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Couple questions from the Michael Taft podcast

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Great podcast btw: https://soundcloud.com/michael-taft-5/the-liberating-practice-of-the-fire-kasina-with-daniel-ingram

I have a few questions from the podcast. Sorry if these are answered elsewhere!
  1. Does one need to use a Fire Kasina to get to the murk, or does using the Kasina help with the murk experience in some way? I feel like I'm experiencing the murk just by concentrating on the backs of my eyelids, which are always more or less a swirling light show when I start to concentrate. (I think I'm lucky to get vivid visuals very easily with a bit of concentration)
  2. I clearly see the afterimage, the red dot, the black dot, and the murk, but I don't think I've ever strongly achieved the Jhanas in non-Kasina meditation. Is it just that the "red dot" etc have Jhanic factors without being necessarily being the full-on Jhana? (The "red dot" and "black dot" aren't associated - for me so far - with the level of bliss I've heard attributed to the early Jhanas)
  3. Regarding dukkha nana factors, especially for pre-stream-enterers: Is there a difference between "being in the dukkha nanas" vs. "experiencing some of the dukkha nana factors when in the murk"? Is the latter more temporary?
  4. Once in standard concentration meditation on body and visual sensations I experienced/saw what I assumed was a nimitta. It presented as a very clear blindingly bright white circle taking up much of the visual field with kind of a white flaming/pulsating (10hz?) fringe. Whereas the red and black dot I see in Kasina practice is much smaller and I feel like they may be partially a distant afterimage of the flame. Are these the same or related phenomena?
thanks,
David

RE: Couple questions from the Michael Taft podcast
Answer
3/28/19 3:12 AM as a reply to David Sheldon.
I can answer your first question. The murk that you see in the fire kasina is the same murk as you can find behind your closed eyelids. The kasina practice tends to spice it up, though, because it increases your concentration and makes you more attentive to the nuances of the murk. Even if you don’t practice fire kasina, you can develop your visualization skills by investigating the murk behind your eyelids. Fire kasina is faster.

Very recently Daniel posted a thread with links to very informative FAQ audio recordings. I’ll see if I can find it for you.

RE: Couple questions from the Michael Taft podcast
Answer
3/28/19 3:14 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.

RE: Couple questions from the Michael Taft podcast
Answer
3/28/19 9:26 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Thanks!

RE: Couple questions from the Michael Taft podcast
Answer
3/29/19 4:40 AM as a reply to David Sheldon.
Hi David, re your questions:

  1. Does one need to use a Fire Kasina to get to the murk, or does using the Kasina help with the murk experience in some way? I feel like I'm experiencing the murk just by concentrating on the backs of my eyelids, which are always more or less a swirling light show when I start to concentrate. (I think I'm lucky to get vivid visuals very easily with a bit of concentration)
Linda's answer is spot on!

  1. I clearly see the afterimage, the red dot, the black dot, and the murk, but I don't think I've ever strongly achieved the Jhanas in non-Kasina meditation. Is it just that the "red dot" etc have Jhanic factors without being necessarily being the full-on Jhana? (The "red dot" and "black dot" aren't associated - for me so far - with the level of bliss I've heard attributed to the early Jhanas)
Jhanas are associated with high concentration states. In fire kasina, the first jhana tends to arise immediately after access concentration, when eyes are still open and gazing at the canndle. The second jhana is associated with the colourful nimitta phase that occurs after the red dot, and the third jhana occurs in the murk. I think that if you were experiencing a "full-on" jhana you would be getting more intense visuals than the red dot. E.g. The bliss from the second jhana seems to arise as a result of full absorption in the beauty of the nimitta "light show" sequence. Having said that, there are lots of arguments around what is jhana, heavy versus light jhanas etc. So it's possible you could be getting glimpses of the jhanas but not quite be getting to the level of concentration required to go deeper and sustain them. 

The best way to figure this out is to just keep practising and cultivate Neko's fire kasina triad - patience, faith and curiosity! (explained in the recordings Linda posted above). I would highly recommend spending a lot of time just cultivating curiosity and interest in the actual candle flame and really developing concentration on the kasina until you reach access concentration. A good indication that you have reached access concentration is when you see an after image of the candle occurring while your eyes are open and the candle is still burning. That is a good time to then close your eyes and see what happens next. 

  1. Regarding dukkha nana factors, especially for pre-stream-enterers: Is there a difference between "being in the dukkha nanas" vs. "experiencing some of the dukkha nana factors when in the murk"? Is the latter more temporary?
Yes, in my experience there is a difference between "being in the dukkha nanas off the cushion" versus experiencing the dukkha nanas during a sit. The former can be more long lasting and easily mixed up/overlap with psychological distress, biologically-based mental illness and existential crisis. 

  1. Once in standard concentration meditation on body and visual sensations I experienced/saw what I assumed was a nimitta. It presented as a very clear blindingly bright white circle taking up much of the visual field with kind of a white flaming/pulsating (10hz?) fringe. Whereas the red and black dot I see in Kasina practice is much smaller and I feel like they may be partially a distant afterimage of the flame. Are these the same or related phenomena?
I don't consider the red and black dot to be nimittas - I would categorise them more as after images of the flame. Having said that, they are valuable concentration objects which, when given full attention, can lead to the emergence of a genuine and stable nimitta. 

Your white nimitta experience is interesting. I sometimes experience a purple pulsing light or a red light in non-kasina concentration meditations (e.g. meditation on a mantra or the breath). I used to think these lights were nimittas, but now since practising FK I am not so sure. I think they are related to the jhanas. The fire kasina nimitta is quite unmistakable - extremely clear, strong, steady, crisp borders, colourful halos (usually) and a vibratory spinning interior (sometimes). 

Either way, what you have experienced sounds lovely and could be a nimitta or some other visual related to a deep state of concentration.

Keep practising and stay curious! 

Anna

RE: Couple questions from the Michael Taft podcast
Answer
3/29/19 7:11 AM as a reply to David Sheldon.
Answer to question 4.

Sounds like you could have experienced the breath nimitta. Have never done that myself. So this is hearsay. But it can be a sign of strong concentration and a prerequisite to enter hard jhana.

https://simplesuttas.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/jhana-wars-pt-6-the-great-nimitta-debate/

RE: Couple questions from the Michael Taft podcast
Answer
3/31/19 11:25 AM as a reply to Anna L.
Thanks for the detailed answers!

RE: Couple questions from the Michael Taft podcast
Answer
3/31/19 11:39 AM as a reply to Jyet.
Thanks! I don't think my concentration was that strong at the time. It appeared after just a few minutes of concentration, and I was having good feelings but not Jhana-good. I'm tempted to think this was just a fun arising!

RE: Couple questions from the Michael Taft podcast
Answer
3/31/19 7:40 PM as a reply to David Sheldon.
I read the finished up the Fire Kasina book the other day after listening to the Podcast and have been practicing 20-30 minutes per day using a candle or LED light.  

1) This is really cool.  It is like an atavistic light sound machine. 

2) Wow.  

3) red dot, check.  black dot, check.  geometric figures, check.  creatures, check.  spinning orb with brilliant purple and blue.  body bliss, check

4) There might be something to this, I think I will keep working with this practice.

Many thanks to Daniel and Shannon