveda. (n.d.)

Saptha Dhatu: As per Ayurveda Śāstra, Sapta Dhatu are the seven (sapta) building elements (dhatu) that constitute the physical body. These seven elements are Rasa (body fluids within the intestine, lymph, and other parts), Rakta (blood), Mamsa (flesh and muscle), Medha (fat), Asthi (shell or bone), Majja (the filling within the bone/shell or marrow), and finally Shukra, which is also known as Tejas or Veerya (semen and egg).

What is Sukshma Śarīra

Sukshma means subtle or non-physical or minute, and Śarīra means the body (not necessarily physical in nature). This Sukshma Śarīra constitutes various aspects like memory, intelligence (there are multiple facets of intelligence like Bhuddhi, Chitta), information, impressions, Guṇa, sensation, identity (ahankara), Vāsanā and more. These aspects are also known as Antahkarana. Mānas itself is Sukshma Śarīra. In Yoga Śāstra, there is compartmentalization of memory and intelligence, which are not just limited to the physical aspect of mind. The limited way of looking at this is to consider them as facets of mind but Yogic Śāstra has clear compartmentalization of thirty such facets of Sukshma Śarīra. This Sukshma Śarīra belongs to the Prāṇamāyā, Manomāyā, Vijnanmāyā, and Anandamāyā Koshas.

A rudimentary analogy for Sthula Śarīra is like hardware, whereas Sukshma Śarīra is like intelligent software, data.

Now that we know Kosha (five layers of a being), as well as Sthula and Sukshma Śarīra, let us put this into a real-time example. Say, we head out to catch a movie with our friends, which we have been planning for a few weeks. What this means is, the physical body (Sthula Śarīra), a part of the Annamāyā Kosha is not at the movie yet, it is still traveling and on the way. But various levels of Sukshma Śarīra have already reached the destination long ago. The mānas (Manomāyā Kosha), especially, operates on “like” (rāga) and “dislike” (dveṣa). The mānas will use the mind like a tool to calculate various possibilities to enjoy this event. The mind, in this case, is like a calculator or a computer that crunches the old memory and presents various ways in which this event could be enjoyable. Using these presented ideas, the mānas dwells and drowns itself in these imaginations like an addict. Imagination and dreaming about happiness are the fundamental nature of the mānas. Even if the mind presents warnings and disclaimers, the mānas will reject it and try to resist it. It will look for alternatives to reach its dream state. This is a very powerful entity in our bodies. Now, say it starts to rain and the traffic is jammed, the mind says there is no practical way of reaching the destination on time. The friends also call to cancel the event and suggest to postpone it for another day. The mind will say this is the appropriate thing to do, the mānas will reject it, it will ask the mind to take drastic steps to somehow make it happen. The mind again studies the possibilities and presents an absolute “no”. Now, the mānas agrees but doesn’t accept the outcome. The physical body will go back home, but the mānas continues to linger in the dream in which it has invested so much time for weeks. The mānas dictates the mind and the body to act as if they were at the event and dwells in fantasy, but in reality, the body and the mind are at home. This resistance creates an imbalance and confusion between the mind and the mānas, causing a chemical imbalance in the body. This is like friction between reality and the dream created by the mānas. Say, a day has passed, but the mānas still continues to ask the mind to calculate various possibilities in which it could have made it to the event and enjoyed its dream. The mānas is still in a hangover state and not present in the current reality. What this means is, all the beautiful things at home that are currently available are ignored because the mānas is somewhere else. The mānas insults the reality and all its possibilities. It soaks itself in fantasy and starts to blame traffic, weather, karma, and sometimes loved ones too. This is what Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev calls “the lack of discipline of the human faculties”. This lack of discipline, and the mānas not being in sync with the mind and the other layers of the body (like the Vijnanmāyā kosha), is because Yoga has not been a part of our lives. Yoga here is not just the physical exercise aspect, it is the complete union of the self with everything around. Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev describes yoga as:

“When we say ‘yoga’, for most people it probably means twisting the body into impossible postures. That’s not what yoga is about. Yoga means to be in perfect tune. Your body, mind and spirit and the existence are in absolute harmony. When you fine-tune yourself to a point where everything functions so beautifully within you, the best of your abilities will naturally flow out of you.”

