Shamatha practices with Kasinas

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Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 20 Join Date: 9/8/09 Recent Posts
Forum: Practical Dharma

I want to try using kasinas for developing concentration. This type of practice is not widely discussed in the modern dharma literature and after googling for a while I could not find much information.

My questions to those jhana experts out there:
1) Where can I find some pointers to it (books, meditation masters, etc)
2) Is there anybody in the community with some experience in this type of shamatha practices?
3) why is this type of practices not so widely spread in the west? I also get the feeling that in asia is not widely used (?)

I have heard that kasina practice, conduce to repeatable results, hence, this might be foster goal oriented practices. Any thought or advice on this?
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 18 Join Date: 7/4/09 Recent Posts
Not a Jhana expert but, the system of meditation by Pa Auk Sayadaw utilizes the full range of Kasinas as well as many other objects to cultivate Jhana mastery prior to Vipassana practice. Traditionally it starts with mastery of the 4 Jhanas using anapanasati at the nostrils. It then moves on to mastery of the 4 jhanas using kasinas and other objects. Then mastery of the 4 formless Jhanas using all Kasinas.

There are 2 westerners authorized to teach the Shamatha portion of system. They have released 5 free talks and a book.
http://www.jhanasadvice.com/

There are also several free ebooks from Pa Auk sayadaw that are quite comprehensive available at the Pa Auks website.
http://www.paauk.org/

-Lee
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 20 Join Date: 9/8/09 Recent Posts
Hi Lee,

Thanks for the hints! have you tried kasina practice?

Guillermo
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 18 Join Date: 7/4/09 Recent Posts
Hi Guillermo,

I have not tried Kasina practice yet though am quite inspired by the accounts of the 2 westerners who have progressed far with the Pa Auk system. I'm currently in Asia trying to get a path or 2 under my belt first using the Mahasi system. If I'm still here and have made some insight progress, I'd like to go to the Pa Auk forest monastery in Myanmar next fall and go as deep as I can into Shamatha practices using his system.

-Lee
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
Hi Mautelino,

Here's what to do:

1. Get a kasina object. You only need one. Cereal bowls or small plates work great. It should be about 8-10" in diameter, without designs. Earth colors are best, as they don't give you eye strain. (For years I carried around one of those cheap plastic bowls they use in Burma for bathing from tanks of (cold) water (yikes).)
2. Prop the bowl against the wall.
3. Sit about 4-6' away.
4. Stare at the bowl.
5. Let us know what happens. (You may be amazed at the antics a simple cereal bowl can perform.)

You don't need any prior knowledge to do this practice. A can-do attitude and a sense of adventure are all that is required. You will find out all about samatha by staring at the bowl. We will be here for you when questions arise.

6. Beware "smart person's disease." This is the tendency to think that you have to have some mental system in place before you can try something. Forget about that. Imagine that you are the first samatha pioneer. Your job is to go exploring and report back to the rest of us what you have found. Have fun!

Kenneth
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 18 Join Date: 7/4/09 Recent Posts
6. Beware "smart person's disease." This is the tendency to think that you have to have some mental system in place before you can try something.

Ouch, I think I got a bad case of that.
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
LOL. It's okay, Lee, there's a lot of it going around. The combined intellect on this forum is quite impressive. Besides, smart person's disease isn't so bad; consider the alternative, ha, ha. With regard to practice, though, I think simple is good.

You mentioned that you are going to MBMC on Monday. Tell me more. Have you been there before? How long will you stay? What's going on with your practice? What do you hope to accomplish on this retreat? Maybe we should start another thread for that discussion? I'd love to hear about it.

Kenneth
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 20 Join Date: 9/8/09 Recent Posts
Hi Kenneth,

thanks for the hints, specially for the "smart person disease" advice. I am certainly conditioned by my education to do the "bibliographical research" before doing anything... I am also a bad case of that as well

I never tried the bowl-alternative, but the Tibetan "A". It is very weird to see how the letter "morphs" and do wild things (e.g. completely vanishing or changing its for to a face).

After crying for a while getting a running nose, the letter get "imprinted" in my retina and when closing my eyes I see bright a replica of it on my eyelids (this might sound hokus-pocus, but I guess is just a pretty usual physiological thins within the bound of the real world).

After doing this for an hour I am pretty relaxed and a bit sleepy (I guess I am not getting much clarity out of it). My question: How should I proceed in order to get more clarity, instead of sinking into dumbness?

