Vitalism (Jainism)

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Vitalism is at the core of Jain philosophy which separates Jiva (soul or life) from Ajiva (non-soul). According to Jain cosmology, whole universe is made up of six simple substances and is therefore eternal. These six substances (dravya) are:-

Jiva or soul is distinguished from the rest five (termed Ajiva) on account of the quality of intelligence with which it is endowed and of which the other substances are devoid.


Classification of Saṃsāri Jīvas (Transmigrating Souls) in Jainism.According to Sacred Jain text, Sarvārthasiddhi: "Immobile beings (sthāvara jīvās) possess the four vitalities of the sense-organ of touch, strength of body or energy, respiration and life-duration.[1]

According to Jainism, there are ten vitalities or life-principles:-

  • The five senses
    • Touch
    • Taste
    • Smell
    • Sight
    • Hearing
  • Energy,
  • Respiration
  • Life-duration
  • The organ of speech
  • The mind

The table below summarizes the vitalities that living beings possess in accordance with their senses.[2]

Senses Number of vitalities Vitalities
One sense Four Sense organ of touch, strength of body or energy, respiration, and life-duration.
Two sense Six The sense of taste and the organ of speech in addition to the former four.
Three sense Seven The sense of smell in addition to the former six.
Four sense Eight The sense of sight in addition to the former seven.
Nine The sense of hearing in addition to the former eight.
Ten Mind in addition to the above-mentioned nine vitalities.

According to major Jain text, Tattvarthsutra: "The severance of vitalities out of passion is injury".

Because life is to be considered sacred and in every living thing, Jains avoid killing any living creature. They are not only vegetarian, but decline to eat vegetables that grow under the ground because each underground stem contains infinite number of vitalities each of that can potentially grow into full-fledged plants.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jain 1960, p. 62-63.
  2. ^ S.A. Jain 1992, p. 62–63,196.


  • Pujyapada (Shri.) (1960). S. A. Jain (ed.). Reality. Vira Sasana Sangha. Archived from the original on 2015. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.