April 21, 2015 · updated February 15, 2022

In Jainism, jivas are all the living beings that can be found in the earthly realm. This is a central concept because the fundamental Jain principle of ahimsa (nonviolence) extends to all jivas.

In Jain thinking, a jiva is a soul attached to a body. Since a soul is of flexible size, the same soul can fit inside an ant's body as a human's. According to the Jain scriptures, there are 8.4 million species of jivas. They fall into two main categories: immobile single-sensed and mobile and multi-sensed. And within these categories are subcategories, as follows:

A. Immobile and single-sensed

  • Earth-bodied (clay, sand, metal)
  • Water-bodied (dew, fog, ice, rain, ocean)
  • Fire-bodied (flames, hot ash, lightening)
  • Air-bodied (wind and cyclones)
  • Plant-bodied (trees, seeds, roots)
  • a. One-souled (trees, branches, seeds)
  • b. Multi-souled (root vegetables)

B. Mobile and multi-sensed

    - Two-sensed: touch and taste (shells, worms, microbes) - Three-sensed: touch, taste and smell (lice, ants, moths) - Four-sensed: touch, taste, smell, sight (scorpions, crickets, spiders, flies) - Five-sensed: touch, taste, small, sight and hearing (humans and animals)
      - a. Infernal (in one of the hells) - b. Non-human - c. Celestial (in one of the heavens) - d. Human