Guillermo
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 3176 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
Alright, a bit more info:

When the letter or other object is vague, some strange color, or distorted, this is the learning object/sign. When it presents strongly, cleanly and clearly (usually not much later), this is the Nimitta to use traditional terminology (which you will see in some texts), also called the counterpart sign. The counterpart sign is like a pristine version of the original kasina object. Then one just needs to stay with that and gradually expand it out larger and larger. Initially it may fade again and again, drift off to one side, and do things like that. Keep going, and it will get more stable through looking again at the disk or whatever until you feel a shift, close your eyes, and look for the image. There are some details worth knowing:
1) In the first jhana (with applied and sustained effort predominating), the dot or letter or whatever is flat, smaller, and seems somewhat stable.
2) In the second jhana (which shows itself more on its own), the image will be larger and may move or contain moving, spinning or shimmering elements in it or just around it.
3) In the third jhana (in which the center is more blind and the periphery predominates), you may see a black disk or seem out of phase with the letter or whatever object, and this jhana requires a slippery balance of staying a little more widely with what is there and takes a good bit more concentration abilities than the first two to really stabilize at the kasina level.
4) In the fourth jhana (which is panoramic, open, spacious, luminous), objects may seem to take on a life of their own and be 3D, luminous, intelligent, like independent entities, and may be made of lines of rainbow light or some such thing.

If you are getting sleepy, more effort to stay with the object and what is just around the object. Practice develops the connections that make going up to higher heights easier. Essential instruction: stay with whatever shows up continuously!
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 3176 Join Date: 4/20/09 Recent Posts
I also give some instructions for candle flame meditation in MCTB that a number of people I have taught it to found very fun and interesting. It is strangely easy to get the first 2 jhanas using candle flame, but again, the third jhana is frustrating past the black disk phase for most people until they have practiced a while or in good conditions (very important for kasina practice), such as on retreat.

More source material for those who like the traditional stuff: Bhante Gunaratana's The Path of Serenity and Insight, and, of course, The Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification), which is an encyclopedic monsterwork but does contain all sorts of interesting information.

More things: when the letter arises, just stay with it, just on it, not too hard, not too loosely, just with it, and see how it shifts, changes, and stay with it through any shifts that happen, as it will likely keep showing up in various forms once you have the ability to see it with your eyes closed. When you have really lost the thing, go back to the external support object, then when you feel stable on it, close your eyes again. Repetition of this again and again, staying with the letter or object until it really is completely gone and you have nothing and are just spacing out, then returning to the external object again and again will show you the jhanas and samatha territory.
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/26/09 Recent Posts
I have a couple questions, or, really, one or two broader questions.

How does a kasina compare to the breath for concentration practice? My current practice is to use the breath to develop ease, then move to ease in the body ("steeping in jhana" as described on another post, though i'd call it a jhana-factor since it's weak) then return to the breath as a basic object once the ease (i.e., piti and sukkha) is stable. Does any of that translate to kasina practice?

Second, before I started formally meditating I'd use visual objects a lot. My experience was that the strange visual phenomena that arise, in my current judgment, are hindrances to concentration (e.g., the faces are delusions, inability to hold the eyeballs still is restlessness or aversion). Is that correct, or just holding things too tightly?
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 4 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
I have a slightly different perspective on the A-letter meditation, as practiced in the Japanese Shingon tradition (the Tibetan Dzogchen instruction would differ, which makes it obvious why meditative cross-training is possible only at very advanced levels).

So, turning from gazing to visualizing would means turning from frontal to centered. Accordingly one should place the letter A in the chest and proceed to stabilize the image there. To counteract dullness, one should pay more attention to the luminous aspect of the moondisc, and to counteract excitement, one should pay more attention to the form of letter. In addition, by holding the composite object internally in the specified location, the subtle winds are attracted into the central channel, which in itself balances the attention and supports clear perception. Hope it helps.
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
Ok, so I've been giving this a shot for a few days now. Here's where I'm at…

First, I've only been practicing in 15 - 30 minutes intervals. I've had limited time to practice this week, and am hoping to get at least couple hours in on Saturday and Sunday.

I made two colored discs out of construction paper and left over cardboard from a box of instant oatmeal. One disc is yellow, the other green, and both are about 8 inches in diameter. The yellow disc is harder on my eyes, so I've been using the green one more often. (Let me know if there are any colors that are easier to start out with, and I'll make a new disc).

I repeated the instructions Kenneth posted above, but instead of resting the disc on the ground against a wall, I taped it to the wall at about eye level.

