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Insight-based kasina practice and emptiness

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Insight-based kasina practice and emptiness Matthew 2/17/20 2:04 PM
RE: "Bad kasina practice" as a shortcut to emptiness Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 2/17/20 11:41 AM
RE: "Bad kasina practice" as a shortcut to emptiness Matthew 2/17/20 12:53 PM
RE: "Bad kasina practice" as a shortcut to emptiness Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 2/17/20 12:57 PM
RE: "Bad kasina practice" as a shortcut to emptiness neko 2/17/20 1:10 PM
RE: "Bad kasina practice" as a shortcut to emptiness Matthew 2/17/20 1:16 PM
RE: "Bad kasina practice" as a shortcut to emptiness neko 2/17/20 1:22 PM
RE: "Bad kasina practice" as a shortcut to emptiness Matthew 2/17/20 2:19 PM
RE: Insight-based kasina practice and emptiness neko 2/17/20 5:12 PM
RE: Insight-based kasina practice and emptiness Laurel Carrington 2/20/20 2:26 PM
RE: Insight-based kasina practice and emptiness Daniel M. Ingram 2/20/20 4:20 PM
RE: Insight-based kasina practice and emptiness Siavash 2/20/20 5:03 PM
RE: Insight-based kasina practice and emptiness Matthew 2/20/20 5:27 PM
RE: Insight-based kasina practice and emptiness Lewis James 3/2/20 6:15 AM
RE: Insight-based kasina practice and emptiness Papa Che Dusko 3/1/20 3:22 AM
RE: Insight-based kasina practice and emptiness Ben Sulsky 3/4/20 8:23 AM
RE: Insight-based kasina practice and emptiness Ben Sulsky 3/4/20 8:23 AM
RE: "Bad kasina practice" as a shortcut to emptiness Stirling Campbell 2/17/20 12:45 PM
RE: "Bad kasina practice" as a shortcut to emptiness Matthew 2/17/20 1:04 PM
RE: "Bad kasina practice" as a shortcut to emptiness Stirling Campbell 2/17/20 1:57 PM
RE: Insight-based kasina practice and emptiness Papa Che Dusko 3/1/20 3:08 AM
This forum and other connected dharmic weirdos have been instrumental in reviving fire kasina practice among Western practitioners. In traditional and modern sources the focus is on using it as a concentration technique, creating an afterimage and then following it into subtler and subtler levels until it merges with weird mental-visual phenomena that you can continue to stay with and explore. I'm going to butcher that to turn it into an insight technique.

The idea here isn't to stay with the afterimage in a samatha way, but rather to use it to draw attention to the process of perception in a vipassana way. Of course the two aren't mutually exclusive and you could do the normal fire kasina practice and then switch into vipassana mode after, but it is not necessary to get into deep levels of visual phenomena for this practice to work.

This practice works by alternately resting attention on the afterimage, and then reflecting during/after on that experience using a question to direct the inquiry. It can provide a shortcut to quickly cut through a lot of reification to end with an experience of the emptiness of perception. To tip my hand a bit, the experience is of emptiness in the sense of seeing appearances as dreamlike, transient, and insubstantial, not in the sense of them disappearing or of a thoughtless void.

The practice is:
  1. Generate and observe the afterimage. Pay attention to how it arises moment-to-moment. Explore: Does this image appear? How does it arise? Continue until the image is no longer perceptible.
  2. Generate and observe the afterimage. Pay attention to how it changes moment-to-moment. Explore: Does this image correspond to an object in the world? Where does it appear? Continue until the image is no longer perceptible.
  3. Generate and observe the afterimage. Pay attention to how it dissolves into the visual field moment-to-moment. Explore: As this dissolves into the visual field, in what way is normal perception like this image?

You can repeat each step as many times as you like, or the whole sequence as many times as you like. I find this to be a very quick way to induce a strong sense of luminous emptiness which, with a bit of sati/smrti, can pervade the entire field of the sense gates both on- and off-cushion.