“Yoga is not an expression, it’s a method, it’s a means, it is a technology through which you can change the very shape of who you really are, change the fundamentals of your very existence.”

(Sadhguru. I.Y, n.d., Sadhguru. P.Y.S 2019)


Avastha (States of Awareness)

There are a total of three states (Avastha) of awareness of a being – Jagrut/Jagrati, Swapna, Sushupti. As we have seen earlier, there is Vesti, the individual self, and Samashṭi, the cumulative of all individual identities. These three states apply to both the Vesti and the Samashṭi. Then there is Turiya, which is not really a subsequent state, but an essence, like an aroma that permeates across all states, as it denotes pure consciousness. Beyond Turiya we have Turiyatita (Turi:atita), which is also not a subsequent state.

The three states are described from the aspect of both Vesti and Samashṭi.

Jagrati is a state of wakefulness. In this state, the awareness makes a Jīva identify itself and the creation around. This identification is mostly towards the Sthula Śarīra (Gross Body), so it relies on the sense organs (indriya) and physicality of nature. This state allows Ahankara (Self-identification) for a Jīva, with which it tries to preserve the self and experiences rāga (Likes) and dveṣa (Dislikes) towards the rest of the entities in creation. Using this, a Jīva categorizes everything and strives towards rāga (likes).

The Vesti (the individual self) that is in this state of Jagrati is titled as Vishwaha, meaning that which is a part of Viśvām/viśvām (everything around), but proclaims itself to be separate from Viśvām and acknowledges to be residing in Viśvām. Similarly, the Samashṭi in this state is titled as Vishwaanara. Since this state is where a jiva consciously strives to preserve the self, the Samashṭi tries to preserve all the individual selves. This is the nature of the preserver, and so this state is accredited to Śrī Mahā Viṣṇu; hence the title Vishnu:hu. His Sahasranama Stotram starts with the title Viśvām and the rest of the titles are either subtitles or are synonymous to Viśvām. The preserver aspect also applies to Devi or Shakti (Prakṛti is an aspect of śakti). She, as śakti, is titled as Jagarnayi and Her state of witness is called Vishwarupa. Meaning the one who is the admirer (abhimani) of the Jagrati state of all individual selves in Her Māyā. In Her Sahasranama Stotram, she is addressed with the title Jagarnayi Namaha.

Swapna is a state wherein the Vesti is not lucid but dwells in a non-lucid dream state. In this state, the Jīva’s identity imagines itself (using accumulated memory) in another reality – apart from the Jagrati and Viśvām. Both an individual’s rāga and dveṣa foster in this dream state, but this reality is real for the Vesti, unless the Jīva comes back to Jagrati. In this state, the Vesti is titled Tejasaha; similarly, the Samashṭi is titled Hiranyagarbha. Since this state is a creation of the self, and since the self is the author of this reality, the Samashṭi is accredited to Lord Brahmā for being the Vidhata (the author of destiny). The aspect of māyā applies to Devi; hence, as Shakti, she is titled Tejasatmika and Her state of witness is called Swapanti. Meaning the one who is the admirer (abhimani) and witness to Swapna of all individual selves in Her Māyā. In Her Sahasranama Stotram, she is addressed with the title Tejasatmikaya Namaha.

Sushupti is a state wherein the Jīva dwells in a sleep-like condition, but without the vividness of another self-reality. Meaning, the Jīva doesn’t witness itself in a Jagrati like an illusion. In this state, Vesti is titled as Pragnayaha; similarly, the Samashṭi is titled as Ishwanara or Ishwara (Iśvara). Since this state is not a creation of the self, the Samashṭi is accredited to Lord Shiva (Śiva) for His Nitya Pralaya (one of many categories of Pralaya). In this aspect She, as śakti, is titled as Pragnatmika and Her state of witness is called Shuktayai. Meaning, the one who is the admirer (abhimani) and witness to Puruṣa’s Nitya Pralaya. In Her Sahasranama Stotram, she is addressed with the titles Shuktayai Namaha, Pragnatmikayai Namaha, and Maha Pralaya Sakshinai Namaha.