The first thing that happens as I gaze in to the disc is that parts of it, or the whole disc, will disappear and than reappear as if fading slowly back in. After a few minutes, I start to notice a red impression of the disc, which doesn't stay quite centered with the object. This keeps happening while the disc continues to disappear and reappear.

Then, even though my eyes are wide open, my field of vision will start to fade to darkness. At first, everything disappears and fades out with it. Over time, the disc and its contrasting impression seem to merge and become black while everything is fading out. At that point, the now black disc becomes the predominant image. It's very spacey in appearance -- kind of shimmery and luminous, like looking in to some kind of energy field or black whole.

There were a few moments where I thought I felt a shift, so I closed my eyes to see if the image was apparent. So far, the image has only showed up poorly, and I am not able to focus on it clearly. I end up placing my focus back on the green disc and starting the practice all over again.

(continued)
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
One problem I'm running in to is that when I close my eyes, the background becomes distracting. There's a lot of flickering of light, and it's too hard to see the counterpoint sign with this disturbance. My first assumption is that I just need to practice longer, and this will clear itself up. But I also wonder if the white wall used as the background of the green disc is imprinting on my mind in some way that is not conducive to seeing the counterpoint sign when I close my eyes. Could that be the case, or is the whiteness of the wall no obstacle at all?

Also, when the disc starts to disappear, should I be actively trying to bring it back in to vision, or just be with what happens as it happens? I've noticed that the more relaxed I am, the less the disappearing act takes place. It leads me to believe that the disappearing act is caused by excitation. Just a thought.

Jackson
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 20 Join Date: 9/8/09 Recent Posts
@Daniel & @Kennet: thanks for the practical hints. I got the book "The Path of Serenity and Insight": so far it has a lot of descriptions and details, but no really nut&bolts about the practice (mainly scholar stuff). I must read through the whole book though.

@Jackson, good to hear that someone else is trying this too. I got some similar experiences like those described in your post.

Here is some of my experiences, commentaries and further questions:
- I took a dark blue square and pinned to a white wall
- the first 10min my eyes cry and my nose was running.
- after concentration gets stronger, the background also started to get dark and got a similar color as the object. eventually the object disappears in the dark background (quite a weird experience if you consider that the object is still "out there")
- eventually a bright ghostly image forms and replaces the form of the object
- cycles of disappearance & bright object repeats (also a lot of flickering, i.e. is hard to stay focus and concetrated, no stable image at all)
- after closing my eyes everything was dark purple for a while and at some point I can see the bright counterpart of the object. This image moves around and after 1min it disappears and do not come back.
- Then I open my eyes and repeat the cycle

My question:
- should the sign eventually get stable? Or should I get use to the moving, disappearing, etc?
- from Dan's description I get that the whole busyness is not really stable (?). This makes me wonder, since a I though that the Jahna experiences are very stable (frozen). Further explanations on this are welcomed!
- kind of weird thing: thoughts are still present but somehow at the background. do they disappear once you enter a Jahna?

I will keep on trying!

Guillermo
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 97 Join Date: 5/6/09 Recent Posts
Guillermo, our experiences are very similar indeed. Thanks for sharing.

It makes sense to me that a bright object would appear after using a dark colored kasina. The imprint that arises from staring at a color is usually its direct contrast. Thus, staring at red should cause a green imprint. Blue should cause an orange imprint, and purple should cause yellow, etc.

What's interesting in my limited experience is how when the two objects (the kasina and the counterpoint sign) are completely aligned, the combined image is black. It makes sense, though, as I think this happens when two contrast colors are mixed. The blackness isn't matte, but rather luminous and engaging. It's not too hard to stay interested in the object when it starts getting really spacey looking. I'm enjoying this practice a lot more than I thought I would.

I have the same questions about how stable the counterpoint sign is supposed to get, but I guess I'll find out with time. I'm just going to keep trying it for longer and longer periods until my mind finally gets it.
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: msj123

All this talk has made me decide to use hard objects as well. Just a question on procedure: is this done with the eyes open, or opened for a time, and then closed (to get the signs, etc.)?
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
Hi Guillermo,

Well, the first thing to say is that you are doing it right and your descriptions are good. I don't think there is a "right answer" to how this can manifest. But there is a trend toward more stability over time. Sometimes things are "frozen," but more often they are not.

You described a "bright ghostly image" that forms over the object. At that point, try closing your eyes and noticing the overall physical sensations. You may be in jhana at that point. Close your eyes, let yourself bathe in the sensations and see how deep and stable it gets.

The way you describe thoughts as being present but in the background accords with my own experience of jhana.

Thanks for the clear report. Keep us posted.