RE: "Bad kasina practice" as a shortcut to emptiness
Answer
2/17/20 11:41 AM as a reply to Matthew.
I recall having heard Daniel and someone that did a retreat together with him talk about using fire kasina specifically for the purpose of vipassana. I think it may have been in one of the Denman Island recordings. https://firekasina.org/diaries/denman-island-2018/denman-island-2018-faq-project/
I also think I have heard Daniel talk about this with Michael Taft in one of his Deconstructing yourself podcasts. 
I don't think it is bad kasina practice. It's just not shamatha. I specifically remember Daniel saying that fire kasina kan work great for vipassana too. Maybe it was in this podcast? https://deconstructingyourself.com/the-liberating-practice-of-the-fire-kasina-with-daniel-ingram.html

RE: "Bad kasina practice" as a shortcut to emptiness
Answer
2/17/20 12:45 PM as a reply to Matthew.
I like this. Your practice suggestion might be an interesting place to add a Nyingma practice related to seeing appearances as dreamlike that you can do anywhere - imagine that things, as percieved with eyes open or closed, are a "screen" suspended at the bridge of the nose and fully panoramic extending past the limits of the field of vision in all directions. 

RE: "Bad kasina practice" as a shortcut to emptiness
Answer
2/17/20 12:53 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
I recall having heard Daniel and someone that did a retreat together with him talk about using fire kasina specifically for the purpose of vipassana. I think it may have been in one of the Denman Island recordings. https://firekasina.org/diaries/denman-island-2018/denman-island-2018-faq-project/
I also think I have heard Daniel talk about this with Michael Taft in one of his Deconstructing yourself podcasts. 
I don't think it is bad kasina practice. It's just not shamatha. I specifically remember Daniel saying that fire kasina kan work great for vipassana too. Maybe it was in this podcast? https://deconstructingyourself.com/the-liberating-practice-of-the-fire-kasina-with-daniel-ingram.html
Thank you for these sources! I have heard the Deconstructing Yourself interview since I love that pod, and Daniel def does talk about the possibility to note the 3 characteristics with kasina practice there, but this is a bit of an alternate take on it. 

You're right that this isn't technically anything bad or improper, which is why I went for the playful scare-quotes. The reason I phrase it that way is simply because it is un-traditional. The visuddhimagga for example, which has the comprehensive treatment of the kasinas that the big teachers like Pau Auk Sayadaw use, frames them pretty much exclusively as tools to reach jhana.

RE: "Bad kasina practice" as a shortcut to emptiness
Answer
2/17/20 12:57 PM as a reply to Matthew.
Seems like an interesting and inventive hack. emoticon

RE: "Bad kasina practice" as a shortcut to emptiness
Answer
2/17/20 1:04 PM as a reply to Stirling Campbell.
Stirling Campbell:
I like this. Your practice suggestion might be an interesting place to add a Nyingma practice related to seeing appearances as dreamlike that you can do anywhere - imagine that things, as percieved with eyes open or closed, are a "screen" suspended at the bridge of the nose and fully panoramic extending past the limits of the field of vision in all directions. 
Thanks! Yes, my view/practice is very closely aligned with Nyingma stuff, and this was an attempt at getting to the experiential starting point of that as easily as possible without needing to go into either buzzword salad about "Emaho, the inseparability of appearance and emptiness extends in a sphere of unobstructed luminosity as the play of the dakinis in the mind of the secret guru" or deep into point-by-point philosophy about how appearances are reified and projected etc.

Please forgive the jokey tone above, just having fun.

Once one can arrive at that state of seeing all perceptions like the blinding glint of light off a coin, the intellectual analysis can happen after-the-fact.

RE: "Bad kasina practice" as a shortcut to emptiness
Answer
2/17/20 1:10 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
I recall having heard Daniel and someone that did a retreat together with him talk about using fire kasina specifically for the purpose of vipassana.

