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Posted: 15.08.2016

International Conference on Science and Jain Philosophy

Concept of Soul in Indian and Western Philosophy


All Indian Philosophies have one common concept i.e. the belief in existence of the soul. They have cited several direct and indirect proofs to establish this truth. Though it is said to be beyond sensory perception, discussions on it are so deep and wide ranging that the concept of 'Soul' has taken a form of a 'Doctrine'. So is true about Jain Philosophy, wherein the existence of soul is central. 'I am and I am also separate from the body' is the axiom acknowledged by the Jains.

In Greek Philosophy it is said by Socratic, - 'Know thy-self'. He turned the flow of thoughts from materialism to spirituality by this sentence. So importance of soul in Indian and Western Philosophy is well established.


Form of Soul in Jain Metaphysics

Detailed analysis of soul is available in 'Acharang' which starts with the curiosity of soul.

'Many people don't know from where they came? 'I will take rebirth or not?' Where will I go after death?[1] Because of this curiosity, philosophy was born. Soul is the base of religion and philosophy. If soul exists then, religion exits. Only unknowledgeable don't know about what to do or what not to do. So you should know the truth first before action.

Those who have faith in Soul, Karma, Rebirth etc are believed to be 'Kriyawadi' and those who don't have faith in these are known to be 'Akriyawadi'.[2] 'Kriyawadi' practice disciplined life, however 'Akriyawadi' emphasize on hedonism.

In Aayaro it is said [3] 'Soul and knower are one'.

According to Sankhya Philosophy, knowledge is not linked with Soul (Purush). But it is a quality (Dharam) of nature (Prakrati). Nature is lifeless (Jad). It creates knowledge (Gyan) by virtue of its (Satva) [4].

According to Jain Philosophy 'Soul is invisible, non-physical, but having conscious existence. Action of consciousness is expressed by knowledge, faith, happiness, sorrow, etc. It is neither word, smell, taste, form, nor touch. It is neither long, small, round square, light nor heavy. It is neither male nor female. It is a bundle of infinite knowledge'[5].

We know existence of man because of his quality. It can't be described by words and logic.

In 'Yogshashtra', Acharya Hemchandra has said, 'Soul is the knower of Soul and cannot be acquired by knowledgeless person. So it is said that Soul knows Soul by sacrificing all attachment. Only is one its character. It is knowledge and also it is a form of faith.'[6]


Types of Soul Ð According to Jain Philosophy there are two types of Soul

01. Bonded / Worldly Soul.
02. Free Soul.


Worldly Soul:

Bonded soul is attached with Karma. So it will be take rebirth. It reflects in many forms of body. This Soul lives and dies again and again in this world. Soul, because of it in the body, is acceptable by logic and brains. This soul is visible because it is in form of male, female, etc. Jain Philosophers thought about soul by Nishachay and Vyavhar Nay. Bonded or Worldly soul is described by Vyavhar Nay. Free soul is described by Nishchay Nay, because it is non-physical in existence.


Pure Soul (Free Soul)

Pure soul is free from Karma. This soul is free from body, so it is invisible. Thus it can't be described by word and logic. Brain also can't know this soul. [7]

It is said in 'Acharang' - Pure soul is neither bonded nor free.[8]

Souls which are free from Karma appear in their natural form. Such Souls are free Souls. Souls which are bonded with Karma takes rebirth again and again in this world. Bonded souls are in very large number as compared to free souls. Each free soul has different existence from other free souls but their form is similar.


Symptoms of Soul

The characteristic of soul is consciousness. Free and bonded, both type of soul have consciousness. According to Jain Metaphysics, knowledge and its use, both exits in free soul.[9].

Every soul has infinite knowledge, infinite faith and infinite character but it appears only when soul is free from Karmas.

'Compulsory Symptoms of soul is consciousness. Such consciousness is present in varying degree in all living beings'.[10] Although it is not present in same degree in all living beings, it can be developed consciously through efforts.

If consciousness does not exist then one can't find difference between living and non-living beings. At least one sensory organ (Indriy) must exist in living beings. In absence of such consciousness, there would be no difference between living and non-living.


Soul is Universal Ð

'All Indian Philosophies believe in universal existence of soul except Charwak [11].

'Who did not exist in past, will be not existent in future. How can one exist in present?'[12] So we can say, soul has universal existence. We can't deny existence of Soul in any special time frame.

Soul is non destroyable according to Nishchay Nay. Soul may appear in living form according to Vyavhar Nay.

