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In Need of Good Fire Kasina Candles!

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In Need of Good Fire Kasina Candles!
Answer
1/27/20 10:41 AM
I just recently completed a 20 day Jhana retreat where any sort of kasina practice was very strongly discouraged

After returning home and fortunately having home environment conditions conducive to Jhana practice and also the time, I've decided to extend it into a home self retreat for up to an additional 9 days (I'm at day 4 now). One thing I'd wanted to experiment with is the fire kasina and now having the opportunity to do so I've sat several sessions with it. (Btw, a curious degree of dreamy torpor has accompanied it). 

My first excursions with fire kasina were among my initial rookie efforts at Jhana practice exactly six years ago, at which time the instructions I was using were bare bones ['Stare at flame, stare at afterimage. Repeat'] and didn't include any of the detailed, informative, and instructive background info that's available. Thank's to Daniel and all who've shared their fire kasina experiences and sparking my curiosity. 

But there's one problem...I need some candles! 

I'm not a candle person and the candles I have on hand come from ... who even knows who or where they came from. They yield small, pathetic, unpredictable flames (which can be improved by carving away or excavating some wax at the expense of rapid burn time). I've got a candle with a lame thin weak wick which is a wonderful design ... if your idea of a candle is one that either will not remain lit, or if lit produces a flame the size of a popcorn kernel (really, who on earth designs these things?) and also some small glass votives (also lame flame plus the glass only gets in the way). Unfortunately none of these really fit the bill.

I have blackout curtains in my room and also a ten-foot wide floor to ceiling black cloth with grommets (gift from a photographer friend who used it for photo shoots) hung as a backdrop to my flame. Only thing missing is a stock of good candles.

I remember reading or listening to Daniel describe a good cheap candle somewhere but unfortunately I can't locate it ... I'd like to keep as tight a retreat envelope as possible and don’t want to go tumbling even further down a Google/Podcast/book rabbit hole than is necessary.

Any recommendations on good, inexpensive (!) candles, both specific brands and also types? No luxury items ... just good, reliable, unscented, substantial flame producing candles, preferably long burning candles? Links? 

Thanks a bunch!

P.S: Btw, I'm near downtown Brooklyn, NY, Barclay's Stadium, if there's a source nearby.

RE: In Need of Good Fire Kasina Candles!
Answer
1/27/20 11:36 AM as a reply to Monsoon Frog.
I've used Root Arista dinner candles, which I've gotten from Amazon. They tend to be pricey, but you can get a good deal on select colors on that site. I know, Amazon is evil and you probably want them right now, but it's the best source I know.

RE: In Need of Good Fire Kasina Candles!
Answer
1/27/20 2:03 PM as a reply to Monsoon Frog.
Regular paraffin candles make me cough. I don't have any sort of respiratory disorders. I'm nearsighted and I don't like doing kasina meditation with glasses or contacts, so I'll tend to sit close to the candle.

I've found 100% beeswax candles to be good.

I once bought a beeswax candle from an Indian meditation and yoga shop, tried it, and sure enough ended up coughing the next day. I think it had paraffin in it. Another time, I randomly ran into a local artisanal candle producer. We got to chat. He made it clear that he made his candles by hand and they were only made of organic beeswax. I tried his smallest candle and had no problem. I bought much larger ones, sat near them while staring at the flame for hours at a time and continued to not have a problem. I generally don't care if something is organic and locally produced, but in this case, it's a way to reduce the odds of getting a counterfeit "beeswax" candle. They tend to have them at places like ren faires and health food stores.

The larger beeswax candles can have several wicks. If it's very wide, you'll need to press in the sides after every time you use them. It's also best to look up what to do the first time you use one of the wider candles to avoid having the candle crater. The seller should be able to tell you what to do, though you can also look it up on youtube. It's been a while since I bought one of those big candles, but I think you need to let it burn for a couple of hours the first time. I had to fix one after having it crater on the first use. It might be worth buying something smaller first to see if you like what you're getting.

I use candles from these two producers, but the shipping from Canada might be expensive, so you're probably better off finding something that's closer:

Chand'Miel

Cheeky Bee

RE: In Need of Good Fire Kasina Candles!
Answer
1/27/20 2:51 PM as a reply to Laurel Carrington.
Thanks for the replies, please keep them coming.

