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08 November 2015

Fire Kasina meditation and the basis for jhana practice.

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This week I thought I would post a piece on the Fire Kasina Meditation. Although the Kasina meditations are not that commonly practiced these days they are one of the best ways to establish really stable  and deep levels of concentration for those who have the patience to set up the practices properly. Normally I teach these practices on longer retreat and to experienced meditators, but from time to time a student comes along who naturally resonates to this type of meditation, and so I thought I would share a brief piece here on the Fire Kasiṇa meditation and the fire kasiṇa jhānas.

So, one who wishes to develop their samādhi taking fire as the object of concentration must first develop the sign upon which to concentrate.Fire, itself, initially is a very transient, dynamic object. The flames of a fire move around incessantly, flaring up and dying down. But in many ways this is a very helpful object to choose to concentrate upon because it is quite similar to our mental states when we begin to establish concentration.

We can liken the effort to establish ourselves in samādhi to the effort we must put forth to establish a strong, even fire with good heart and a steady flame. Initially, we must use twigs and dry leaves, matches, paper and keep feeding things which burn easily into the fire to create a flame. But at this stage we cannot rely on this flame, we cannot leave it untended, for it will soon die out. This is like settling the mind in the early stages of concentration. We have to make initial effort to light the flame, to cause a spark, to bring flame to the initial twigs and leaves. We must continue carefully to blow and fan the fire, feeding it other twigs and leaves until a flame flares up and catches. This is like our initial and sustained effort that we must put forth in establishing concentration.

Once we have established our initial flame and we can rely on it for a while, we can place larger logs and wood on the fire in the hope that there is enough internal heat within the fire to enable them to catch and flame. Eventually there comes a time when restlessness fades from the mind and we can just rest upon our object and it will continue to hold us in a state of concentration. This is rather like when the first big log or piece of wood catches fire and we know that we have a time of ease, when we can enjoy the warmth of the fire without being distracted by the effort that it takes to make it.

This is the first arising of rapture or bliss, and joy. The first fulfilment stage that we experience on the road to samādhi is when we can actually partake of the warmth that our fire is offering, or the reward that our concentration has produced. So this is how we might reflect upon the setting up of a fire, the building of a fire as a simile for the way in which we have to build and establish the flame of our concentration, that warms us through and brings us ease and peace.

And then we come to the work of concentrating upon the object in a sustained way to approach samādhi. As we gaze into a well-established fire with good heart, we can notice how, in some places, the flames rise and fall, incessantly dancing about, but in other places deep in the heart of the fire, the flames move almost as an even field or even stream of flame. These are the areas where we should concentrate. This is the sign that we should look for within our concentration. The evenness of the flame, the uniformity of the sign.

Concentrating on the fire in this way, our sign initially contains all the fizzing, buzzing, arising and passing as a normal fire’s flames do. This learning sign upon which we concentrate is unsteady but it is the essence of the fire that we begin to enter into.

Concentrate upon the sustained heat that it is producing. The evenness of the warmth; the evenness of the inner glow at the heart of the fire. Through sustained effort we concentrate upon our impression of fire in this way and gradually over time our concentration deepens. Through interest in the object, our mind calms down and restlessness is overcome. Until you reach the point when the patibhaga-nimitta (the counterpart sign) begins to arise.

As with all kasiṇa meditations, the initial learning sign that we take will be full of irregularities. As with the earth kasiṇa, the imperfections in the earth in the sign that we took originally, the unevenness of it, will be apparent in the learning sign. And the unevenness of the flame or fire will be apparent in the learning sign of the fire kasiṇa. But as we approach deeper concentration the mind-produced sign appears – a sign of flame, of fire as a wall, as an even stream like a river of flame, rising up before us the flickering and dancing of the waves of flame begin to subside until it becomes an even, continuous stream of flame, synonymous with our even, continuous stream of concentration. This is how the nimitta arises with regard to fire kasiṇa.