In Adi Shankaracharya’s grand composition called Sarva Vedānta Siddhānta Sara Sangraha, he says:

“Vishvosmin sthula:dayhetu, Swabhimaanena:tistathi
Yatiha:tato Vishwa Itinamha, Asarthaha Bhavati:ayam”

The Jīva keeps identifying itself with its gross physical body and limits its own identity
due to ahankara, resulting in self-admiration. Hence, the notion of being a part of Viśvām is lost. The Jīva gains confidence that it is the doer (karta). On the Samashṭi level, it is Iśvara as Vishwanara (for Jagrati), as Hiranyagarbha (for Swapna) and Ishwanara (for Sushupti) who is the one performing the kriya. This can also be interpreted as we being in the reality dreamt by Iśvara, which is an illusion called Māyā of śakti; and it is She who can push us deeper into Her Māyā or bring us closer to Purusha (Puruṣa). Hence, as PVRK Prasad said:

“Nahim:Kartah, Hari:Kartha”

Meaning, I am not the doer and it is Hari the doer making the self a witness. When individual identity is lost and belongingness as a whole (Brahmān) is realized, then one moves beyond the three states of awareness. Hence the sloka:

“Brahmivid Brahmaina Bhavati”

Meaning, upon realizing Brahmān, one is Brahmān.

In his grand composition Upasesasahasri, Adi Shankaracharya says:

Manasetu gruhey:vektaha, Su:avidya karma:vasanam
Pasyam:taijasa:atmoktaha, swayamjothi prakashitaha

Meaning, a Jīva builds a nest (or home) within the entity known as mānas and dwells endlessly in the loop of Karma and its karmaphalas as Vāsanās. Though the Jīva is the one witnessing this Viśvām (everything around), it is Ātman that is the true witness which shines by itself, untainted by Māyā. Hence, when the Jīva creates an illusory reality it is called a dream (Swapna); but when the Samashṭi (Iśvara) creates an illusory reality it is called Māyā. Hence the saying by Sri Shankaracharya

Brahma:satyam, Jagan:mithya

Meaning, Brahmān is the only truth and Jagat (reality) is an illusion. (Sri Garikapati. N.J.V, n.d., p.1474)

What is Prāṇa

In general, prāṇa refers to being alive. However, being alive is a broad and debatable concept as per current science. As per Yoga Śāstra, prāṇa is a constitution of five vayus (Prāṇa, Apana, Udana, Vyana and Samana). Vayu means wind or, in this case, air. In common explanation, a being is said to have passed away when either the air (vayu) that is taken in is not let out, or, after letting out the vayu, it is not taken back in. So prāṇa (being alive) is determined based on the exit of these five vayus from the body. As per Yoga Śāstra, this body (physical body) is called Sthula Śarīra, wherein Sthula means physical or solid, and Śarīra means body. These vayus don’t necessarily leave a degraded or damaged body (Sthula Śarīra) immediately. They exit in an orderly fashion allowing the body to decompose in that respective progression. The stage of exit of these vayus determines the possibility of reviving or putting life back into the body. Upon the exit of these vayus, the body becomes inhospitable for a Jīva to tether itself to the Sthula Śarīra, as Jīva is that which tethers both the Sthula Śarīra and the Sukshma Śarīra. When these vayus exit, the Jīva loses the hold between these two Śarīra and so lets go of its tether to seek a new host (upādhi).

What is Vāsanā

Vāsanā is an inherent habit or memory carried over by the Jīva, which get triggered by the Guṇa in Prakṛti. This inherent habit is an impression left on a Jīva due to Sādhanā (practice) or striving done by a Jīva in previous lives, which it carries over to the next. If one practices towards devotion or upliftment of consciousness, then that impression is carried over to the next life. The same applies towards a life lived with hate or vengeance or discrimination.