Yes, OP is talking out of his ass. People are getting cessations all the time on FK retreats, and insight is an integral part of how we practice it.

RE: "Bad kasina practice" as a shortcut to emptiness
Answer
2/17/20 1:16 PM as a reply to neko.
I'm sorry if my wording was imprecise or insulting. I'm not trying to say there's no insight component to kasina practice, the OP is just saying the focus or emphasis is on the concentration component in the written sources, notably the visuddhimagga where it's rigorously detailed point by point as a technique for achieving jhana.

So, to avoid confusion, I emphasize that this is different than that, to say, hey, even though I use the word kasina, it's not primarily a jhana-focused technique like one would reasonably assume when seeing the word kasina. That is all.

RE: "Bad kasina practice" as a shortcut to emptiness
Answer
2/17/20 1:22 PM as a reply to Matthew.
Matthew:

even though I use the word kasina, it's not primarily a jhana-focused technique like one would reasonably assume when seeing the word kasina

When you assume, you make an ass of u and me.

LPT: You can talk about your own practice without needing to comment on other practices that you don't really know about.

RE: "Bad kasina practice" as a shortcut to emptiness
Answer
2/17/20 1:57 PM as a reply to Matthew.
Matthew:

Thanks! Yes, my view/practice is very closely aligned with Nyingma stuff, and this was an attempt at getting to the experiential starting point of that as easily as possible without needing to go into either buzzword salad about "Emaho, the inseparability of appearance and emptiness extends in a sphere of unobstructed luminosity as the play of the dakinis in the mind of the secret guru" or deep into point-by-point philosophy about how appearances are reified and projected etc.

Please forgive the jokey tone above, just having fun.

But... I LOVE that stuff!

Once one can arrive at that state of seeing all perceptions like the blinding glint of light off a coin, the intellectual analysis can happen after-the-fact.

Well, it does give you something to talk about vs. being able to just regurgitate what you've just read, I suppose. emoticon

RE: "Bad kasina practice" as a shortcut to emptiness
Answer
2/17/20 2:19 PM as a reply to neko.
Neko, I feel there may be some classic internet failure to communicate tone here. The thread title and disclaimers are meant to be a bit of self-deprecating humor, not an indictment of those who use kasinas as objects for insight. I don’t mean to imply your practice is bad, it was meant to be a bit facetious. Regardless, since it clearly has caused confusion/offense, I’ve changed the thread title. 

I will reiterate that the association between kasinas and concentration is ubiquitous and not something I just imagined or invented, and is not something new. The visuddhimagga, one of the most popular teaching manuals in the Theravada world, includes the topic under the section “concentration” and gives instructions on how to use it as a basis for jhana. Based on that, pretty much all Asian Theravada teachers you can find, notably Pau Auk Sayadaw as previously mentioned, use them this way, as a basis for jhana. 

It’s good that you and your retreat mates are able to use the technique in a wider way to cultivate insight and get all the way to cessation. That’s totally valid and skillful. But the fact remains that in Buddhism-at-large there is an association between kasinas and concentration that one is primed to expect since that’s the way it’s written about, so being explicit about the differences is just to be clear.  

RE: Insight-based kasina practice and emptiness
Answer
2/17/20 5:12 PM as a reply to Matthew.
No offense, just annoyance that things needed to be pointed out so that your post would not cause confusion to others.

RE: Insight-based kasina practice and emptiness
Answer
2/20/20 2:26 PM as a reply to neko.
neko:
No offense, just annoyance that things needed to be pointed out so that your post would not cause confusion to others.

Excuse me, but was anyone in danger of being confused here? Or if so, could you perhaps be less of a crabby-pants and play nice? Sheesh!!! Color me offended and annoyed--by you. 

