Leśyā and Transmigration of Souls

June, 2024 by Dhruti Ghiya Rathi
In Jainism,  soul when transmigrating is accompanied by a Karman sharir, per some records Tejas sharir, and by the soul’s Leśyā. Leśyās are defined in three ways: Complexion of the souls, thought tints, mind activities. There are six kinds of Leśyā’s defined in the Jain scriptures such as Bhagwati and Uttaradhyayan Sutras. These are further categorized into Asubh (inauspicious) and Shubh (Auspicious) Leśyās. Leśyā being a  form of pudgal or matter has a color, taste,  smell and touch. They are further divided into Dravya Leśyā and Bhâv Leśyās.  The image below shows the six colors that both Dravya and Bhâv Leśyās have.

Beings in infernal regions have three types of dravya Leśyās based on the Narak level from Krishna (black ), Neel (blue) and Kapot (grey) which are also termed as inauspicious.  Auspicious Leśyās are Tejo (red), Padma ( yellow/pink) and Shukla (white). The higher the level of soul development, it has auspicious Leśyās which produce auspicious Bhâv Leśyās. At higher levels of soul gunasthans, there are no jnanavarniya karma and darshanavarniyas karma.  The soul has only shukla (white Leśyā), indicating the purity of the soul with lack of desires or intent. At the last two stages, the soul does not have mana, vachan or kaya yoga, indicating ayoga state, hinting at lack of activity. But the presence of Leśyā there indicates existence of shukla Bhâv mana, or pure state of Bhâv or karmic intent of liberating itself and attaining Nirvana. Leśyā known as Lessa in Ardha Magadhi is defined as sticky and smooth and likely it is the glue that attaches karmas to the soul. Bhagwati Sutra  (1.6.226) confirms that Jiva and karma are affixed with each other like glue. Digamber commentators identify Leśyā as responsible for the duration (stithi) and the quantum (pradesh) of karmic bondage.

In Tattvartha-sutra 2.6, the six Leśyās are among the twenty-one states of the soul caused by the rise of karmas (audayika bhävas). In Dhavala, Virasena states that the operation of bhāva-Leśyā is in affecting duration (sthiti) and quantity (pradesa) of Karmic bondage. According to the commentary to Gommatasara-Jivakānda 536 Bhâva-Leśyā is produced by the vibration of the space-points (ätma-pradesa) of the soul and [brings about] modifications of the soul.

For human beings, Leśyās change every antarmuhurta or every 48 minutes. These suggest changes in Bhâv Leśyās as understood from the incident of Prasanchandra rajrishi. On enquired by King Srenik to Mahavir as to the future birth of the meditating Prasanchandra Rajrishi. Mahavir indicated he will go to Narak, as he could sense a lot of anger in his mind. A few minutes later, when Srenik asked the same question, Mahavir responded his re-birth will be in Devaloka.  This indicates that the Bhâv (feelings/intent) at the time of the death are important precursor to the next birth.


Per Flugel, Schubring, Deleu and Ohira emphasize that the ‘‘colouration of the soul’’, (Bhâva-) Leśyā, ‘‘is not karma’’, but is only carried by the karmanasarıra during transmigration. He says Ohira argues that in the theory of the process of transmigration it performs the function of ‘‘pinpointing more exactly’’ a precise place for the rebirth of a soul within a cosmographic region, matching the final Leśyā ̄of its last incarnation before death. However, in time, this ‘‘original function’’ of the term was forgotten and ‘‘Leśyā ̄ as the personality-index of beings came to the fore.’

Sanghrani (Sutra 284) states that human beings and tiryanch pass away after receiving the Leśyā of the next birth.  This Leśyā of next birth comes in the last antar muhurta or 48 minutes before the death and so the Bhâv or the karmic intent  of the dying person is critical for this next birth. Devas move to the next birth accompanied with their tejo Leśyā. Hence, the importance of clearing kasayas and opting for forgiveness, love and compassion during the final moments of death become imperataive for a better re-birth of the jiva. In Bhagwati Sutra, Mahavir informs Indrabhuti Gautam that at the time of death, if a person’s heart (chitta), mind (mana) and soul’s end (lessa) is engaged in the desire of wealth, kingdom, enjoyment, obtains a rebirth in the hell (1.7.255). Similarily if one’s heart, and lessa is concentrated in hearing about religion, intent is to liberate,  has engaged in the values of religion at the end moment of his death, such a jiva is likely to be born in the heaven (1.7.257). Hence the desires, Bhâv, intent and Leśyā at the end moment causes rebirth in hell or heaven.