Once this sign has become even and the flame appears, the fire appears like a candle that is not moved by the wind, that doesn’t flicker at all. It is steady and even and continuous. Our mind is continuously calm and undistracted. We can begin to develop this sign. If we wish to make it more stable, we can allow it to expand outwards. Maybe our first sign of flames is a small impression within the middle of our field of perception. With volition, intention, we allow that sign to extend as we did with white kasiṇa and with earth kasiṇa, until our entire inner vision is filled with the perception of this completely still, stable flame. It becomes the absence of all flickering and wavering of this flame that marks the sign of samādhi. When it is totally still, like a wall before us as we concentrate upon it, bliss and happiness arise in the mind as we are pleased and gladdened by the perception of this object and the deep state of peace that it produces within us.

Once the sign is reliably established, when we can bring it to mind at will within our meditation, when it is stable and even for one hour, two hours, three hours, time after time, we can just choose to place the mind somewhere within the sign. Sink completely into it, unify the mind with this sign of fire and enter into jhāna. Thereafter, establishing our absorption and developing it into deeper states is done in exactly the same way as with the white kasiṇa or the earth kasiṇa.

The overwhelming impression of our samādhi when we take fire kasiṇa is the radiant, non-wavering sustainability of our samādhi, its fuel being consistent and even enough, its fuel being our sustained application, the bliss that arises and the joy that we experience on apprehending the sign. This then is some explanation of how we might take fire as the object of concentration so that we might establish fire kasiṇa and how we might develop it towards absorption.

The key to developing our samādhi on all of the kasiṇas, as the sign begins to emerge is to pay attention to perception of uniformity, of evenness within the sign, within the object. And even whilst engaged in the concentration of earth, water, fire or air, it is the uniformity of the sign that we pay attention to.

All the irregularities that may appear within it, we disincline our mind from, we ignore. If our mind becomes obsessed with where the sign is irregular, where the flames may be still uneven and moving too dynamically, there will remain a subtle disturbance in the mind and the samādhi will not be even.

So we should only apply the mind to where the sign is even and regular and consistent, becoming deeply absorbed in perception of evenness, regularity, conformity, consistency and disinclining all our mind from variety in the sign, from unevenness.

If our mind has a tendency to need everything to be just the way we would like it to be, we train our mind to disincline from those things which are not in order, paying attention only to that which is in order, absorbing ourselves in the evenness of our sign as a way of establishing evenness of serenity and samādhi.

As you continue to develop your samādhi upon fire kasiṇa, the quality of the sign changes according to the energy of the mind. We can use the radiant heat produced by the psychic inner fire of our samādhi in various ways in meditation. We can use the blazing, white, intense psychic heat of samādhi, when the energy is strong and powerful in the central channel and the sign glows brilliantly.

We can use this to burn into sickness in the body, to penetrate deeply into areas that are blocked, where sickness has arisen, to burn out all kammic sickness or injuries where the life-force has become stagnant or cut off and bring this psychic heat of fire element itself back to the body in areas where it has faded.

We can also use the blissful evenness of radiant, steady fire that just flows like an even stream of flame. This radiance we can use to sink into the heart to thaw out the frozen, to dissolve the congested or blocked energy and open up to deeper states of equanimity and peace.

We can just pervade the whole body with this sense of this radiant, psychic inner fire that the samādhi itself produces to ease the body, uplift and heal the body. The energy of the mind, its intensity or evenness or serenity, determines the appearance of the sign and the experience of the fire within the samādhi itself. It is this quality of the samādhi which is particular to fire kasiṇa; whereas it is the stability, the unshakable nature of our samādhi, which is the quality particular to earth kasiṇa. It is the radiance of the energy of samādhi that is the signature and quality of the fire kasiṇa. It is this radiant inner heat that we can use as we emerge from our absorption to heal the body, to soothe the body, to uplift and energise the body.

For the fire element itself is experienced within the life-force and the fire element, as we have experienced within our body, is an expression of the radiance or vitality of the life-force within us. When we feel the absence of this radiance within us, sometimes even the body feels frozen, it is a sign that this life-force is not flowing well or is becoming blocked or stagnant. So we can use the radiant, psychic heat of samādhi to heal the body in this way.

So these are some of the ways that we can develop our samādhi upon fire kasiṇa, how we might enter into the sign and how we might use the experience of the samādhi that arises, in its healing capacity or to support the energy in the body.

 

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