RE: Insight-based kasina practice and emptiness
Answer
2/20/20 4:20 PM as a reply to Laurel Carrington.
So far as I can tell, it is essentially impossible to do kasina practice the way we do it and not have the stages of insight show up with semi-freakish predictability. If you simply: look at a candle flame for a minute, close your eyes, follow whatever you see, however it is, until you feel you have nothing you can follow, open your eyes, and look at the flame for a minute, and repeat for, say 6-14 hours per day, people move through insight stages like clockwork.

It doesn't appear to matter if they are trying to or not.

It doesn't appear to matter if you mention or emphasize the Three Characteristics or not.

It appears mechanical, so far as I can tell.

As some here know, I got to teach for a month at Cochise Stronghold during Sept 2018. There were people doing three main practices with me and Culadasa there: Mahasi noting, fire kasina, and TMI-based. While not a huge sample size, the following were observed:

Everyone moved through the stages of insight. However, those doing Mahasi and fire kasina moved about as fast as each other and had more dramatic insight stage presentations, and those doing TMI moved the slowest and had the least dramatic insight stage presentations, in general.

Those doing fire kasina were both the weirdest by far and also the most fun.

Those doing Mahasi were the edgiest but had some great, classic phenomenology and a clear appreciation of that.

Those doing TMI were the least interesting and also the most confused, as the technique actually involves lots of complex modification of technique and strategies depending on stages that they might have had manifestations of some reasonable number of even during their last sit, making technique chose based on the formula somewhat bewildering. However, they were also by far the most stable.

Regardless, the point was clear: all moved you through the stages of insight, even though only one of them seems explicitly designed to do that (Mahasi) as neither of the other two focus on the 3C's.

My two cents from Cambridge, UK this drizzly evening.

Starting a second three-week fire kasina retreat tomorrow, and so excited about it! Best wishes,

Daniel

RE: Insight-based kasina practice and emptiness
Answer
2/20/20 5:03 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Wow.
Very comforting to read this, since Fire Kasina is one of the easiest techniques for me to do, in terms of the effort that is needed. Thanks.

Can't wait to listen to the group advice and audio diaries of this retreat, if there will be any.

RE: Insight-based kasina practice and emptiness
Answer
2/20/20 5:27 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thank you for sharing such detailed notes! The ability to get that kind of comparative data is a wonderful opportunity, and very cool to see where the rubber meets the road in each case. Can’t say the results are too surprising, but seeing the consistency (dare I say repeatability) within each method and the difference between the various methods is encouraging.

If you’ll allow me to speculate wildly for a moment, the fire kasina practice is sorta like following one object “down” into deeper and deeper levels of subtlety, requiring subtler and subtler qualities of attention. The progress of insight stages can be visualized similarly, with each stage being sorta like one layer in a gobstopper called “mind,” as you drill down from the surface to the center. Given the fractally nature of these stages, maybe the fire kasina produces cycling mechanically because it ”manually” leads you down the rabbit hole into subtler attentional levels. Just a random thought. 

Best wishes for the coming retreat!

RE: Insight-based kasina practice and emptiness
Answer
3/1/20 3:08 AM as a reply to Matthew.
Matthew:
This forum and other connected dharmic weirdos have been instrumental in reviving fire kasina practice among Western practitioners. In traditional and modern sources the focus is on using it as a concentration technique, creating an afterimage and then following it into subtler and subtler levels until it merges with weird mental-visual phenomena that you can continue to stay with and explore. I'm going to butcher that to turn it into an insight technique.

The idea here isn't to stay with the afterimage in a samatha way, but rather to use it to draw attention to the process of perception in a vipassana way. Of course the two aren't mutually exclusive and you could do the normal fire kasina practice and then switch into vipassana mode after, but it is not necessary to get into deep levels of visual phenomena for this practice to work.