What is Mānas

Śrī Adi Śankaracharya defines mānas as“Sankalpa Vikalpa Sangatham”, wherein Sankalpa means resolution or decision, and Vikalpa means to be in a state of flux or fantasy and uncertainty, and finally, Sangatham means to struggle. Hence, mānas is that entity which struggles between resolutions and uncertainty. Mānas belongs to the Manomāyā Kosha and is the lowest ranking entity of antaḥkaraṇa, yet has the highest influence on the psychology of a human. Ahaṃkāra is like the spoiled arrogant child of the mānas; together, they use the Buddhi as a tool to overshadow the entire antaḥkaraṇa. Hence the sloka from Swarnamala Stuti composed by Adi Shankaracharya says:

“antaHkaraNa vishuddiM bhaktim cha tvayi satIM pradehi vibho”

Meaning, Śrī Śankaracharya – on our behalf – is asking Shambho and Sati (prior manifestation of Devi Parvati as Prakṛti) to cleanse our antaḥkaraṇa, through bhakti (devotion), to remove the effects of Tamas and Rajas of Prakṛti, which manifest in Mānas and Ahaṃkāra.

This mānas can either be clouded by doubt arising from Vāsanā (as emotions), or it can be governed by intellect (Buddhi) through Upāsanā via Sādhanā. There lies a difference between Mānas and Mind. The mind is a generic term of the human psychology involving feelings, emotions, volition, and thoughts managed by the brain, over accumulated information; however, mānas uses this mind (technically the buddhi) and its memory, to reason between like and dislike (rāga-dveṣa). Because of Like & Dislike, Mānas has a huge imaginative power and so is emotionally dominant. A Jīva forgets its true self and keeps becoming a victim to its inherent Vāsanā and constantly struggles with decision making. Mānas is a part of the Sukshma Śarīra (non-physical or subtle body) and is directly related to the physical breathing pattern. In reaction to various emotions, especially hate, fear or jealousy, arising out of Vāsanā and Guṇa, various chemical reactions take place in the physical body (Sthula Śarīra). This causes our heart and breathing pattern to lose balance. This breathing pattern is directly coupled to the life-force of a body, called prāṇa (various vayu/air that reside within our body). So, when a balanced breathing pattern is disturbed, the mānas tries to react and reason with our mind’s information. Though buddhi presents information and statistics, the mānas obscures this information and directs actions based on its likes and dislikes. Hence, one has to carefully witness and examine the likes and dislikes of the mānas. Otherwise, these decisions and actions will leave an impression upon a Jīva that will be carried over to the next life. In fact, it will determine the upādhi (form, like animal form or human form or other celestial forms) of a Jīva in the next life. One should not fight or be in conflict with one’s mānas, one has to treat mānas like a child or a monkey and slowly train it with love and reasoning. So, the Manaha doesn’t know anything other than Prakṛti. Manaha doesn’t understand Brahmān, which is just a word for it to talk about or brag about to portray itself as knowledgeable. It can say God, Iśvara, Puruṣa, Paramātma, ātman, Supreme Consciousness and more – all these are just fancy words for it. So, the Manaha doesn’t know ANYTHING other than Prakṛti, which is its mother. Because of manaha, a being strives for pleasure and self survival, like an infant clinging to its mother (more visible in the animal kingdom); if this clinginess is not there, survival becomes chaotic and accidental. So, Manaha is a child that makes us survive by safely clinging to our Mother (Prakṛti); at the same time, it can come out of its mother’s lap and take baby steps towards the father (Puruṣa), initially only for few moments at a time; but eventually, this gap will increase. When this gap increases, Manaha dissolves and Prakṛti (including our own physical body) becomes a ladder/bridge to Puruṣa. So, Manaha is not a bad entity, it is just an ignorant toddler who breaks things and throws toys in the toilet. Manaha is just silly and ignorant but essential for keeping one’s existence in safety by staying close to one’s mother (Prakṛti). This makes manaha a double-edged sword, meaning it can easily be fooled into doing something adharma or it can be charmed by the stories of the Puráńas to move it towards Puruṣa. At the same time, manaha can be extremely rigid and strongly rooted in the self so that no amount of debate can convince it otherwise. Hence, manaha is a doubled-edged contradiction that is in constant struggle (gharshana). This path to Puruṣa (Consciousness) can only happen through upāsanā via Sādhanā with śraddhā (practice through dedication). Various paths of Sādhanā have been put forth by Yoga, like the eight forms of Yoga called Ashtangayoga. “Asta” means eight, “anga” means branches or limbs, “yoga” means a path or a method to a union. One can channel mānas through these eight yogic aspects, which are Yama, Niyama (discipline), Aasana (balanced posture), Prāṇayama (balanced breath), Pratyahara (sense perception), Dhyāna (contemplation), Dharana (meditation) and Samadhi (final union with Puruṣa). Various forms of Bhakti (Bhakti Yoga) are also prescribed – like the Nava:vida Bhakti. Channeling mānas means to break free from its bond of likes and dislikes (rāga-dveṣa).