I actually have a pulmonary condition and a prescribed inhaler (which I very rarely use) and don't recall having a crazy reaction to candles but I do shy away from strongly scented stuff for that reason and would prefer unscented. I never considered the difference between paraffin and beeswax. (Those beeswax candles are expensive ... even just the raw beeswax is expensive. I actually have probably more than 10 lbs. of pure beeswax at home, both raw and bleached, used when I was doing encaustic type painting so if ever the ambition hits I could probably just get some good wicks and make my own). 
There's a surprising number of candle stores not too far from me ... looking at their prices ($10 for a box of matches, lol) I should consider getting into the boutique candle business! 
 

RE: In Need of Good Fire Kasina Candles!
Answer
1/27/20 3:09 PM as a reply to Monsoon Frog.
Making your own candles might be worth your trouble, considering the cost. Another thing to consider if smoke bothers you is pushing the burning wick into the wax (I use butter knives to do that) to put out the candle at the end of a session rather than blowing it out. Blowing out a candle produces a lot of smoke. This is something you can really only do with wide candles. Also, I use a cheap barbecue lighter to light the candles rather than matches or a common small lighter. The wax-covered wicks take a bit longer to light (I don't want to cook my hand with a normal lighter) and matches produce smoke I don't want to inhale.

One obvious observation: It might be worth experimenting with making cheap wax candles to figure out the process before using beeswax.

RE: In Need of Good Fire Kasina Candles!
Answer
1/27/20 4:50 PM as a reply to Monsoon Frog.
Root candles aren't pure beeswax, but they don't have petroleum-based paraffin in them--I think they use soy. Anyway, they're supposed to be okay for people with sensitivities. I manage okay, as long as they aren't scented. 

I concur about the barbecue lighter, and the snuffing without smoke. Root makes a colonnette size that is between a dinner candle and a pillar, which can easily accommodate bending the wick into the wax. 

RE: In Need of Good Fire Kasina Candles!
Answer
1/27/20 5:42 PM as a reply to Monsoon Frog.
I'm not sensitive to the types of wax or anything so I won't comment on that, but I find that a nice "dinner table" candle is ideal for getting a flame of a nice size for FK practice. You'd need to buy a small base or something to hold the candle though as they are slim and tall.

I experimented with tealight candles as well but the flame was just not large enough for me to get a decent after image. 

I originally got a few dinner candles at Crate and Barrel to experiment because I live within a 5 minute walk from the store. Later ordered much cheaper ones off Amazon. 

As far as Daniel's description of ideal candles, I recall Shannon Stein making suggestions at the very end of the Fire Kasina book...

RE: In Need of Good Fire Kasina Candles!
Answer
1/27/20 9:05 PM as a reply to Hibiscus Kid.
Great tips everyone.

Hi Hibiscus Kid. (FYI, we met this past March at dinner with Daniel in NYC and the dharma chat afterwards in Tribeca; at the latter I was sitting to Daniel's left). Thanks for locating the candle recommendation, it's on the last two pages of the Fire Kasina book, pp.153-154, Appendix C, Candle Suggestions:

"Beeswax candles burn with a natural, steady flame. Ceremonial altar candles, approximately 15 inches tall and 11⁄2 inches in diameter made of a high percentage of beeswax work well and can be purchased online on sites selling church supplies. These candles are generally more expensive than ones purchased in a local hardware store for example, but are worth the extra expense because the burn is even and clean. Usually altar candles have a 1⁄2- inch diameter vertical indentation in the centre of the bottom, so a candle stand with a vertical bar in the centre can provide a sturdy base for the tall candle to fit into. (Attempting to fix the candle by melting a spot of wax to a small plate or in a tall glass may work temporarily, but eventually the candle will begin leaning and dripping and continually rearranging the candle so that it is secure risks disturbing concentration throughout lengthy meditation periods.)"

"One can expect, during an intense fire kasina practice, to go through approximately three to five inches ofa 11⁄2- inch diameter beeswax altar candle per day, perhaps more depending on the length of the sits. If planning a fairly long retreat, over-estimate the number of candles needed so the retreat is not interrupted by running short."

"An alternative to beeswax candles is to use a butter lamp. Instructions for making homemade lamps with unsalted butter or ghee are available online. Such lamps also provide a beautiful kasina."

——-

Looking online the all beeswax candles are generally rather pricey. If anyone knows a good source reasonably priced, please post. 