Kenneth
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
Hi msj,

Start with your eyes open as you gaze at the kasina object. You can close them if they get tired, or if you want to explore the images "on the backs of your eyelids," or if you enter jhana and want to devote all of your attention to body sensations or mental phenomena. The best thing is to experiment and build a base of experience upon which to build your practice.

Kenneth
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: msj123

Kenneth,

Thanks for the tips. I especially like your idea about being a shamatha pioneer.

Matt
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 20 Join Date: 9/8/09 Recent Posts
Hi Kennet,

thanks for the hints. I am really happy to see that:
- I always get good advice from this community, specially from those with experience in these territories
- People are willing to test this things out and get a first person experience instead of philosophize about it

I will keep on going with kasina practice as well as my regular "noting". Definitely there is a lot to explore!

Thanks, Guillermo

@ Matt: see Dan's second post for an answer. First concentrate on the external object (eyes closed) until you get the luminous sign. Then close the eyes and concentrate in the luminous object until it disappears. If gone, open the eyes again and repeat the cycle.
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: msj123

Guillermo,

Thanks for the clarification. I have a very precise way of thinking--- if I don't completely understand all the steps, I get lost.
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 20 Join Date: 9/8/09 Recent Posts
I got today a copy of the Vissuddhimagga (I guess that this is the geekiest dahrma book I ever bought). I flied through and I was amazed the amount of detailed explanation regarding the kashina practice! simple incredible!

Looking forward to spend a big part of my two week vacation between practice and reading the Vissuddhimagga... geek rules!

A question to the audience: is it recommended to alternate shamatha and vipassana practices? For example, a couple of hours of each of them through the day. I wonder if they are some how incompatible? (e.g. by doing too much shamatha, you will not be able to do y fast noting, or by doing much noting you wont be able to concentrate) What is your take on this?

Regards,

Guillermo
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
I think you can do concentration practice "only" if you want. Insight practice involves concentration, however, and so it will increase along with your insight work (depending upon the technique), although I would imagine it would be slower than "pure" concentration work. Speaking from my own experience, I barely did any concentration practice and I have noted being in "soft" forms of all 8 Jhanas at one time or another.
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 362 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
The hard part is developing applied and sustained attention so keep the objects very simple at first and gently steady the wandering and wavering of attention simply and barely on the object. Don't worry about whether it is a tangible object or a mental representation of it just think of it as one object and steady the attention. This may seem entirely wrong for some long time insight only practitioners. Once you find the best ways for you to transition from focusing on an object to being fully taken up with it you can continue that practice in a variety of ways and you will see how this process may base itself on nearly anything. The traditional objects have particular advantages for various reasons but there are plentiful examples of Jhana production in innumerable ways and in endless forms.

Some basic kasina I have always found handy include those circular cement paving stones you can get for about 5 bucks. They are easy to rest the eyes on and have a nice even earth tone for earth kasina practice. In a pinch you can make a good one with a plate, a pen, scissors and the inside of a cereal box. For the colored Jhanas you can use colored construction paper instead. Bold flat primary colors work well.

I would recommend staying away from using anything that disturbs you until you understand how even those objects will work in this way, things like sculls or bones or meat. A sunbeam can be used for light or space and a loop of wire for air or space, etc.. A clear glass bowl of water works well. A clear blue sky is excellent or pitch darkness and a still pool or sparkling river is irresistible for me. There are all kinds of possibilities. Be creative and experiment but stay with themes that work and develop them. All are 'forms' of concentration unless of course they are 'formless'.
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 22924 Join Date: 8/6/09 Recent Posts
Author: msj123

My practice with concentration is going like so:

Pick an object (breath or kasina). Lay attention on object.

If my mind is too active, I note inner states until they diminish. Usually this works, and I can focus continuously on the object, with the thoughts softly arising and passing in the perimeter.