'Soul can contract and expand according to the body. If soul has elephant's body, it can extend accordingly. If soul has smaller body, it can change its shape accordingly. 'Atma Pradesh' are similar in both conditions [13].


Relationship of soul and knowledge:

Like earth is the base of all material. Similarly soul is the base of knowledge. Worldly soul is not free from body: like milk and water, seed and oil, flower and fragrance. They look inseparable. Similarly body and soul appear to be same. Sky is not visible, but we know it exists. It gives space. Like-wise, soul also has non-physical existence and is known by virtue of knowledge (Gyan).

Gold is always gold. Gold changes in various forms of jewelry like ring, earning, chain, etc. Like-wise soul also changes its forms but soul is always soul. Only its form changes. Soul does its Karma and faces the consequences of Karma.

Sun illuminates the world, similarly the Soul illuminates the body. We can neither see nor smell but can feel it. Likewise soul also is not visible but it can be felt. Sound is not visible but we can hear it. Similarly soul is not physical but we can accept it by its presence in the form of emotions like happiness, sorrow, etc.

As food upon consumption gets converted into 7 matters i.e. blood, bones, tissues, etc, likewise Karma automatically gets attached with soul by its activities. [14]

Relationship of soul and Karma are without beginning, according to Jain Metaphysics. It can be explained through the example of gold and soil. Heating can separate gold and soil likewise soul can be free from Karma by Samvar. The birth of Hen and eggs cannot be defined which came before and which came after, likewise we can't define the relationship of soul and Karma which comes before and which comes later.

We can find detailed analysis of Soul in 'Acharang'. We can also find analysis of pure soul in Samaysar based upon Nishchay Nay. 'Soul is colorless according to Acharang' [15]. The term Jeeva is used for Soul in Samaysar. Soul and Jeeva are same according to Jain Philosophy.

In Vedanta Philosophy both word Jeeva and Soul have different meaning. Soul represent God and Jeeva represent worldly soul i.e. body.


Freedom of Soul

Philosophers thought about the number of Souls. 'Some Indian Philosopher believes in one Soul' [16]. Some Philosophers believe in many souls[17]. Jain Philosophers believe in Anekant.

In Thanam Mahaveer has said Ð 'Age Aya'

Soul is one according to Nishchay Nay but souls are many according to Vyavhar Nay. It is also a fact that consciousness and its use are symptoms of soul. Souls are one according to this base, Soul are endless according to Jain Metaphysics. They all have free existence. They do not disappear even in pure form or free condition. They have free existence at all time.


'Modern Science and Consciousness'

Many scientist have researched on consciousness, it is said by Oliver laws, who was the member of council for investigation of soul and supernatural 'It is prudent to be over dependent on the physical and entirely ignore the metaphysics. Soul and conscience are not the quality of a body rather they have their own manifestation. Even in entrapped body, soul remains an independent entity.[18].

Scientist are looking for an evidence for the existence of soul by getting it photographed but Acharya Mahagragya has said that 'Soul is not Pudgalic, pure soul is formless'.


Soul and Mind

In western Countries, most scientists do not believe in the existence of soul over and above mind. They believe that the mind and conscience are just synonyms. Pavlov supports that the memory is nothing but the activities of millions of cell of cerebrum. He says that the memory is just like a negative, which can produce the positive photographs as and when processed and as many times processed. Similarly the brain can recall the memories of past through the requisite excitation. Jain Philosophy does not endorse the scientific view that the physical brain in itself is the soul. It is affirmative that the amorphous soul is separate and beyond the physical mind. Like mind and conscience, senses too are not the exact equivalent to the soul. Various forms of life exist in this universe, like the plant, etc which posses the soul but do not have brain in its true sense. Their feeling of joy, pain, fear, etc are by virtue of the conscience and soul present in them.

Acharya Mahapragya does not acknowledge the findings of such experiments until the physical process adopted by the scientist actually yield in a life form purely through physical means. Jains disagree with the view point of Science that life forms are constituted of multiple live cells. In Jain's view, the soul is not a collection of countless cells.



Many experiments have been done by Scientists on the concept of rebirth of soul. They found that some 3-4 year old children said about their past life, then Scientist searched for it and found that it was true. Some 10 Ð 11 year old girl can give the complete lecture on 'Geeta' but she didn't read it in past. How can she speak about Geeta? We can say because of these scientific experiments to confirm that non-physical soul exists in the body. We can't see it because it is non-physical or invisible. These reasons can't prove that soul does not exist. We can't see electron, proton with naked eyes because it is very small, but we can see it in microscope. So it is proved that we have limitations of our own power but when we will become Sarvagya or Omniscient Ð knower, we can know every thing. It is power of the soul, which is now covered.

