Contents1. Concept of Kasiṇa-Bhavana
2. Meaning of Kasiṇa-Bhavana
3. List of Kasiṇas
4. Preparing the Mind and Body
5. Benefits of the Kasiṇa Bhāvanā Practice
5.1 The Benefits of Daily Life
5.2 Attaining the Supernormal Power
6. How the Kasiṇa Bhāvanā Leads to Insight Development
1. Concept of Kasiṇa-Bhavana
“Again, Udāyi, I have explained to my disciples the way to develop the ten spheres of kasiṇa(dasa kasiṇāyatanāni bhāventi). One contemplates the earth-kasiṇa above, below, and across, undivided and immeasurable. Another contemplates the water-kasiṇa… Another contemplates the fire-kasiṇa… Another contemplates the air-kasiṇa… Another contemplates the blue-kasiṇa… Another contemplates the yellow-kasiṇa… Another contemplates the red-kasiṇa… Another contemplates the white-kasiṇa… Another contemplates the space-kasiṇa… Another contemplates the consciousness-kasiṇa above, below, and across, undivided and immeasurable (around as in unity, and infinite). In this practice there are many of my disciples who have attained to the summit of the perfection of higher knowledge (abhiññā-vosāna-pārami).”
The shame is formulated as a definite form of training for disciples.
As well, there is no doubt, that the Buddha himself had very highly evaluated the kasiṇameditation, as it evidenced in the Canon. According to the Accharāsaṅghāta in the Anguttara Nikāya, the cultivation of the jhānas through one or more of the ten kasiṇā’s is cited as an attribute of a faithful follower of the Buddha, who practices the awakening path rightly and who is worthy of almsgiving:
“O, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu who practice the [jhāna of] paṭhavi-kasiṇa even for a moment, for the duration of a snap of the fingers, is said to be the bhikkhu, who lives not empty of jhāna, who follows the masters teaching, who acts upon his advice, and who [rightly] partakes of the alms offered by the country or the pious. How much more they who practice it more?”
The same statement is repeated for each of the kasiṇa.
It is clear, that kasiṇameditation was already known before the Buddha's enlightenment as a teaching or a practice of some non-Buddhist schools. In the Kāḷīsutta, the Elder Mahākaccāna, explains to Kāliupasikāthe reason, why the Buddha alone was incomparable jhāyinas following:
“Sister, certain recluses and Brahmins have also accomplished quest for happiness up to the limit of the attainment of (the jhāna of) the paṭhavī-kasiṇa, thinking that to be the end. But the Buddha realized its incompleteness, the release from it and the knowledge of the insight with regard to the right path and the wrong path.”
The same is said of the other kasiṇas.
The kasiṇa bhāvanā is a system or method to calm the mind, and is thus divided into samatha. By focusing on one specific point, such as the center of the circle of a color or some element, and developing concentration as long as it attains jhāna, passion (rāga) and all obstacles (nīvaraṇa) will stop. After reaching the fourth jhāna, it is possible to continue with vipassanā bhāvanā, with the aim to achieve knowledge (ñāṇa) and to achieve full awakening (nibbāna).
2. Meaning of Kasiṇa-Bhavana
The most important concepts and terms related to the meaning of kasiṇameditation are as follows.
Kasiṇa(Vedic kṛtṣna) means “entire”, “whole” or “totalities”,is external visual objects/device (kammaṭṭhāna) of samatha bhāvanā to produce and develop concentration of mind and attain the four absorptions (jhāna). Usually enumerated as ten (sāvakā dasakasiṇa; kasiṇa-āyatanāni bhāventi).As a technical term, kasiṇa includes three interpretations, as follows:
- maṇdala- the “circle” used as device or artifice (used in the Commentaries for a kasiṇa device or artifice)
- nimitta- a “sign”, “mark”, or “mental image”, obtained from contemplation of the device;
- jhāna- absorption attained by that nimitta
Bhāvanā means meditation or mind development. This is the Buddhist method the cultivation of the mind (citta-bhāvanā) designed for a dual purpose: the cultivation of the calming/serenity (samatha-bhāvanā) and the cultivation of insight (vipassanā).
- Kasiṇabhāvanā means “development of kasiṇa” and kammaṭṭhāna meansliterally “working-ground” (i.e., for meditation), or object ofmeditation. This term as a designation for the bhāvanāexercises is found only in the commentaries. In the suttas the word is used in a concrete sense for “field of activity or occupation”, as agriculture, trade, etc. In the present study the term kammaṭṭhānanas bean used in the sense of “meditation (bhāvanā) object”.