After a while, I get tingling sensations of varying intensities. Also, at a cetain point, it takes less effort, and I can usually "rest" the attention on the object. With kasinas, the object becomes blurred, fluid, and changing. With the breath, the breath becomes solid. At this point, do I switch to the tingling sensations? Or do I wait for bliss sensations? Or just stick with the object?
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 362 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
The bliss is what arises in the absence of any wavering of attention. The rapture is the 'elevation' of attention as attention is released from the changing forms and consolidates steadily on the particular form or object of concentration. There is a sense of relief but it simply feels like a joy similar to that which might arise when something is clearly discerned via insight but it is steady. So if it steadies attention develop that kind of attention for concentration and if it leads attention to waver or wander let it go. Slowly and gently add whatever attention is at the periphery to the attention applied to the object of the exercise until there is no peripheral attention. No need to attend to the bliss or rapture until they are fully present and steady and impossible not to note them when they are steady, if present. When there is nothing arising external to the particular form of concentration the bliss and rapture are examinable very directly as these qualities predominate in the first kinds of jhanas. It is a natural reflex of the steadied mind. Because there is some subtle vibrating or wavering in the bliss and because the bliss and rapture predominate these qualities are let go of and there is only the stability, steadiness or evenness of mind in the 'higher' jhanas. Bliss and rapture - joy and relief/release from the shifting flow.
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 20 Join Date: 9/8/09 Recent Posts
Ok, I have been practicing with kasinas for 1.5xHour/Day for almost 2 weeks. Here are some observations/experiences:
- I get pretty stable concentration with the eyes open
- after 15min I close my eyes and concentrate on the counterpart image until it fades away (about 5-10 min)
- while fading I try to concentrate harder on it and it becomes stable. Seems like I can prolong the "death" of the image
- then repeat the cycle
- when relaxation kicks in feels dam good! I am glad that kasina practice is legal ;-)
- after finishing practice the peace/good feeling last a couple of hours. Actually the sensation is being a bit "spacey"

I can sense that there is some progress but here is a question:
- The Visuddhimagga talks about the "counterpart sign" (patibhaga-nimitta) also known as "mental image"
- Does any body can explain me what the old guy meant? Is it symbolic/poetic language or something concrete (seen a the light with the eyes closed, etc)?
- What should I look for?
- The description goes like this: "...But the counterpart sign appears as if breaking out from the learning sign, and a hundred times, a thousand times more purified, like a looking-glass disk drawn from its case, like a mother-of-pearl dish well washed, like the moon's disk coming out from behind a cloud, like cranes against a thunder cloud. But it has neither color nor shape; for if it had, it would be cognizable by the eye, gross, susceptible of comprehension (by insight) and stamped with the three characteristics. But it is not like that. For it is born only of perception in one who has obtained concentration, being a mere mode of appearance (Vism. 125-26; PP.130) "
- By the way: after coming down from the Lucy-in-the-sky-with-diamons-trip I have done very good in the insight practice: is like recharging the battery and being able to pin-point very fast sensations.
Guillermo
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi Guillermo,
I am no expert in this but I may be able to give some references I know about the counterpart sign. According to Pa Auk Sayadaw it is a form of mentally produced visual perception indicating the attainment of access concentration. The learning sign is the same but not as brilliant and radiant as the counterpart sign. You might want to check out the recordings from the Jhana practice group:
http://www.paauk.org/files/jhanapracticegroup.html
Best wishes,
Martin
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 362 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Reading over the thread again a couple thoughts came to mind from doing this kind of practice for many hours a day. I put the kasina on the floor about an arms length in front of me. The reason I ended up doing this consistently was because I could keep my neck straight close my eyes half way and gaze at a slight down angle, all of which proved preferable over the longer term.

As far as signs and counterpart signs,etc.. I have more or less dumped this idea in favor of processes that result in different sorts of singularities of attention. The advantage of solid or steady or consistent external objects is that they are stable already unlike anything in the untrained, undeveloped or 'unconditioned' body/mind. I ended up just seeing all of these steps in between first attending to an object and then the stages of this becoming a kind of singular and steady experience. I found it unhelpful to concern myself with what stage was what. I applied analysis to what was happening and eventually this became a combined practice which alternated between focusing on concentration and focusing on vipassana. I had thought it better to limit the concentration work but I have finally had some thoughtful encouragement to focus on it more and so I am going to return to a balanced approach where if concentration is improving I focus on that and if concentration is elusive I focus on insight and analysis just continues along.

There is a difference between body bliss and mind bliss, attention stable on an external object, attention stable on an internal object and attention stable on a mental object. In the beginning just go for stability or steadiness and don't worry about discriminating distinctions, when you get some time in you will figure all these out. What is best to find out first is when applied and sustained attention are dropping off and why. Either it is because attention isn't enough or else either applied or sustained it has momentum.
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
Hey all,

Here's a link to a very useful samatha exercise using a specially created visual aid:

http://tinyurl.com/2r8rj6

Let us know how it goes.

Guillermo, I agree with Triplethink that worrying too much about the traditional descriptions of nimittas and countersigns can be more trouble than it's worth. That particular system is just one way to talk about samatha/jhana practice. For me, it's more productive to notice the jhanas as they arise by focusing on the mental and physical phenomena that correspond to each jhana. (You can notice the sensations without deconstructing them, i.e. you can be very clear on which jhana you are in without practicing vipassana.)

