The Jiva : The True Self and The Supreme Object of Knowledge

The Jiva, also referred to as Jivatman, is the term used to describe the true soul of man as distinguished from the ego-sense in the mental-vital-physical being. While the ego is bound to the actions of Nature, the Jiva is free and separate. The Jiva is of the nature of the Spirit. Sri Aurobindo observes: “It is not a thing bound, as the mental being, the vital, the physical are bound, by her habits, laws or processes. The Jiva is a spirit and self, superior to Nature. It is true that it consents to her acts, reflects her moods and upholds the triple medium of mind, life and body through which she casts them upon the soul’s consciousness; but it is itself a living reflection or a soul-form or a self-creation of the Spirit universal and transcendent. The One Spirit who has mirrored some of His modes of being in the world and in the soul, is multiple in the Jiva. That Spirit is the very Self of our self, the One and the Highest, the Supreme we have to realise, the infinite existence into which we have to enter.”

The realization of the Jivatman implies a shifting from the standpoint of the limited individual nexus or form of being, controlled and formed by the action of the three Gunas of Nature, to the free and unlimited standpoint of the Spirit which is at the same time transcendent, universal and manifest in the individual form, as multiple instances of the One Spirit, which is then called the Jiva.

The various paths of realization then differentiate themselves as to how they relate to the concept of the Jiva and its practical reality in the process of soul-seeking and liberation. Some will follow the path of an exclusive focus on the transcendent Spirit into which the Jiva should seek to be absorbed. Others seek to turn the relation between the individual form of Spirit, the Jiva into a constant play of devotion and love toward the universal Spirit. This distinguishes the Monist from the Dualist or partial Monist as described by Sri Aurobindo. In either case, the bound ego-formation must be renounced and the Jiva, released from the ego-sense, can then realise the “supreme object of knowledge.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 9, The Release from the Ego, pp. 345-346