Soul and senses

A Russian Scientist, Pavlov, surgically removed the brain tissues of a dog converting into a comatose. Dog lost all its senses and could not recognize even its master or the favorite food. Pavlov concluded that its conscience is lost, that is the absence of physical brain' [19].

Acharya Mahagragya has pointed the fallacy of above argument. The main flaw in above argument was that in spite of brains, the dog lived. It is enough to know that the conscience does not emanate from the brain. Brain is just like many tools of body, which are utilized to fulfill the assigned task. Various forms of life exist in this universe, like the plant, etc., which posses the soul but do not have brain in its true sense. Their feelings of joy, pain, fear, etc are by virtue of the conscience and soul present in them. Like mind and conscience, senses too are not the exact equivalent of the soul.


Soul and Ahar (food) - Pragyapti:

In one of the experiments, conducted by renowned scientist Lois Pasture, it was found that the micro organism do multiply in the presence of air and the availability of any food product. Scientists have also studied the food cycle of plants. They have found that the plants intake food from the soil. Though this does not have life, by the action of chlorophyll this food is converted in life cells. How life is infused in a lifeless matter is still unexplained at their end.

Acharya Mahapragya does not acknowledge the findings of such experiments until the physical processes by the scientists actually yield in a life form purely through physical means. Jains disagree with the science viewpoint of life form constituted of multiple live cells. In Jains view, the soul is not a collection of countless cells. The process of acquiring a body by a soul is called birth. This event takes place only under very special circumstances and one such is Ahar (food) Paryapti. It means food, which helps the soul in acquiring a body form.


Life in Plants:

Jains have classified life forms in two categories itinerant and motionless. Such life forms are of five types as described in Jain literature:

  1. Prithvikaya (Earth)
  2. Aapkaya (Water)
  3. Tejaskaya (Fire)
  4. Vayukaya (Air)
  5. Vanaspati Kaya (Plant)

Of there five forms, the nearest to humans and animals are plant. All of them undergo the process of aging. They have feelings and are vulnerable to diseases. The only difference is in their mobility. All these similarities are well accepted and proven by science. Here, both the Jain concept and science agree to a very large extent. They both postulate the consciousness in all living beings and plants, except that their quantum of consciousness differ.

Three types of principals are famous for relationship between body and soul.

  1. Only physical activities are responsible for mental action. Activities of brain are consciousness. As digestion is an action of digestive system, breathing is an action of respiratory system likewise than consciousness is just an activity of brain.
  2. Mental and physical activities are reciprocal. Otherwise they don't have any type of relation.
  3. Physical activities are dependent on mental actions and mental activities effects on physical acts. Example when we suffer from disease of brain we loose our mental strength.

We can't compare artificial brain with human brain. In reality artificial mind is not able to think but rational mind can think.

According to Acharya Mahapragya Science is still unclear about the functioning of even brain so nothing can be expected regarding the consciousness. Brain might be a mere vehicle of part impression or device to retain memory, but the presence of conscience cannot be ruled out of our lives. It is this force which makes the brain think logically and to project the future.

Jain Philosophy does not endorse the scientific statement that the physical brain itself is the soul. It is affirmative that the amorphous soul is separate and beyond the physical mind.


Philosophy of soul is a main point of Indian and Western thinkers. Now science also proceeds that way. Soul is not directly visible although Indian Philosophers believed in various forms of soul except Charvak, who don't believe in soul and tried to prove it, but could not succeed to disprove it.

Indian Philosophers have given many logics to prove the soul like memory, decision, power, past habits, doubts, consciousness, sensation, willingness, etc. They agreed for rebirth and existence of soul. Soul has a non-physical existence and it is conscious. Its symptom is action of consciousness. Knowledge, faith, happiness, sorrow, etc appear because of soul. It is knower. It is not word, smell, taste, touch, form, etc. It is not male, female, heavy or light. It cannot be described by words and logic.



According to Jains, soul is without beginning and end. According to matter (Dravya) it is not destroyable and according to form it is destroyable. Soul is full of endless knowledge, endless faith and endless character. In short, we can say that according to Jains, Soul is permanent form of consciousness. In real form it is pure but in worldly situation it is bonded with Karma. It is rotating. According to Buddhists Ð Soul is not permanent; it is only flow of consciousness. According to Nyay and Vasheshik Ð Soul is permanent. But consciousness is not permanent form of soul. In state of sleeping, soul is not conscious. According to Vasheshik, free souls don't have consciousness. According to Sankhay, Soul is permanent, without beginning, endless, free from evils and conscious.


