SN 12.35 is translated by Bhikkhus Sujato, Bodhi & Thanissaro as follows:

Mendicant, if you have the view that the soul and the body are the same thing, there is no living of the spiritual life.

Taṁ jīvaṁ taṁ sarīranti vā, bhikkhu, diṭṭhiyā sati brahmacariyavāso na hoti.

If you have the view that the soul and the body are different things, there is no living of the spiritual life.

Aññaṁ jīvaṁ aññaṁ sarīranti vā, bhikkhu, diṭṭhiyā sati brahmacariyavāso na hoti.

Is there an explanation why the translation of "soul" is used here for "jiva"?

4 Answers 4


I think Jiva is from Proto-Slavic *živъ or Proto-Indo-European *gzih₃wós akin to the slavic root "жив" or "живость" seen in Bulgarian, Russian, Serbian, Ukrainian and Macedonian. Transliterated as "Zhiv" it is pronounced same as [jiv] in "jiva" and translates eg "Ладно, не беспокойтесь, он ещё жив. Alright, don't worry - he's still alive."

As i understand it Jiva denotes semantic properties of being alive, the living being, the life faculty and life as element.

I don't think there can be much justification for what the translators are doing but i can see how one would be compelled to do so without regard for the semantic properties of the term "soul" being a christian notion where it is made by god eternal.

Jiva is sometimes used in a similar expression to how one would use "soul" when asking: "Do you hold that soul is something inside one's head, looking out through one's eyes as if those were windows?"

A similar expression is found in QKM using jiva instead of soul. I personally don't think one should use the term soul because it is misleading.


Jiva can mean life or life force or soul, depending on context.

In the context of SN 12.35, it refers to soul.

If the soul and body are the same, then this refers to annihilationism, because when the body is destroyed, the soul is destroyed.

If the soul and body are different, then this refers to eternalism, because when the body is destroyed, the soul continues existing.

Instead, the Buddha taught the middle, which is dependent origination.

So, the term "soul" here is not used to affirm the existence of a soul, but it is used to refer to eternalism and annihilationism.

If there is the view, ‘The soul and the body are the same,’ there is no living of the holy life; and if there is the view, ‘The soul is one thing, the body is another,’ there is no living of the holy life. Without veering towards either of these extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma by the middle: ‘With ignorance as condition, volitional formations.’
SN 12.35 (Bodhi)

  • i scored the above answer down because it is unclear. Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 11:52
  • 1
    The answer is perfectly clear. Don't mark answers down just because you don't agree with them, it's childish. Commented Mar 11, 2022 at 17:04

"Jīva" was one of the terms used for "soul/self" by non-Buddhists. Therefore, since the Buddha very frequently addresses non-Buddhists and non-Buddhist ideas, he'll use "jīva" for "self" like they occasionally do in the Upanisads, Vedas, etc.

Here are two dictionary entries for "jīva," one from a Pali dictionary and one from a Sanskrit dictionary:

  1. Jīva, 1 (adj. -n.) (Sk. jīva, Idg. *gǔīǔos=Gr. bi/oQ, Lat. vīvus, Goth. quius, Ohg. queck, E. quick, Lith. gyvas) 1. the soul. Sabbe jīvā all the souls, enumerated with sattā pāṇā bhūta in the dialect used by the followers of Gosāla D. I, 53 (=DA. I, 161 jīvasaññī). “taṃ jīvaṃ taṃ sarīraṃ udāhu aññaṃ j. aññaṃ s. ” (is the body the soul, or is the body one thing and the soul another?) see D. I, 157, 188; II, 333, 336, 339; S. IV, 392 sq.; M. I, 157, 426 sq.; A. II, 41.—Also in this sense at Miln. 30, 54, 86.—Vin. IV, 34; S. III, 215, 258 sq.; IV, 286; V, 418; A. V, 31, 186, 193.—2. life, in yāvajīvaṃ as long as life lasts, for life, during (his) lifetime D. III, 133; Vin. I, 201; Dh. 64; J. II, 155; PvA. 76.
  1. The individual or personal soul enshrined in the human body and imparting to it life, motion and sensation (called jīvātman as opposed to paramātman the Supreme Soul); Y.3.131; Ms.12.22-23; सम्पद्यते गुणैर्मुक्तो जीवो जीवं विहाय माम् । जीवो जीवविनिर्मुक्तो गुणैश्चाशयसंभवैः (sampadyate guṇairmukto jīvo jīvaṃ vihāya mām | jīvo jīvavinirmukto guṇaiścāśayasaṃbhavaiḥ) || Bhāg.11.25.36. (here jīva = liṅgaśarīra).

Jiva can mean life, living being.

The ordinary always think "long life, long being and the soul still going on even after death" but the truth is the particles and minds are arising and vanishing trillion times per second. Nothing is long life and nothing big, it's all very small and living only a moment of trillion moments per sec.

It's always be same even in the past lives and the next lives. What we should do is meditate Jhana and recall the past to see the small and fast particles and mind arising and vanishing to see the truth "what we are? nothing. Where we go? nothing go. Why it still going on? because of Karma with craving, to be again, in the past which appear before the last death, it's arising and vanishing again and again, never ending suffering".


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