3. List of Kasiṇas
As has been shown in the previous chapter, the objects of kasiṇa-bhāvana contain ten different kinds of devices (sāvakā dasa kasiṇa-āyatanāni bhāventi). According to the Scriptures, 10 kind of kasiṇa’s are as follows:
1) Earth kasiṇa(paṭhavī kasiṇa);
2) Water kasiṇa(āpo-kasiṇa);
3) Fire kasiṇa(tejo-kasiṇa);
4) Air kasiṇa(vāyo-kasiṇa);
5) Blue kasiṇa(nīla-kasiṇa);
6) Yellow kasiṇa(pīta-kasiṇa);
7) Red kasiṇa(lohita-kasiṇa);
8) White kasiṇa(odāta-kasiṇa);
9) Space kasiṇa(ākāsa-kasiṇa);
10) Consciousness kasiṇa(viññāṇa-kasiṇa).
Although the Scriptures do not contain the light-kasiṇa (āloka-kasiṇa) in the list of kasiṇāyatanas, it occurs in the Jhānavagga of the Anguttara Nikāya. This makes eleven kasiṇa’s total.
Buddhaghosa Thera has in Visuddhimagga omitted the consciousness device (viññāṇa-kasiṇa) and replaced it with the light device (āloka-kasiṇa) and modifying the space device (ākāsa-kasiṇa) to limited space (paricchinnākāsa).
The first four kasiṇas(earth, water, fire, air) are termed as element kasiṇa (bhūta-kasiṇa) and following four (blue, yellow, red, white) as colors kasiṇa (vaṇṇa-kasiṇa). In the Yogāvacara Manual, the first four are classified as bhūta-kasiṇasand last six as vaṇṇa-kasiṇa. According to the Nettipakaraṇa, the four element kasiṇasand four colors kasiṇasbelong to the rūpa-jhānaattainment which can be achieved through samatha-bhāvanāand last two to arūpa-jhānaattainment, which can be achieved through vipāsanna-bhāvanā. Grouping under the name of kasiṇāyatana, they have been employed as a means of inducting jhāna.
4. Preparing the Mind and Body
Those, who gaze at the kasiṇa, should sit on a small chair comfortably arranged. Once the mental object is grasped, he may meditate in ant posture which may be more convenient, and in which he can remain for long time without physical discomfort. After seating himself in the way stated, he must complete four preparations in the following way.
1) He should review the dangers in sense desires in the way beginning, “Sense desires give little enjoyment” and arouse longing for the escape from sense desires, for the renunciation that is the means to the surmounting of all suffering.
2) He should next arouse joy of happiness by recollecting the special qualities of the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha.
3) Then awe by thinking: “Now, this is the way of renunciation entered upon by all Buddhas, Paccekabuddhas and noble disciples”.
4) Then eagerness by thinking: “In this way I shall surely come to know the taste of the bliss of seclusion”.
Along with the four preparation described above, practitioner should open his eyes moderately, apprehend the sign, and so proceed to develop it.
5. Benefits of the Kasiṇa Bhāvanā Practice
5.1. The Benefits of Daily Life
It is sure, that the kasiṇa-bhāvanā is right practice of concentration, taught and approved by the Buddha himself. It is right way to achieve a jhāna and (rightly) partakes of the alms offered by the country or the pious.
Depending on the level of the practitioner, it is possible to experience the joy, happiness or bliss of jhāna. The kasiṇa-bhāvanā will certainly increase the focus and awareness of the mind, which are an important mental qualitis for those who work indirectly or directly dependent on the level of awareness (sati). One of the most important aspects of kasiṇa-bhāvanā is the development of concentration, the benefits of which for human health and coping are scientifically proven, including:
1) Reducing stress;
2) Controlling anxiety;
3) Promoting emotional health;
4) Enhancing self-awareness;
5) Lengthens attention span;
6) Reducing age-related memory loss;
7) Generating kindness;
8) Helping fight addictions;
9) Improving sleep;
10) Helping control pain;
11) Decreasing blood pressure.