“Hetam manoharika durlabham vachaha”

(Suvarnamala Stuti. 2017)

Meaning, words of well-being are often disliked by mānas, since it always seeks pleasure of the senses and comfort, based on its strong bonding to likes and dislikes, conditioned over many lifetimes. Mānas has to accept Buddhi to be the one that projects and concludes, and then put into practice using its Indriya. (Garikapati. 2016. SMA)

If one fails to channel one’s mānas, then during the final breath of the Jīva (before death), the mānas which lacks Sādhanā (practice) will continue to hold on to enmity, hate, jealousy, selfishness, discrimination – and so will carry these aspects to its next life. Through practice (Sādhanā) one fosters a nature that is uncontaminated by desire or hate or selfishness; seeking pure consciousness (Satva Guṇa) that Jīva will seek the Supreme Singular Consciousness (Brahmān). The nature of the mānas in its final breath will determine the upādhi (form) of the next life. This message can be found in Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 8 of Akshara Brahmān Yoga, Sloka 5 & 6, wherein Gitacharya (Śrī Kṛṣṇa) says:

अन्तकाले च मामेव स्मरन्मुक्त्वा कलेवरम्।
यः प्रयाति स मद्भावं याति नास्त्यत्र संशयः।।
यं यं वापि स्मरन्भावं त्यजत्यन्ते कलेवरम्।
तं तमेवैति कौन्तेय सदा तद्भावभावितः।।

(Gita Supersite. n.d.)

What is Guṇa

Guṇa is the manifestation of human character (persona) molded out of Vāsanā (traits from previous lives) depending on the level of consciousness. In the process of evolving in consciousness, a person strives to shed its inherent Vāsanā and moves either towards higher consciousness or towards the darkness of hate and selfishness. Each person is different and has a different interpretation and approach towards things, like a choice or perspective and more, but how can one define the reason why people are born with such an interpretation. Circumstance does play a role by providing experience; however, the choice made by an individual when presented with options is defined by this nature or Guṇa. Guṇa can be classified into three evolving states, they are tamas or tamo Guṇa,  rajas or rajo Guṇa and Satva Guṇa. The final evolved state is the Shudha Satva Guṇa.

What is Janma

To reside in the physical realm of this reality, a Jīva needs a physical host body like a human being or an animal or a plant. But why? Because in this physical reality, a human body becomes a means for a Jīva to both experience Punya (puńya) and pápa inherited by Karma. This body becomes a means towards both pain and pleasure. This form is obtained through birth in a given era of kālá(am) (time), and the process is known as Janma.