Thoughts have an emotional content. If it is the emotional content that triggers thoughts, leading to future actions, thoughts can be tied to  manayoga Karmas and the emotional content associated with thoughts can be tied to intent or Bhâv and its Leśyās. The emotional aspect or Bhâv being rooted in the subconscious will consist of subtler and finer texture or particles. The Bhâv Leśyā being the last tinge of the soul state, and the first color attracting requisite material for new existence, it is crucial to understand. One should endeavor to have purer states of soul and Leśyā as possible.

Bhâv Leśyā is neither heavy nor light, like the characteristic of soul and karma according to Bhagawati Sutra. Also, after transmigrating, beings obtain their first ahar based on the Leśyā that accompanies them, per Bhagwati Sutra.

For this, Dhyan Shatak gives us a guiding light. It indicates which actions and emotional states indicate and attract what kinds of Leśyās.

Image: Parable of the Tree Image credit The British  Library Board, jainpedia.com

Dhyan or Meditative State in the final moments:

Raag, Dwesh and Mohaniya Karmas which are part of Artra Dhyan, lead to black, blue and grey Leśyās. However, these Leśyās are more forceful in Raudra Dhyan per Dhyan Shatak.i Raudra Dhyan consists of Raag, Dwesh and Moha. Hence, both Artra and Raudra Dhyan results in inasupcious Leśyās.  However, the study of Bhâv, scriptures, meditation, anupreksha, Leśyā helps a monk move towards Dharma Dhyan and Shukla Dhyan. The Bhâv to do these activities makes the efforts more successful. The Bhâv or intent to increase the knowledge, faith and character results in such activities being fruitful.

Ratnachandraji  defines sukkalessa as a soul having white lessa.  Another definition is the result arising from the yoga or combining of extremely  white and pure matter per Ardha Magadhi definitions.ii What does meditations do? According to Patel and Pollock, hearfulness meditation helps us reach the state of naturalness. According to them, thousands of unnaturalness disappear as we move to the state of naturalness. This echoes the tenets of Jainism, that soul at its natural state, full of unlimited joy and  energy. Per them, meditation is the experience akin to the lab assignments of science. Meditation reveals the truth that most religions talk of  in different terms but at its core are all the same. Christians speak of Heaven, Buddhists speak of Nirvan, Hindus speak of Atma Brahma and Sufis talk of death of death or life of life as they state. The authors further state: When you meditate, and actually experience some of these states, you realize they are all the same. You become inclusive and accepting of all perspectives.”iii They further state, that if we did not have fascinating experiences while meditating, it would not encourage people to meditate.

Through meditation, change happens at the subconscious level, and it brings about a change in our thoughts, emotions, habits and attitudes, which according to them reside at our subconscious levels.iv They raise an important question on how we bring about change in our subconscious levels. Meditation awakens dormant evolutionary forces at deeper level. A meditator experiences negatively when meditating in a state of anger or jealous and experiences beauty when the heart is full of love and generosity and hence all experiences reflect our inner state and nature.v On elaborating on the final meditative state, the authors indicate it is difficult to describe, as you as a raindrop become part of the ocean of ultimate bliss.vi This is similar to the description of the  a liberated or siddha soul of Jainism which is in a perpetual state of bliss. Such meditation is a focus that comes effortless when an object holds our attention. This harnessed state of attention is identified  as a state of absorption or the meditative state.vii And  once experienced, there is a desire to repeat that experiences, and so we create fulfilllment and lack, as like a pendulum one switches. This is similar to how the soul shifts from the states of jnana and darshan in Jainism.