This practice works by alternately resting attention on the afterimage, and then reflecting during/after on that experience using a question to direct the inquiry. It can provide a shortcut to quickly cut through a lot of reification to end with an experience of the emptiness of perception. To tip my hand a bit, the experience is of emptiness in the sense of seeing appearances as dreamlike, transient, and insubstantial, not in the sense of them disappearing or of a thoughtless void.

The practice is:
  1. Generate and observe the afterimage. Pay attention to how it arises moment-to-moment. Explore: Does this image appear? How does it arise? Continue until the image is no longer perceptible.
  2. Generate and observe the afterimage. Pay attention to how it changes moment-to-moment. Explore: Does this image correspond to an object in the world? Where does it appear? Continue until the image is no longer perceptible.
  3. Generate and observe the afterimage. Pay attention to how it dissolves into the visual field moment-to-moment. Explore: As this dissolves into the visual field, in what way is normal perception like this image?

You can repeat each step as many times as you like, or the whole sequence as many times as you like. I find this to be a very quick way to induce a strong sense of luminous emptiness which, with a bit of sati/smrti, can pervade the entire field of the sense gates both on- and off-cushion.


BTW, my old account name was Che Guebuddha (had issues with log in etc).


Totally go for it. When I do Freestyle Noting Aloud I fix my eyes to one spot on the floor or on the wall (its not fire but is focusing on visual spot) and while hammering noting aloud (noting everything that comes to the 6 senses in a matter of fact way) there are changes in the visuals. If I was observing a knot in the wooden floor the round eye that is white (light wood) would turn black. Or it would go sharp and around it would go blurry, Or sense of Me would go smaller nd the dot would still be the same size. Or there is just slight haze over all the floor including that wood knot. At one stage there was a doughnut like dark cloud comming out of the floor with nothing in its center. Getting wider and wider just to vanish into the very dot it came out of. This is VERY visual.
One tip I can give is investigate all that comes up and the LET GO OF IT  after a while and ask "What else is there to be sensed?" and move on to other object matter of fact.

It is perferctly possible to do Concentartion and Vipassana together. Is it the "real deal" Samatha or not is for the scholars emoticon what I want is find a way that works for my mind. Its my mind afterall. I can do with it what ever I feel like. Tools are there to be used. In my experience this sure worked well and did not result in hindrances AT ALL.

Just my 2 cents.

RE: Insight-based kasina practice and emptiness
Answer
3/1/20 3:22 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:


Those doing Mahasi were the edgiest 




LOL My ex-wife would very much agree with you on this one emoticon 

RE: Insight-based kasina practice and emptiness
Answer
3/2/20 6:15 AM as a reply to Matthew.
Yeah I agree. I'd say your original 'tweaks' to the FK practice put them more towards inquiry than pure phenomenological insight which is what FK seems to do. If you're working with breath sensations then you tend to get a lot of noise in the bodily/proprioceptive system (piti) as it calms down. With FK you're focusing on the visuals, so that noise (something to do with brain networks not completing their actions and so not fully pushing their content into consciousness, creating a kind of jumble of half-formed associations, as speculation) starts intefering with the visual system instead.

It's very mechanical as Daniel mentioned, there almost isn't time to back out to the conceptual level of 'why' or 'how' in the OP. Using Michael Taft's 4 stage model of insight practice phenomenology[1], with FK if you're in the conceptual level at all you're not doing the practice. You're instantly put solidly into the phenomenological level and not much can distract you. It doesn't take long to get to the vibrational level, and working with that will eventually get you to the awareness level.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52Ei9s8t2Sc

RE: Insight-based kasina practice and emptiness
Answer
3/4/20 8:23 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Thanks Daniel, very helpful.  It's encouraging to hear that large numbers of people move through the stages predictably even if they aren't outliers in terms of talent or time commitment, and even if they aren't scripted for them.

RE: Insight-based kasina practice and emptiness
Answer
3/4/20 8:23 AM as a reply to Ben Sulsky.
It being "mechanical," seems like a very good thing