Publisher’s Desk: Science of Leśyā

June, 2024 by Dilip V. Shah
The Western concept of matter originally applied to the four elements only -fire, earth, air, and water.

The Jain concept of elements of the matter is unique in its originality, for it has given place to Indriyas (senses), karmic matter and Leśyā (condition of the soul). Each soul has smell, taste, and one of the six psychic colors called Leśyā. A human soul may take on one of six psychic colors. Colors can change in accordance with the condition of the soul at any given time; it is not innate to the soul. A study of the order of elements of matter reveals that Jain metaphysics commenced with the grossest forms of matter and went deep into that of its finest form – the subtle force by stages in dealing with the problem like general metaphysics and physics of the West. Leśyā is Karmic stain. Aura of soul. It is the coloring of the soul on account of its association with karmic matter. The color of Leśyās varies from person to person depending on the psychic state and mental activities behind an action.

Leśyā is dependent upon the activity of the mind. There is a transformation of the soul. There is Leśyā so long as there the soul is associated with the mind. The soul has infinite fold transformations due to the infinite fold activities of the mind associated with it. These transformations are classified, for the sake of convenience, into six main types, which are known as Krśnā- leśyā (black), Nil Leśyā (blue), Kāpota- Leśyā (Gray), Tejo- Leśyā (yellow), Padma Leśyā (lotus pink), and Śukla- Leśyā (White). They are thus nothing but states of the soul brought about by the various conditions of the mind.

There is a direct correlation between the Leśyā of the soul and the āyus karman (lifespan) that is bound, and the souls with inauspicious Leśyā may bind inauspicious verities of āyus karman. Thus, it is said that The inauspicious black Leśyā causes the binding of nark āyush, and thus rebirth as a hell being, and blue and gray Leśyās the binding of tiryag āyus, and thus rebirth among the animals, The auspicious red Leśyā causes binding of manusāyus and rebirth as human being and pink and white Leśyās binding of dev āyus, and rebirth among the gods. However, this is a general statement, and indirect correlation is not precluded, with souls having inauspicious Leśyās binding  auspicious verities of āyuskarman (and vice versa) because the intensity of Leśyā is also a factor.

Karman is color-coded, and the color of the soul indicates its spiritual level. Leśyā refers to karmic stain and denotes six levels and colors: black, blue, and gray are the lowest Leśyās, being connected with rebirths in miserable states. Some consider them to be the “the origin of evil” and associate them with cruelty, the desire to kill, the desire to lie, fraud, fraud, deceit, cheating, lust, laziness, and other vices. Yellow, pink, and white on the other hand, “are the origin of good” and are linked to the control and freedom from passions. Smells and taste are also ascribed to the Leśyās. A Jina is able to “perceive in each individual the color, taste. fragrance and quality of the matter as emanating even beyond the strict circumference of the body frame in such a way as to form a subtle halo, which is invisible to ordinary humans”.

In Preksh Dhyan, the practitioner is expected to see the colors of the subtle body and practice Leśyādhyan.

These concepts are easier to comprehend with everyday life experiences. Often, we are told the story of six friends passing through the Jungle when they came upon a Jambu tree. They all wanted to enjoy the fruits of Jambu tree. The first endowed with Krśnā- leśyā (black) suggested cutting the whole Jambu tree down; the second friend with Nil Leśyā (blue) sees the futility of cutting the tree down and advises his friends to instead cut all its branches. The third friend, possessive of  Kāpota- Leśyā ( Gray), sees no need to cut down the tree or all the branches and proposes to just cut a few branches with most Jambus. The fourth having Tejo- Leśyā (yellow), advocates to simply pluck bunches of Jambus the fifth, with Padma Leśyā sees the pointlessness of plucking bunches of Jambu from the tree and proposes to simply take some fruits from the bunches of Jambu. Finally, the sixth with Śukla- Leśyā speaks up and tells friends “Why not just pick up all the Jambus off the ground that have fallen off the tree saving the tree, branches, and the bunches of Jambus from any unnecessary pain.”

The same story is told another way pertaining six thieves embarking on a plundering spree. Upon reaching a wealth village, the first one suggested to destroy the village, kill all the people and animals and take all the wealth. The second one disagreed and asked “why animals and birds must die? Let’s just kill those who oppose us and take their wealth”. The third demurred and asked, “why to kill the women let’s just kill the male persons”. The fourth disagreed with all three and suggested “not all persons but those are armed should be killed”. The fifth one said, “why should the armed persons, who are not opposing us should be killed?” Finally, the sixth person said, “why kill anyone – we can just steal their money and leave”.

From these two examples, the nature of Leśyā can clearly be understood. Among the six persons of each example the conditions of the souls of the successive persons are found auspicious, more auspicious and most auspicious by order, that is the decrease of wickedness and the increase of mildness in parināms (end results) – transformation of soul are observed here.

So, what can aspirants strive for? Simple: Forever remain in Sadbhāv – good thoughts. That is the key to salvation.

About Author

Dilip V. Shah is a past JAINA President, recipient of JAINA RATNA award.


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