In Sutra Kritang Sutra, shukla dhyan is translated as that which is white and pure by Jacobi: After having taught the highest Law he (Mahavir) practised the highest contemplation, which is the purest of pure, pure without a flaw, thoroughly white (as it were) like mother-of-pearl and the moon. viii

Not all atttractions are pleasant as  otherside of desire is fear, as in desire to live and fear of the death. Mind is constantly torn between the two but always empolyed with some mental activityix and hence, constantly consumes energy, which Jainism defines as Vyapar of mind, speech and activity or the three yogas of mana vachan and kaya. The meditative state is constantly evolving, and the ultimate state is very subtle and fine, until it dissolves into the Ultimate state.x Every thought has emotional content that is rooted in the subconscious. It’s the emotional part of thought that involves reaction to a situation, and each thought has positive or negative flavour to it.

According to a branch of meditation called Leśyā Dhyan : The universe around is made up of electromagnetic radiation which we perceive in the form of colours. Different colours are differentiated by our senses on account of the difference in the wavelength and frequency of these colours. In Preksha Meditation, colour meditation, also known as Leśyā Dhyan, is focused on the colour radiation in and around us. Our thoughts emit energy in the form of colour vibrations which are known as Leśyā and this determines our mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Thus, Leśyā is the state of mind which determines our overall well-being.

In Leśyā Dhyan, the objective is to address the imbalance of energy by visualizing colours and attracting the energy associated with them through guided colour meditation. This is based on the understanding that each colour in the universe is associated with energy vibrations which in turn are associated with particular states of mind: green is the colour of happiness; white invokes peace; red is the colour of vibrant energy; blue is the colour of health. Correspondingly, an unhappy individual may visualize the colour green to invoke happiness; someone feeling depressed can visualize red colour to feel energized; a person seething in anger will find peace by visualizing the colour white; and a person battling poor health can attract good health by visualizing the colour blue, and so on.

The focus on emotions in Leśyā Dhyan in Preksha lies in the belief that all our disorders, physical, mental, spiritual, are rooted in the state of our emotions, our state of mind, or in Leśyā.

To conclude, the above summarizes the importance of Leśyā at the time of death and at the time of rebirth, which is crucial to always keep in focus. Multiple Jain scriptures talk about Leśyā and the Karmic intent or Bhâv component of our actions which attract Leśyā. They also talk about Dhyan as a tool to achieve sukla or pure state of the soul. Thus, addressing the state of Leśyā in our being through Dhyan and other measures can lead us to a more balanced existence in this life which is carried forward into future lives and assist in liberation.



i Dhyan Shatak

ii Ratnachandraji and A C Woolner Illustrated Ardha Magadhi Dictionary, Vol 4 Pg. 291/261

iii Kamlesh Patel and Joshua Pollock, The Heartfulness Way, Pg 5-8

iv Kamlesh Patel and Joshua Pollock, The Heartfulness Way, Pg 9

v Kamlesh Patel and Joshua Pollock, The Heartfulness Way, Pg  11

vi Kamlesh Patel and Joshua Pollock, The Heartfulness Way, Pg  12

vii Kamlesh Patel and Joshua Pollock, The Heartfulness Way, Pg  20-21

viii H. Jacobi Jaina Sutras, Uttaradhyan Sutra, wisdomlib

ix Kamlesh Patel and Joshua Pollock, The Heartfulness Way, Pg 22-23

x Kamlesh Patel and Joshua Pollock, The Heartfulness Way, Pg 97-98

About Author


Dhruti is a New Jersey-based MBA, SAP and FJAS professional. A Pathshala and guest lecturer for Jainism at VCU University and High schools, she has spoken at Comparative Religion Conference, Religious Baccalaureates and Rotary Club in Richmond, VA. Involved with Jainism-Says-Blogspot, she researches Jain Iconography, Epigraphy, Historical and Numismatic references in Jain literature overlooked by historians, and on the applications of Jain principles. Dhruti’s research was presented at the Dating of Mahavir Nirvana Symposium by ISJS.

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