Science and Soul:

Many of the western scientists believe that soul is a not different from 'Mann'. According to their opinion action of brain and Mann is one. Pavlof believes that memory is an action of brains cells. Mental and physical activities are single. So, soul is not different from physical substance. Scientist tried many experiments for proving that non physical existence of soul is nothing, but it can be known by experiments. So the atheist could not solve the problem of non-existence of Soul.

Brain can be an instrument of memory but it cannot imagine the future. So it is necessary that we should believe in existence of free soul and its development. Soul and body are different, said by Lord Mahaveera. Scientists are confused about soul and brain. They have not reached at one conclusion. Today's scientists believe this fact that somewhere the power exists to control the brain. Supernatural and psychology are already active in this process since long time. Thinking of soul is believing in self-existence. When man is aware of its natural existence then he automatically withdraws from many non-doing things. Solution of many personal, social, national, international problems can be found in the belief of existence of the soul.

The ultimate goal of the spirituality can be found in the pure form of soul. When we will be free from Karma, then we will find the pure soul. So, it is very necessary that we must know the soul.



Since the time man appeared in this world, he wanted to know that who he is? This question still disturbs human beings. I am the soul and free from body. If he knows the difference between body and soul, then he can make a spiritual personality. It is necessary in today's scenario that spiritual scientific man be developed as said by Acharya Mahapragya.

Spirituality is only one truth that can purify our personality. The meaning of spirituality is to purify the inner world. There man is alone although he is working on social issues. He uses outer things but he has not attachment with the world.

Spirituality means to be near the soul. In Indian Philosophy it is said about education Ð that which gives real freedom is the real education. Only real education can remove man from crime, anger and sorrow. A thinker said Ð I do not feel bad when man dies but I feel very bad when humanity dies'. Today's men have forgotten that he is a man because of his humanity. He is special in universe because of this developed consciousness. He is developed because of soul. In the past, religions always made man aware of the soul. Soul is only one's inner source of knowledge, enlightenment, love, etc. Today's man is totally involved in materialistic world. He has forgotten spirituality. After Second World War in western world existentialist list like Kirkeguard, Sartra, Jespers, etc started searching for existence. Soul is always free and responsible for all Karma said by Sartra.

We can clearly see that terrorism, corruption, religious fights, decreasing tolerance, ethical and cultural values are big problems in present scenario. If man knows their pure soul and accepts that other persons are also like him and realizes that he can develop pity, helpfulness, respect for freedom of others and their rights, etc, then crime can automatically disappear or reduce from the world. Acharya Tulsi said 'If man will be refined, society and nation will automatically be refined' If man will develop his soul, he will live life peacefully and can find the ultimate goal of life. Lord Mahaveer, Gautam Budha showed the path of welfare in the world with the help of knowledge of the soul. Man always searches for peace and happiness that can be achieved by the knowledge of pure soul.



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  2. Vachana Pramukh, Acharya Tulsi - Editor - Muni Nathmal - Acharang
  3. Vachana Pramukh, Acharya Tulsi - Editor - Muni Nathmal - Thanam
  4. Vachana Pramukh, Acharya Tulsi - Editor - Muni Nathmal - Uttarjayani.
  5. Sankay Karika
  6. Tejobindupnishad
  7. Bramhbindupnishad
  8. Atma Ka Darshan - Jain Vishwa Bhart Prakashan.
  9. Pro Mahaveerraj Gelda - Jain Vidya Aur Vigyan, JVB Jadnun.
  10. Muni Nathmal - Jain Darshan Manan Aur Mimansa Adarsh Sahitya Sangh.
  11. Yuvachary Mahapragya - Nishchay Aur Vyapar Ki Yatra, JVB.
  12. Dr. Hukum Chand Bharilla - Atma hi ha Sharan, Pr. Todarmal Smarak Trust, Jaipur (Raj.).
  13. Muni Shubh Karan - Ma Atma Hun - Sambodhi Upavan Prakashan.
  14. Shri Hemchandracharya - Yog Shashtra - Shri Nigranth Sahitya Prakashan - Merath (UP)
  15. Muni Nathmal - Jain Dharma Aur Darshan, Seth Mannalal Surana Memorial Trust.
  16. Abstract Thinking - Acharya Mahapragya, JVB Ladnun.
  17. Jain Darshan Aur Sanskriti - Yuvachary Mahapragya, JVB, Ladnun.
  18. Samani Mangal Pragya - Jain Agam Me Darshan, JVB, Ladnun.
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