My one fat candle might just make it through the sit, depending on how much Fire Kasina vs. standard samatha/jhana meditation I do. I'm actually digging the standard smatha/jhana stuff as it's been yiedling very pleasant states, rarely visited in the past, whereas the Fire Kasina I'm a total rookie getting my feet wet. It's a new experience for me and quite pleasant to explore samatha and the jhanas exclusively and I suspect with Fire Kasina I run a higher risk of getting sucked into the vortex of insight stages ... it's be desirable to exit this retreat with a smooth soft landing rather than crash into the trees and stumble off through the jungle in reobservation. 

This retreat marks new progress for me as I've been able to enter jhana repeatedly (although not yet reliably) and to remain in the jhana for longer than I imagined ... during the 20 day retreat periods of up to 2.5 hrs. in jhana, some combo of strong and weak, maybe popping in and out and in again but finding it comfortable to ride the tractor beam and remain in the sit. I was also able to routinely comfortably do sits of 3.5 hours albeit with 1-4 slight leg adjustments, much longer than my previous sits. All rather unusual considering that in 2017 after a 2 month retreat in Burma my practice pretty much shit the bed, greatly deteriorated, and I progressively neglected it replacing meditation with other stuff ... compounded by retreat plans falling through resulting in only two 6-day retreats in the past three years. According to my meditation log I only sat about 17 times during 2019 and also ceased almost entirely my daily casual mindfulness stuff, like meditating while waiting for and riding the subway 
… I began reading books or listening to music instead. (An aside: during a month and a half climbing trip out West in 2016 which also included a 10-day Goenka retreat,  followed by 2 month retreat in Burma and a stint in Thailand, I had no music with me ... I'd discovered my headphone jack on my phone was broken just prior to leaving home (gah!) and I just decided for the next 4+ months I'd live without any music while traveling, drawing, hitchhiking desperate stretches of desert, waiting in airports without the luxury to block out loud insipid gibberish etc., ... taking on America, Burma, and Thialand without music was an unthinkable prospect just a few years earlier. But with increased equanimity the necessary renunciation and letting go of music wasn't a problem emoticon.

One last thing. 
Yesterday when it was clear I wanted to take the Fire Kasina a little more seriously other than just toy and test with it, and having never read the Fire Kasina book and not wanting to think too much while doing the jhana practice, I read through the MCTB2 info but wanted something with a little more depth but still quick and dirty. I  found Michael Taft’s podcast with Daniel entitled, “The Liberating Practice of the Fire Kasina - with Daniel Ingram”. Lot’s of great stuff in that. I did some Fire Kasina sessions (with hours of super intense torpor ... I just forced myself with steel masochistic will to push onward ... and finally eventually broke though and was getting rapidly more deeply concentrated and alert, my first real breakthrough with the Fire Kasina ... when my roommate both called and texted me on my cell which I'd thought was silenced ... she had some insipid question about lighting the stove. Lighting the stove? Really? Gah!! My concentration shattered. I had to lay down firmer apartment protocols).  The torper had taken its toll and I took my scheduled nap a half hour early but fell deep asleep for hours ...

I had a dream where I was in a wilderness desert landscape like the Mohave at night with a bright moon and crisp clear air, traveling alone backpacking and hitchhiking. I entered a valley bordered on each side by the sweeping flanks of mountains. I came to a cabin on the slope and could look down at the valley floor and also sight along its length. I had to leave my pack and possessions there and travel on a little further along the valley to another structure which I could just make out, apparantly there were people up there ahead waiting but unseen -  it wasn't clear to me what the situation was and I felt uneasy about parting with my stuff and leaving it behind, it felt a little bit sketchy and I was worried I might have trouble retrieving my gear. I was concerned I might even lose it. Inside the cabin someone appeared and gave me a gift: a few sticks of dark grey chalk. It was so that I could write and draw on the large blackboard inside the cabin -  but my marks - dark grey on dark grey would obviously be only barely discernable. 

I woke up.

Prominent in my mind was the ‘Murk’ Daniel described in the podcast ...




RE: In Need of Good Fire Kasina Candles!
Answer
1/27/20 8:10 PM as a reply to Monsoon Frog.
Yes! I remember you! I'm glad I'm meeting your online persona now as well emoticon  

Good luck with the FK! 

RE: In Need of Good Fire Kasina Candles!
Answer
1/28/20 12:24 PM as a reply to Monsoon Frog.
This is a great flame!

P
erhaps thinner candlesticks produce a flame more conducive to fire kasina!