In the Jainism, there is a great deal of importance given to the leshya. A leshya refers to the state of mind, mental attitude. Our activities reflect our attitude. The following illustration shows how our activities vary with the states of our attitude.
Once there were six friends, who were going on a trip. Along the way, they got lost in a forest. After a while they were hungry and thirsty. They searched for the food for sometime, and finally found a fruit tree.
As they ran to the tree, the first man said, “Let’s cut the tree down and get the fruit.” The second one said, “Don’t cut the whole tree down, cut off a big branch instead.” The third friend said, “Why do we need a big branch? A small branch has enough fruit.” The fourth one said, “We do not need to cut the branches, let us just climb up and get the bunches of the fruit.” The fifth man said, “Why pick those many fruit and waste them, instead just pick the fruit that we need to eat.” The sixth friend said quietly, “There are plenty of good fruit on the ground, so let’s just eat them first.”
You can see that the states of minds of these six friends caused a range of thoughts that begin with the destruction of the entire tree and ended with the picking up of the fruits on the ground. The six friends’ minds represent six types of leshyas.
The first friend’s state of mind represents krishna (black) leshya.
The second friend’s state of mind represents neel (blue) leshya.
The third friend’s state of mind represents kapot (brown) leshya.
The fourth friend’s state of mind represents tejo (red) leshya.
The fifth friend’s state of mind represents padma (yellow) leshya.
The sixth friend’s state of mind represents shukla (white) leshya.
The first leshya is the worst and the sixth leshya is the best. The first three leshyas lead the soul to ruin, and the last three lead the soul to the spiritual prosperity. We know that our minds run into different states all the times for the better or for the worst. Therefore, we should strive for the white leshya, and not the red leshya. The story of King Prasenjit, who lived during Lord Mahavira’s time, illustrates how fast the surrounding can effect our mind and in turn our leshyas as well as our spiritual progress.
One day, King Shrenik was on his way to pay homage to Lord Mahavira, and he saw a sage who was meditating and had a bright glow around him. He bowed down to the sage and continued on his way. After reaching Lord Mahavira, King Shrenik asked the Lord, “Oh Lord, I saw a brilliant sage who was engaged in the meditation. If he died at that moment, what would be his destiny?”
The Lord replied, “He would have been hurled down to the seventh hell-region.”
The king was much astonished to hear this reply from the Lord.
He thought, “Why would such a sage go to hell? Perhaps the Lord might have misunderstood
me.” He asked the Lord again, “Oh Lord, if his soul leaves this body just now, where will it go?”
The Lord replied, “He will be an angel in the Sarvarthasiddhi, a heavenly region.”
The king was much surprised at this reply, too.
He thought, “The Lord first said he would attain the seventh hell, and now he says that the sage would be an angel.” The king was perplexed. At that very moment, drums began sounding in the sky and voices of ‘victory’ were proclaimed. The king asked the Lord, “What is the cause of these sounds?”
The Lord said, “Oh, king, the sage about whom you were inquiring has acquired
omniscience and so the angels are beating the drums and proclaiming the ‘Victory’.”
The king was extremely confused by these answers and requested for the explanations.
So Lord Mahavira explained, “Oh king, right before you approached the sage, two soldiers leading your procession diverted his mind by their conversation that his son was betrayed by his entrusted ministers and they were planning to overthrow his son and even kill him. His meditation was disturbed due to rising of the affection for his son. He was inflamed with rage, and he lost his mental equanimity. Therefore, he started mentally to fight against his ministers. He very violently discharged his weapons one after the other against his ministers. Soon his weapons were exhausted and his foes were not destroyed. So, he thought of throwing his steel helmet against them in order to destroy them. If he would have died at that moment, he would have gone to the 7th hell. Now as he reached for the steel helmet, he realized that he was not the King Prasenjit, but that he was a sage. His anger calmed down immediately. He remembered that he has been initiated into the vow of equanimity and of non-violence to all living beings mentally, verbally, and physically. He deeply regretted and repented for the breach of his vow and indulgence in the acute anger. He further thought that he ought to have maintained love for all the creatures of the world, ought to have no malice for the ministers, and no attachment for his son. He severely condemned his mental act. He despised it and withdrew himself from such a feat of anger and malice. Oh king, when he thought this way, you asked me the next question and I replied that he would be born in the Sarvarthasiddhi (heaven) as an angel. Even thereafter, he continued the purification of his mental reflections and gradually he reached the stage of ‘Kshapaka’, where he annihilated all of his ghati karmas, and attained omniscience.”
King Shrenik’s doubts were resolved and he learned how mental reflections can fluctuate. He, also learned that not only can physical acts or verbal abuses have such devastating effects, but so can mental acts. We, too, must learn from this episode. Let us understand how a person with the different leshyas behaves and what are the outcome of such leshyas.
- Krishna (Black) Leshya : The people in this state of mind do not show any compassion or mercy. Everyone is afraid of them as their anger turns into the violence. They always burn with jealousy and have ill-will for everyone. They are filled with animosity and malice, and do not believe in the religion. This state of mind is the worst and most dangerous. If anyone dies in this state of mind, he will to hell.
- Neel (Blue) Leshya : The people in this state of mind are proud, haughty, and lazy. They are unreliable and other people avoid their company. They are cheaters, cowards, and hypocrites. Such people also avoid the religious discourses. If anyone dies in this state of mind, he gets reborn as a plant.
- Kapot (Brown) Leshya : The people in this state of mind always remain sad and gloomy. They find faults in others and are vindictive. They boast about themselves, become excited over small matters, and lack mental balance. If anyone dies in this state of mind, he gets reborn as a bird or an animal.
- Tejo (Red) Leshya : People in this state of mind are very careful about their actions and discriminate between good and evil. They know the difference between what is right and what is wrong. They are kind, benevolent, religious, and lead a harmonious life. If anyone dies in this state of mind, may get reborn as a human being.
- Padma (Yellow) Leshya : People in this state of mind are kind and benevolent and forgive everyone, even their enemies. They observe some austerities and are vigilant in keeping their vows till their last breath. They remain unaffected by joys and sorrows. If anyone dies in this leshya, he gets reborn in heaven as a celestial being.
- Shukla (White) Leshya: There are two levels of this leshyas. The People in this state of mind strictly observe the principles of non-violence, truth, non-stealing, celibacy, and non-attachment. They are trustworthy, treat every soul as if it was their own soul, and do not have any ill feelings even for their enemies. They remain calm even if someone abuses them. If anyone dies in this state of mind, he gets reborn as a human being or an angel. The people who have perfected this state of mind where there is no more attachment or hatred and treat everyone alike. They do not become happy or sad. Their state of mind is the purest. If anyone dies in this perfected state of mind, he or she will be liberated from the cycle of birth and death.