Definition - What does Jiva-Atman mean?

In Indian philosophy, the jiva-atman – also simply called jiva – is the individual soul or self. It is one of two types of souls, the other being the paramatman or atman, which is the universal and eternal Soul. Jiva-atman is trapped in the earthly body until death, when it is reincarnated.

The term, jiva-atman, comes from the Sanskrit jiv, meaning “to breathe,” and atman, meaning “self.” Therefore, it may be translated to mean “living being.”

The path of yoga can unite jiva-atman (the personal self) with atman (the cosmic Self) by creating and expanding the practitioner's awareness of the oneness of all creation.

Yogapedia explains Jiva-Atman

Vedic scriptures contain a metaphorical story about jiva and atman becoming separated from each other. Using the image of two birds in a tree, the texts describe jiva's separation from atman and it's subsequent fall to the earthly world of birth, death, disease and old age.

The ultimate goal of the jiva-atman varies among the Hindu traditions, but is one of the following:

  • Moksha - liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth
  • Bhakti - obtaining pure, divine love
  • Jivanmukta - Self-knowledge that provides liberation while living

Regardless of tradition, the practice of yoga can help a dedicated individual come closer to one of these three states by expanding their consciousness and creating a sense of harmony with the universe.

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