What is Atma or Ātman

There are two modes or shades in which Ātman can be explained. Various Rishis (Maharśi), Acharyas who are Avatara (manifestations) have put forth a path (Siddhānta) in each era depending on the situation, time and level of awareness of beings. As per the Advita (dvita meaning dual, a:dvita meaning there is no two entities), Ātman is nothing but Brahmān; only in conversations do Rśi and Acharyas use this distinction. They use the term Ātman/Self when addressing an individual, and Brahmān when referring to whole/infinite. Since it is not in one’s experience, neither Brahmān nor Ātman can be put into words. Ātman is a not a second entity, because the infinite doesn’t have parts, nor shades or subsections. One can’t divide infinite into pieces. One can’t divide space, one can just perceive space as cross-sections for understanding. Ātman is not a subject that one has to explore, nor an object that one has to understand through another object. It acts as a witness to māyā. Let us take an analogy – there is nothing but space, now a bubble emerges in space, this bubble is nothing but water which encapsulates/captures space, this is called Ātman. This thin film of water is called māyā. Neither Ātman, nor māyā are separate from Brahmān. In other words, there is no such thing as his/her Ātman vs my Ātman. There is no such thing as my Ātman is trying to understand your Ātman. Ātman is not a part of Brahmān nor a subordinate. Brahmān is pure infinite awareness and pure intelligence, it is Nirguṇa, meaning that with no personalities, personas or characteristics – hence Brahmān is just a word that cannot be defined within the frontiers of the vocabulary by the intellect of mind. Creation (jagat) is not a second entity created by Brahmān, it is an illusion (māyā) of Brahmān that a Jīva experiences. One’s Ātman is nothing but a window to Brahmān, like an empty pot; the pot is Brahmān, the space inside the pot is Brahmān, the space outside is Brahmān, the space within is not different from the space outside. The opening of the pot is called the window. This pot is an illusion called māyā, it is a window within our māyā (illusion), a shell we created out of the reflection of our mind. Another analogy is a wave in an ocean – a wave is an agitation called māyā, the wave is not different from the ocean. It is not the Ātman which is in confusion, it is the Jīva’s false representation of itself as a material object. This illusion is called a:vidya arising out of māyā. Māyā, Ātman, Self, Truth are all Brahmān, there are no two things, one Brahmān and other non-Brahmān. Infinite can’t be infinite if there is a second entity that is not infinite. This concept is very difficult to understand and define in words, hence it is easy to view Ātman as a subsection of Brahmān or an extension of Para:mĀtma within Brahmān.

In his Yoga on Creation, Maharśi Vasistha explains to Śrī Ram:

“During  the cosmic dissolution the entire objective creation is resolved into the infinite being, which is variously designated as Atma, Brahman, Truth, etc., by the wise, to facilitate communication and dialogue. This same infinite self conceives within itself the duality of oneself and the other. Hence, mind arises, as a wave arises when the surface of the calm ocean is disturbed. But please bear in mind that just as a bracelet of gold is but gold, the qualities and the nature of the created and the potentiality of creation are inherent in the creator.”

(Swami Venkatesananda. 1993)

In the profound composition of Patanjali Yoga Sutra, translated by I.K Taimni in the book, “The Science of Yoga”, it is precisely stated that:

“Jivatma has become subjectively separated from Paramatma and is destined, after going through an evolutionary cycle in the manifested Universe, to become united with Him again in consciousness. This state of unification of the two in consciousness as well as the mental process and discipline through which this union is attained are both called Yoga”

(I.K.Taimni. 1975)

This means the purpose of a Jīva is to realize Ātman, hence the phrase “Aham Brahmāsmi” – meaning this “Me” (I the Ātman) is Brahmān; in other words, my identity is not limited to this physicality but that of the supreme. Ātman acts as an interface or an opening between this false reality (māyā) and the innate energy which is the Jīva, and helps the Jīva in retaining an upaadhi. Jīva and Ātman are interchangeably used and sometimes also called jivatma, meaning the Ātman in a Jīva or Jiva’s Ātman (not that each Jīva has its own unique Ātman). A good example is an empty pot, which holds what? It holds space. And where does this pot reside? It resides in the same space. The pot has an opening, which is what? It is nothing but a window to the same space. What is the pot made of? The same māyā that belongs to this space. What happens to the pot when it is broken? The space inside the pot is the same space outside the pot. Similarly, a Jīva (the life-source) that tethers both the sthula-Śarīra and the sukshma-Śarīra encapsulates itself with māyā and the material nature, and falsely identifies itself as this body. In reality, this māyā and this body and this notion of “I” all reside within Brahmān, but since there exists no second entity other than Brahmān, Jagat becomes an illusion. The supreme authority who comes as an Avatara (manifestation of the supreme as an anomaly) speaks of this truth – standing as if He is one among us, but with no notion of “I” as a being, but as the representative of Brahmān (as the very opening to Brahman) and shines as the essence of Pāramatma.