I only use the kasina to focus the mind to the level of jhana; once I'm in jhana, I close my eyes and let the jhana take over and suffuse the mind/body. If the mind wanders, you can open your eyes again and use the kasina to settle down until the next jhana arises.
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 11 Join Date: 8/24/09 Recent Posts
I just tried this technique for the first time, and it was amazing - i don't know which jhana(s) I may have entered, but it was very, very pleasant and surreal.

I don't have time to go into detail right now, but wanted to let anyone interested know, I used a kasina that I created on PowerPoint and put it on my monitor -- it worked great and I'll be happy to share with anyone who's interested - just PM me with your e-mail addy.

Thanks,
John
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Post: 1 Join Date: 9/7/09 Recent Posts
Kenneth, how 4-6' translates into meter-santimeter thing?how far to seat from kasina?
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 439 Join Date: 4/30/09 Recent Posts
Elena, try a plate or bowl that's about 20cm in diameter and sit about 1.5 meters away. Adjust the distance according to your comfort. There is no perfect distance, it's more about what works best for you.

Kenneth
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Post: 1 Join Date: 9/7/09 Recent Posts
thank u Kenneth
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Post: 1 Join Date: 9/7/09 Recent Posts
all right,i tried it for 30 min three days-first time experience much like that of Jakson-counterpart appeared on top of the blue circle that i cutted,it was orange color,didnt stay stable,mooved from side to side.all thing darkened once in a wile and circle became black and sometimes disappeared totally o partially for few seconds.second time the imprint appeared much quicklier-after few seconds of looking on the object,but didnt disapear at all(poor concentration?)but on this time i saw distinctly the conterpart of orange color mooving totally from the object and staing for about 10 seconds on the floor nerebuy the blue circle.i didnt even know if to watch the blue one or concentrate on the orange.before it disappere the new orange imprint would already appere on top of the blue circle and start to moove offsenter.any time i close the eyes-cant see any clear object-eerything shimmering.to say the truth-i was slightly dissapointed by the second and third day experience-it didnt seem to overpass the first one with the only exeption that i sucseeded not to loose much the counterpart-saw it almost continuosly .and another thing i think i learn how the jhana feels and can tune my attention better probably when doing vipassana practice.question to Daniel-when u talk about expanding the object and about it being bigger or smaller are u talking about original one or about the one that is created on top of it and is countercolor and which color of these two u expect to see when u close your eyes?
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 362 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Hi lenaloz. I recommend beginning with a more neutral color. The reverse color is an optical effect which will probably become less typical eventually with more time in on the practice. I suggest a grey color or cement like color. You will still likely get both a black and a white optical impression. Focus on the white one and allow it to predominate. When it is steady allow your eyes to close and focus on the visual imprint until it becomes a mental object or in other words an actual mental visualization and then focus on that. When you loose the mental object or the visual imprint open your eyes and begin again. When I use a cardboard cutout I make a small cardboard stand to tilt the circle up slightly at the back so that I am looking at it more straight on. Grey is nice because it is easier on the eyes and less stressful to stare at for longer. When you are experienced with a more neutral color you will be able to work more effectively with more primary colors as you will understand all of these phenomena very well by then. I like to undertake kasina practices in these ways for many hours in most every day for several months if at all possible as that leads to excellent progress. Don't worry about watery eyes or blinking but don't over stress your eyes and take breaks as needed. I see the expansion of the object as essentially synonymous with the eventual one pointed merger with the object and I don't think it is necessary to push for that, it will simply occur in due course. In fact I see the whole exercise as largely involving the ever more skillful practice of relaxation of attention to diversity and the mindful observation of these particular sequences of phenomena as they unfold. I wish you all the best in your efforts.
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 7 Join Date: 9/2/09 Recent Posts
Last night I sat and did some kasina practise with a blue bowl. It certainly got me concentrated very quickly. I then felt the blissful sensations which I kept observing but I think access concentration is a far as I got for awhile. Then when I got bored I just automatically went to vipassana mode and ¨gave up ¨ trying for the jhanas and within a couple of moments I was definietely not in accesss concentration anymore. This type of concentration is still new for me as I have been primarily been doing only Vipassana ( Goenka Tradition). My mind has become quite accustomed to observing all sensations with equanimity and does so without much effort.
So when I enetered forst jhana, I wasn´t very interested in the blissful sensations and kind of let them go right away. Then I found myself in another state, maybe 2nd jhana. I kind of bypassed the 1st jhana pretty quickly and maybe even went into 3rd jhana as my experience was one where I had to let my concetration go to the edges so to speak. and see the whole picture.