5.2 Attaining the Supernormal Power
Aṅguttara commentary handles all ten kasiṇas as the base of all four rūpajhānas, vipassanā, higher knowledge (abhiññā) and the cessation or destruction of passion (rāganirodha):
a) the power of determination (adhitthān iddhi), i.e. the power of becoming oneself manifold;
b) the power of transformation (vikubbana iddhi), i.e. the power of adopting another form;
c) the power of spiritual creation (manomaya iddhi), i.e. the power of letting issue from this body another mentally produced body;
d) the power of penetrating knowledge (ñāna-vipphara iddhi), i.e. the power of inherent insight to remain unhurt in danger;
e) the power of penetrating concentration (samādhivippharā iddhi) producing the same result.
The term paṭhavi-kasiṇain the 1stbook of Abhidhamma is found, joined to each of the four stages of trance on the Form Plane, although it is unclear whether this kasiṇawas the artificial one described by Buddhaghosa, or a natural piece of ground. The Visuddhimagga gives an exposition concerning the special advantages that a meditator may expect to receive:
a) By practicing the earth-kasiṇa (paṭhavī-kasiṇa), meditators will acquire: (1) the power of multiplying themselves, being one to appear as many (“Having been one, he becomes many”); (2) the ability to create the solidity of earth in the air or on the water, and to walk, stand, sit, or lie upon it; and (3) mastery over material objects (abhibhāyatana), both the limited and the unlimited.
b) By practicing the water-kasiṇa (āpo-kasiṇa), meditators become able: (1) to dive into the earth as though into water;(2) to create rain, rivers, and seas;(3) to shake the earth and rocks, or the dwellings thereon, separately;and (4) to cause water to issue from all parts of the body as they choose.
c) By practicing the fire-kasiṇa (tejo-kasiṇa), meditators: (1) acquire the power to cause smoke to issue from all parts of the body, and fire to come down from the sky like a shower; (2) by means of the heat that issues from their body, they can overpower that which comes from another person; (3) can cause anything to burn at will; (4) can create a light to see forms as though with divine eyes (dibba-cakkhu); and (5), when at the point of death, can cremate their own body spontaneously by means of the fire element.
d) By practicing the air-kasiṇa (vāyo-kasiṇa), meditators: (1) acquire the power to move themselves as swiftly as the wind; (2) can cause the wind to blow and the rain to fall wherever they wish; and (3) can cause any substance to remove itself from one place to another (telekinesis).
e) By practicing the blue-kasiṇa(nīla-kasiṇa), meditators: (1) are able to radiate the world, within the limit of their will, with the blue color; (2) can create blue forms; (3) can create darkness; (4) can acquire mastery over blue-colored objects, whether of a clean or an unclean appearance; and (5) can attain aesthetic release(subha-vimokkha).
f) By practicing the yellow-kasiṇa(pīta-kasiṇa), meditators: (1) can radiate yellow color from their body and diffuse it over the world; (2) can create yellow forms; (3) can change any substance whatever into gold; (4) can acquire mastery over yellow-colored objects by the above method; and (5) can attain aesthetic release.
g) By practicing the red-kasiṇa (lohita-kasiṇa), meditators: (1) can display red color in the same way as already described; (2) can attain mastery over red-colored objects; and (3) can attain aesthetic release.
h) By practicing the white-kasiṇa (odāta-kasiṇa), meditators: (1) can create white forms; (2) can overcome sleepiness and sloth and torpor; (3) can dispel darkness; (4) can produce light to see forms as though with divine eyes; (5) can attain mastery over white-colored objects; and (6) can attain aesthetic release.
i) By practicing the light-kasiṇa (āloka-kasiṇa), meditators: (1) can create illumination; (2) can make illuminated forms materialize; (3) can overcome sloth and torpor; and (4) can produce light to see forms as though with divine eyes.
j) By practicing the space-kasiṇa(ākāsa-kasiṇa), meditators: (1) can discover objects that are concealed; (2) can cause things to appear that are lost or hidden; (3) can see into the middle of rocks and into the earth; (4) can penetrate into them and create space within them; and (5) can pass through walls and other solid masses.
