Ayurveda: The Meaning of Soul

The majority of people believe that there is no distinction between a jiva and an atma, and that the two terms are interchangeable. Both of these actualities are frequently interpreted as soul in English. If you are looking for the true meaning of soul, this blogpost is for you.

In this article we will discuss the concept of jiva and its distinction from soul. Contents are from Mr. Rajiv Malhotra’s video series titled, Atma and Jiva with his guest speaker Satyanarayana Dasa Babaji. This will help us comprehend that atma and jiva are two separate entities, neither of which translates onto the Abrahamic religions’ concept of soul.


Atma is the foundation of spirituality and sometimes people will translate Atma as Soul, sometimes as Spirit. The word Atma is derived from the Sanskrit root “at” which means that which is in constant motion and everywhere. Atma is always moving from one body to another, with each birth and subsequent death.

Atma is present in all living creatures, whether plants or animals and irrespective of their form factor. Not only movable but also immovable things have life. Whatever moving or unmoving being you see in existence, know it to be a combination of the Atma and sentient body.

Atma is eternal. It is neither created nor does it die, whereas the soul is created anew. It is beginning less and also endless. An Atma is never born and never dies. It is the principle of life, it is the soul of consciousness and consciousness has inherent characteristics.

Consciousness which is Chetana in Sanskrit is the essential nature (svaroopa) as well as an inherent property (dharma) of Atma. Just like heat is the essential nature and property of fire or light that of the Sun. Atma infuses consciousness into the body. Atma is the consciousness but it can expand and contract.

Three Stages of Consciousness

  1. Jagrata (Waking)
  2. Svapna (Dreaming)
  3. Sushupti (Deep Sleep)

Atma is Sat-Chit-Ananda. Sat because it’s eternal and unchangeable. Chit because it’s conscious and knower. Finally, Ananda because it’s free from suffering. When one goes through an experience of pleasure or of pain, it is not the Atma who goes through the experience.

Two Kinds of Atma

  1. Paramatma– it is the supreme quality responsible for the functioning of the whole cosmos 
  2. Jivatma– it is an integral part of Paramatma

Atmas are infinite in number. They are also present throughout the universe. Not just limited to the living beings we see on Earth. According to Sanskrit, the sun, the moon, and the other planets are not just inanimate creations, there is life force in them too. Time has no effect on Atma.


Atma is the pure self without anything around it. Just pure consciousness ; while Jiva is the conditioned Atma. Jiva is a complex entity with Atma at its core and conditioning layers of chitta, buddhi, manas, physical body, etc. superimposed on it due to avidya.

Two Types of Atma

Nitya Mukta

  1. Never Conditioned
  2. Eternally free from bondage of Samsara
  3. Reside in Spiritual realm

Anadi Baddha

  1. Conditioned
  2. Caught up in a bondage without beginning (jivatma)
  3. Reside in the World

Jivas are the conditioned Atmas but not all Atmas are Jivas. But you can experience “un-conditioning” and it will become pure Atma again. All the suffering that people experience is the Jiva because Atma does not suffer.

Human body is a yantra or machine made up of maya or prakriti or primordial material principles. For example, there’s a man that has a psychological disease that whichever car that he buys, he thinks he belongs to that country which made the car. So he has a Ford he thinks he’s American, if he has a Toyota he thinks he’s Japanese. You might think that he’s crazy but that’s what everyone is thinking. If your body is made from India then you think you’re an Indian. All of the mind conditionings that you experience are an effect of the Jiva.

In the Geetha, Bhagavan tells Arjuna that as a warrior it is his duty to perform karma perse and that he should do the same but at the same time remain unaltered and transfixed in yoga. Yoga is a state where a person remains equanimous in every situation by abandoning attachment to success or failure.

Those who are petty minded. For example, conditioned jivas with contracted awareness, think in terms of mine and yours and fight for the material objects. Those who are connected to the cosmic field signify the self-realized and proclaim that the whole earth is one family.

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Atma ≠ Soul | Sanskrit Non-Translatables

Jiva ≠ Soul | Sanskrit Non-Translatables

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