My question is, is it it possible to bypass jhanas? Is the fact that my mind automatically wants to observe things equanmiously helping this?
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
hey nick,

'observing things equanimously' is how to get into jhana in the first place.. it definitely helps. the more letting go, the deeper the level of jhana that can be accessed. as for whether or not jhanas can be bypassed, certainly - though it may be argued, from a technical point of view, that what's happening is not actual skipping of the sequence but is flying through some so quickly you barely notice them. for more clarity on this matter, if you think you have an affinity for a certain jhana, say 3rd jhana, pay attention to how you get to it. i think you'll find traces of the lower jhanas - like the focused effort of 1st, or the suffusing bliss of the 2nd - en route.
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Post: 1 Join Date: 9/7/09 Recent Posts
thank you, Triplethink.i ll make neutral color circle.even though i was very much fascinated observing the orange light around blue circle.this practice is really good to learn how to ajust attention because u see in front of your eyes the result of it and try to do ajustments voluntary ,not just "find out" you happened into some territory.the only thing is -i cant do it more than one hour daily.i dont want to stop vipassana entirely.hope it ll have effect.i alread see clearly light imprint with my eyes closed and sustain it for about 20 seconds(big kindergarden progress!)
Wet Paint, modified 12 Years ago.

RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Post: 1 Join Date: 9/7/09 Recent Posts
Triplethink,today i already can THANK u fully-i did change the kasina color and the experience was gorgeous-vast play of lights like stage light after darckening the surroundings-from yellow to blue,purple and green and the objekt itself becoming light instead of matelial one and even mooves slightly.it was only first hour! thanks a lot.it s also much easier to see object dissapearing and maintain sertain kind of awearness,learn to manipulate with it.also it seems that i relaxe more at the end of expirium and thats were things start going deeper.also i learned to maintain concentration through eye blinking and not to start "from the beguinning "each time slightest mooving happens.the practice is very very engaging ,much easier than to concentrate on the breath,by the way -whould it mean that breath gives better concentration or it depends only on personal inclinations?
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Post: 1 Join Date: 9/7/09 Recent Posts
when i look at kasina igradually shift and look not axactly at it but somehow wide-taking the area around it into attantion and when it happens it seems that i go into deeper concentration .on the other side if i continue to fix my look at the center of kasina some violet color sircle starts "evaporating"from kasina( made of backside of cereal box-light grey color).those circles go up and new are ceated on top of the kasina.and it seems that even the space between me and object is thick and some shimmering violet color moves in it with my eyes closed i see circles of violet and black color dissapearing one into another non stop.the moment one dissapears-another is created around it.when i stare at kasina it starts kind of jump slightly from side to side and sometimes i see clearly two of kasinas(probably one for each eye?)
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 658 Join Date: 5/14/09 Recent Posts
oh my god that is so trippy, how long have you been doing this to get all these cool visual effects? and how long do they last for?
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 362 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
Well, it is probably a little different for everyone greco. I happen to be kind of an extremist, so I just kept at it for hours on end for a couple of years and that taught me a lot. Most people, with an hour a day, it may take a few years to work all the way through this stuff. I would really recommend about three hours a day on this work to make strong progress in three to six months but it is like anything, you make an investment and you get a comparable return on it.
All the best everyone.
-triplethink
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
HI Elena,

Here, too! The circles come with a very pleasant subtle tingling around the eyes and forehead, very easy to plunge into first jhana from there.

I haven't gotten the "one kasina for each eye" effect, maybe because I stuck the kasina to the back of a door, and the doorframe is in my field of vision. I'll try sticking it on a wall. Thanks!

Have you tried breath meditation since starting kasina practice? I do about 20-30 min. Kasina each day, which has really boosted my concentration with my primary object which I mainly use when meditating.