The visualization of all of them is divided according to whether it is above, below, around, in unity or non-dual, or immeasurable.Thus, one may visualize the earth-kasiṇa(paṭhavī-kasiṇa) and expand it upward, up to the sky; another downward; another on all sides; and so on. One may spread out the kasiṇafor various reasons, such as, for example, one who desires to see forms with divine eyes diffuses the light. Visualization that is “in unity” or “non-dual” is intended to show that one kasiṇadoes not mix with another - that is, in the case of visualization, although they are inseparable (avinibbhoga) in their elementary nature - or does not attain the state of another. For, just as a man who has entered the water finds water all about him, and not any other element, even so, the earth-kasiṇais simply earth-kasiṇa— it does not mix with any other kasiṇa. In the mental diffusion of the kasiṇa, there is no measure or limit, for those who diffuse it know no bounds, but, instead, diffuse it to the entire universe. This universality accords with the original meaning ascribed to the word “kasiṇa”, “all, whole, entire”.
6. How the Kasiṇa Bhāvanā Leads to Insight Development
In Kāḷī-sutta Ven. Mahakaccana answers to the questions of the lay female disciple the benefits that the Buddha received by developing all ten kasiṇa to perfection:
“Sister, certain recluses and Brahmins concluded that the perception of the sign of earth was the highest. Sister, the highest of the perception of the sign of earth was realized by The Blessed One, for crushing down enjoyment, for defeating the dangers, for defeating refuges and to crush down the knowledge and vision of the path and non-path. On account of, crushing down enjoyment, defeating the dangers and refuges and on account of the knowledge and vision of the path and non-path The Blessed One has come to the highest good and appeasement of the heart. Sister, the highest of the perception of the sign of water, ... re ... of the sign of fire, ... re ... of the sign of air, ... re ... of the sign blue, ... re ... of the sign yellow, ... re ... of the sign red, ... re ... of the sign white, ... re ... of the sign space, ... re ... of the sign consciousness was realized by The Blessed One, for crushing down enjoyment, for defeating the dangers, for defeating refuges and to crush down the knowledge and vision of the path and non-path. On account of, crushing down enjoyment, defeating the dangers and refuges and on account of the knowledge and vision of the path and non-path The Blessed One has come to the highest good and appeasement of the heart.”
As kasiṇas appear in the forms given, the first eight kasiṇas lead to the fine material, or form, absorptions (rūpajjhāna), while the last two lead to the first two immaterial, or formless, absorptions (arūpajjhāna). In the Nettippakaraṇa, the first eight kasiṇas pertain to samatha or samādhimeditation, and the last two to vipassanāmeditation. The Aṅguttara Nikāya Commentary gives all ten kasiṇas as becoming the bases of the fine material, or form, absorptions (rūpajjhāna), insight (vipassanā), higher knowledge (aññā), and the cessation of passions (nirodha). It will be apparent that this scheme of kasiṇameditation has been expounded as a definite form of meditation with the attainment of the path to nibbāna as its ultimate goal. The same principle is given in the Mahāsakuludāyi-sutta where is listed the Eight Bases for Transcendence, as follows:
“Again, Udāyin, I have proclaimed to my disciples the way to develop the eight bases for transcendence. Perceiving form internally, one sees forms externally, limited, fair and ugly; by transcending them, one perceives thus: ‘I know, I see.’ This is the first base for transcendence. Perceiving form internally, one sees forms externally, immeasurable, fair and ugly; by transcending them, one perceives thus: ‘I know, I see.’ This is the second base for transcendence. Not perceiving form internally, one sees forms externally, limited, fair and ugly; by transcending them, one perceives thus: ‘I know, I see.’ This is the third base for transcendence. Not perceiving form internally, one sees forms externally, immeasurable, fair and ugly; by transcending them, one perceives thus: ‘I know, I see.’ This is the fourth base for transcendence. Not perceiving form internally, one sees forms externally, blue, of blue colour, blue in appearance, with blue luminosity. Just like a flax flower, which is blue, of blue colour, blue in appearance, with blue luminosity, or just like Benares cloth smoothened on both sides, which is blue, of blue colour, blue in appearance, with blue luminosity; so too, not perceiving form internally, one sees forms externally…with blue luminosity; by transcending them, one perceives thus: ‘I know, I see.’ This is the fifth base for transcendence. Not perceiving form internally, one sees forms externally, yellow, of yellow colour, yellow in appearance, with yellow luminosity. Just like a kaṇṇikāra flower, which is yellow, of yellow colour, yellow in appearance, with yellow luminosity, or just like Benares cloth smoothened on both sides, which is yellow, of yellow colour, yellow in appearance, with yellow luminosity; so too, not perceiving form internally, one sees forms externally…with yellow luminosity; by transcending them, one perceives thus: ‘I know, I see.’ This is the sixth base for transcendence. Not perceiving form internally, one sees forms externally, red, of red colour, red in appearance, with red luminosity. Just like a hibiscus flower, which is red, of red colour, red in appearance, with red luminosity, or just like Benares cloth smoothened on both sides, which is red, of red colour, red in appearance, with red luminosity; so too, not perceiving form internally, one sees forms externally…with red luminosity; by transcending them, one perceives thus: ‘I know, I see.’ This is the seventh base for transcendence. Not perceiving form internally, one sees forms externally, white, of white colour, white in appearance, with white luminosity. Just like the morning star, which is white, of white colour, white in appearance, with white luminosity, or just like Benares cloth smoothened on both sides, which is white, of white colour, white in appearance, with white luminosity; so too, not perceiving form internally, one sees forms externally…with white luminosity; by transcending them, one perceives thus: ‘I know, I see.’ This is the eighth base for transcendence. And thereby many disciples of mine abide having reached the consummation and perfection of direct knowledge (Tatra ca pana me sāvakā bahū abhiññāvosānapāramippattā viharanti).”