Now, coming to the other mode of understanding from the vantage of a bhakta (Devotee), in which case Brahmān becomes Bhagavān, wherein Bhagavān is the beloved title given by the servile group known as bhakta (devotees) towards their seer or master (The One Supreme Authority). In this mode, atma becomes a subset of the same Brahmān but of a lesser shade. As stated in the Patanjali Yoga Sutra, translated by I.K Taimni in the book, “The Science of Yoga”:

“Jivatma is a facet or partial expression of the Over-Soul or Paramatma, the Divine Reality which is the source or substratum of the manifested Universe”

(I.K.Taimni. 1975)

In this way, there exists a certain duality among the servile and the master. This doesn’t mean atman is a separate entity, it is still a part of Brahmān, but with lesser energy than that of the supreme. In this mode, “Aham Brahmāsmi” means “Me” is the servile entity in service of the One Supreme Atma (Pāramatma). This approach is the most beautiful because the path of devotion is the sweetest among all. Hence, never draw a conclusion over the two modes in which Atman is explained, and never argue with the intent to undermine one Siddhānta over another (Advita or Dvita and others) as they were customized to suit the temperament of people belonging to a certain era.

As explained by Swami Prabhavananada and Christopher Isherwood in their translation of Śrī Adishankaracharya’s renowned composition of Advita Siddhānta titled Vivekachudamani (Crest -Jewel of Discrimination):

“The sun’s rays bring forth layers of cloud. By them, the sun is concealed; and so it appears that the cloud alone exists. In the same way, the ego (identity) which is brought forth by the Atman, hides the true nature of the Atman; and so it appears that the ego alone exists.”
“When the Atman is enveloped in the thick darkness of tamas, the terrible power of rajas attacks the deluded man with all kinds of sorrow”

(Swami Prabhavananda. Isherwood, Christopher. 1947)

Hence, the saying that every literature about Iśvara is savored by Maharśi Vyasa, but the only aspect that remains unsavored and left for each individual to taste by themselves is the Ātman. To understand this distinction, Śāstra uses the analogy of a bubble on water. A bubble is nothing but a tiny film of water which expands and captures some air (which is nothing but time), and retains its shape (upādhi) and identifies itself as separate from the water just because of it is holding air for a certain period of time.  (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.14)

What is a Jīva’s purpose

A Jīva’s final purpose and abode is its unification with Para:Brahmā, by realizing its true identity which is Ātman – hence the phrase “Aham:Brahmās:mi”. To reach this state of “Aham:Brahmās:mi”, the Jīva has to realize that its own existence is separate from its physical body and then realize itself to be none other than Ātman, which is an extension of Pramatma. This realization is called Jīvabrahmāikyasiddhi (Jīva Brahmā:ikya:siddhi). To achieve this state, the Jīva looks for a container to become its host and wears it to shed its karma:phala. It also utilizes this host body to perform dharmic karma and gain puńya. Hence, the purpose of a human form is Dharm:anusthanam, meaning implementation of one’s respective dharma. In other words, Iśvara bestowed this human form for Dharma:sadhana, meaning a means to practice dharma and uplift ourselves by shedding our karma. One can reap the benefit of puńya as comforts and riches and utilize them to help others, in turn replenishing one’s puńya. One can also use these comforts and riches to educate oneself of Dharma and walk towards “Jīva Brahmā:ikya:siddhi”. However, the alternative way to deplete this puńya is by enjoying the comforts of the karma:phala and letting kālá(am) (time) exhaust it.