Great to hear from you,

Cheers,
Florian
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Post: 1 Join Date: 9/7/09 Recent Posts
Tarin ,i do this practice only for the last month or so since i read the tread on casinas.first time i got this light effects i was very fascinated by them.now it "comes still " and i see as Daniel pointed out-i cant pass yhe black circle.i dont see it threedimentional or rainbow.it teaches me probably that i can attain 3-d jana but not 4th yet.
Florian-nice to hear from u guy!i do kasina at day time and breathing at night(when daylight is not available)but i ll try kasina on electricity light also-dont think its problem.plesent sensations all over the body do come when practicing with kasina and they have nature of A&P-champane like bubles but on low pleasant scale-not frickening me like on A&P event itself/and also there ape moments of cooling and profound calmness'stillness/
about the placement of kasina-triplethink recomended to put it on the flour and i put it against the wall on the flour to get comfortable angle.my wall is slightly mint color-it may add somehow to effect.also the violet comes even with my eyes closed.the most important i learned- to adjust attention to kind of having all background in vision but stay lightly with kasina-when i sucseed to do that-deepest moments come(instead of just staring on kasina harshly) good luck everybody!Lena
Wet Paint, modified 11 Years ago.

RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 0 Join Date: 8/22/09 Recent Posts
I just recently used a kasina on pupose for the first time in my practice. I chose my small Buddha statue and sat it on the floor in front of me a few feet away. Thanks to Daniel's book (which I have read once already, and a few threads on the subject here) I think I attained to the 3rd jhana. It was very different, pretty incredible, and reminiscent of my contemplative Christian prayer days.

After my experience I can see how one could easily become a jhana junkie, because I'd definitely like to do it again. One of the benefits of the jhanas that I can see is that during my 'dry insight' sittings, which has been every time, it seemed like I was in the middle of an eight-lane highway with my sensations whizzing by at a speed that seemed hard to note anything at all. After reaching one of the jhanas it seems that the sensations were slowed to parade speed and lined up one by one to be noted. The only problem is that I have been sitting for only 20 minutes, so by the time I reached a level of jhana, the time was up and I didn't get any real insight practice done.

Anyways, that's where I am at right now. Serious thanks to Daniel and everyone here. It's a big difference in reading about something and actually experiencing it for yourself.
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Hi Jamie,

It's called "dry insight" for a reason. I was very reluctant for a long time to do pure concentration practice; some weird macho guilt thing.

Kenneth made a diving comparison once; concentration practice is like training to hold one's breath, allowing deeper and longer dives.

Cheers,
Florian
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 122 Join Date: 7/19/09 Recent Posts
I am so excited to have found this site, and Daniel's book! I have been practising by myself for over a year and a half, with not much to show for it. I have been vacillating between "traditions", sometimes vipassana, sometimes Zen, but nothing really felt right. But more than anything, I felt like I needed to nail down jhanas because they seemed to me to be a natural process that *should* be accessible. I just had a hard time finding the nitty gritty details on the formula for that process.

I have been exclusively working on the breath...counting, counting, counting. But try as I might, I could never get to access concentration. I had been wary of using kasinas because they seemed to me to be a crutch. But these last few days since finding Daniel's book and this site have changed my mind, and I am willing to give it a go since they clearly work. And I now clearly see how concentration plays a role in the whole insight process because I have a map!

So, long winded introduction, but I have tried the kasina a couple of times now. Alas, no real progress, but I may not be giving it a fair chance. So here are a couple of practical questions that I hope someone might be able to answer:

1. How important is colour? I tried green first, with no real luck. From other responses in this thread, my next crack at it will use a buff/grey colour, but at the end of the day, are there "easier" or "harder" colours? I have no doubt that once I get to access a couple of times, it will be less relevant, but for a first-timer?

2. How long, realistically, should it take. I know, there is a huge "it depends" component to that, but seems to me a first-timer is unlikely to achieve access in two minutes. But 30 minutes? An hour? Many one hour sessions? I need a carrot, here.

I am really looking forward to cracking this nut and moving to the real work.

Thanks,
tomo
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RE: Shamatha practices with Kasinas

Posts: 1028 Join Date: 4/28/09 Recent Posts
Hi tomo

It's great to have you here. Welcome!

Some tips (from my experience, not necessarily useful for everyone):

1. adopt a light, curious attitude of fun almost. I'm not staring down demons here, just gazing lightly, attention directed at the kasina.

2. start at 15 minutes max. I currently do "kasina sits" for 30 minutes. The tears and running nose seem to be a side effect of straining.

3. the only color I tried so far was brown.

4. don't expect any great light shows or unusual optical effects. They'll arise on their own, but in my case weren't what I expected at all.

5. as with any concentration practice, I found the "teaching a kid to ride a bike" analogy quite useful: at first, hold on to the bike, but try letting go after some time, intervening only if balance is lost. In the end, just jog along.

6. Go ahead and do some "real work" (such as noting practice) right after an initial 15 minutes "warm-up" with the kasina. I've found that my insight meditation practice has helped my concentration, and vice-versa.

Cheers,
Florian

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