In the foregoing, it can be said that the kasiṇa meditation helps to achieve strong jhāna and stop all the obstacles, after which continuing with vipassanā bhāvanā, the final awakening (nibbāna) can be achieved.
Matthew Thorpe, Healthline Media “12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation” (July 5, 2017), from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation#section11.
Vism., 166-167; Paravahera Vajirañāṇa, Buddhist Meditation in Theory and Practice, Op. Cit.,pp. 126-127.
Same in Sāmaññaphalasutta, DN 2 (D.i.78).
Same in Mahāsakuludāyisutta, MN 77 (M.ii.13); and Dārukkhandhasutta AN 6.41 (AN iii 340): “If he wanted to, a monk with psychic power, having attained mastery of his mind, could will that wood pile to be nothing but water… fire… wind… beautiful… unattractive...”. According to the Visuddhimagga, there are five mastery’s [in adverting to it] (vasī-bhāva/āvajjana-vasī) of the jhānas:(1) To enter jhānawhenever desired (āvajjana-vasī). (2) To resolve (adhiññhāna) to stay in jhānafor a determined duration, and carry out the resolve (samāpajjana-vasī). (3) To emerge from jhānaat the determined time (adhitthāna-vasī). (4) To advert to the jhānafactors (vutthāna-vasī). (5) To review the jhānafactors (paccavekkhana-vasī). Vism. IV, 131f; XXIII, 27ff.
Same in Davids, T. W., C. A. F. Rhys (trs.), Dialogues of the Buddha Translated from the Pali of the Dīgha Nikāya, Vol. I, Op. Cit.p. 78 (Sāmaññaphalasutta).
Same in C. A. F. Rhys Davids & F.L. Woodward, The Book of the Kindred Sayings (Saṃyutta-nikāya), Vol. IV., Op. Cit., p. 288 (Mahakapāṭihāriyasutta): “... a psychic feat such that a cool wind blew, a thundering cloud developed, and the rain fell in scattered drops”.
Same in I. B. Horner (tr.), The Collection of The Middle Length Sayings (Majjhima-nikāya), Vol. I, Op. Cit., p. 253(Cūḷataṇhāsaṅkhayasutta).
Causing light for the purpose of seeing visible objects with the divine eye, burning up the body by means of the fire element at the time of attaining nibbāna(MA.IV.196).
Same in I. B. Horner (tr.), The Collection of The Middle Length Sayings (Majjhima-nikāya), Vol. II, Op. Cit., p. 12. This can also be attained by other color kasiṇas. Since color kasiṇasare bright, meditators see all forms (rūpa), good or bad, as “subha”, “good”, with the mind free from repulsion.
Same as in I. B. Horner (tr.), The Collection of The Middle Length Sayings (Majjhima-nikāya), Vol. II, Op. Cit., p. 14 (Mahāsakuludāyisutta), as “the Eight Bases for Transcendence”.
Morris Richard (ed.), The Aṅguttara-nikāya, Vol. V,Op. Cit., p. 46.
I. B. Horner (tr.), The Collection of The Middle Length Sayings (Majjhima-nikāya), Vol. II, Op. Cit., p. 1.
Source: Andrus Kahn (Ṭhitañāṇa bhikkhu)