Will everyone reach “Jīva Brahmā:ikya:siddhi”

Before we answer this let us look at a sloka from Śrīmad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 7 of Jnana Vijnana Yoga, Sloka 3, wherein Gitacharya (Śrī Kṛṣṇa) says:

मनुष्याणां सहस्रेषु कश्िचद्यतति सिद्धये।
यततामपि सिद्धानां कश्िचन्मां वेत्ति तत्त्वतः।।

(Gita Supersite. n.d.)

Meaning, among thousands (सहस्रेषु means thousand or countless) of humans, few strive towards realization and liberation (Mukti/mokṣa), and among those who strive only a few realize the true Me (Pāramatma).

So, the answer is clear, not everyone reaches Jīva:Brahmā:ikya:siddhi. However, in the concept of maha:pralaya (the process of devouring creation), Maheshwara, in His Rudra state, reaches those who couldn’t reach Him. So, the important question, how does one reach “Jīva Brahmā:ikya:siddhi”? This very research in pursuit of its tatva itself is a path to “Jīva Brahmā:ikya:siddhi”. In short, pursuing dharma and walking on its path is the way to “Jīva Brahmā:ikya:siddhi”. This is exactly what Śrī Rama showed us in Tretayuga and, therefore, even after so many yugas His name is still the taraka nama (the name which is mesmerizing and can give us shelter and comfort, and this one name can make us reach Iśvara). This illusion (māyā) and the doubt in our minds can only be overcome when we seek Iśvara and ask for realization and devotion (bhakti). To gain bhakti one mush urge Iśvara for devotion, because there is no second entity other than Iśvara who can grant devotion and realization. This is exactly what Arjuna (Partha) asked Śrī Kṛṣṇa during the battle of Kurukshetra, and this question (sloka) can be found in Śrīmad Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 6 of Dhyāna Yoga, Sloka 39. Also, this is the same message that can be found in Gayatri Mantra, wherein one asks the universe to help understand it. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.14)

Can one be happy all the time

Yes, such a state is called Brahm:anandam which arises from Jīva. However, if the question is can one be happy all the time, especially in this reality without reaching Jīva:brahmā:ikya:siddhi, well, the answer is not straightforward. As per Śāstra, the very reason a species comes to existence in this loka is to shed both papa and puńya (in other words, to shed its karma:phala). If a Jīva accumulates mostly puńya then that Jīva might go to higher lokas like Swarga:loka, if that Jīva accumulates mostly pápa then it might go to lower lokas like Narka:loka, but if both pápa and puńya are in a certain ratio then it comes to Bhu:loka to shed its karma:phala. Once a Jīva takes on a host, it starts to either accumulate more karma:phala in the cycle of Samsara through action (karma), or to shed both and walk towards Iśvara on the path of dharma. There is a total of seventeen lokas, seven are considered higher lokas and seven lower. A specific set of puńya or pápa leads a Jīva to traverse through them. Indra is the title of kingship over Swarga:loka. Śrī Mahā Viṣṇu directed King Bali to Satya:loka. There are many such examples in the Puráńa(m) explaining various lokas. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.1-19)

After attaining Jīva:brahmā:ikya:siddhi does the Jīva leave the body?

Not necessarily. For this, Śāstra gives the example of a ripe coconut and a ripe squash. A coconut, upon getting ripe, loses the water within it and the gelatinous substance becomes thick and dry. This dried up layer decouples itself from the outer hard layer, so when we shake such a ripe coconut we can sense the inner core moving freely without holding on to the hard layer. This is how a gyani (jnani) exists in their physical body, wherein the Ātman – upon being realized by the Jīva – dwells in this physical body, yet stays detached from desires and physical pleasures arising from the senses and Prakṛti. Such a being is called Jīvanmuktas. Eventually, when the body dissolves into the five elements, that becomes Videhamukta. A vegetable like a squash grows resting on the ground and upon ripening gradually leaves the branch.

Kindly continue your reading of Karma and pápa/puńya to understand Jīva and its purpose.


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