The word Kasina means a meditation object whereby the mind is concentrated. There are 10 types of Kasina. The following are how to meditate with Kasina based on Visuddhimagga or the Path of Purification.
1. The Earth Kasina (Pathavi)
The method of meditating using the Earth Kasina can be readily understood by one with previous experience from a past life. He or she might just see a farm or rice paddy field and the Learning Sign (Uggaha-nimitta) would arise easily. Those who do not have such merit must create a Kasina. There are two ways of making an Earth Element Kasina: movable and fixed in position.
For the first method, find an old piece of cloth, leather, or an old mat. Then tie the corners of the material to each of four sticks driven into the ground. Then, find some pure mud, if there are any rocks or leaves in the mud, they should be removed. The mud should be of one color and the color should be like “the color of dawn”. Roll the mud into a round ball and place it on the piece of material. Mold the mud until it becomes one piece with one color. Make it into a smooth round shape with a flattened bottom on the prepared material. The diameter should be the distance between the tip of the thumb and the tip of the middle finger when they are spread out plus the width of four fingers [6-7 in. or 15-17 cm.].
Pound many stakes into the ground close together at the bottom and open wide at the top like a lotus leaf [cone shape]. Weave a net of string like a spider’s web and tie it to support the stakes. If there is not enough dawn-colored mud, fill the bottom with some other color and finish off the top with the clean dawn-colored mud. The Kasina must be round. The diameter at the top should be the distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the forefinger when spread out plus the width of four fingers, as in the first method.
Meditating with the Earth Kasina
The meditator should sit on a cushion or platform raised about 8-10 inches or in a position comfortable for seeing the Kasina. If sitting too high, one will have to look down. Over time this might cause strain in the neck. If one sits too low, it will be difficult to see the Kasina. The approximate distance from the Kasina should be about 2 – 2.5 ft.or 60-80 cm. Sitting too close, one might see the defects in the Kasina and fail to achieve concentration.
This is just one example, there are many ways to make an Earth Kasina. Another example, one could make an Earth Kasina in a three-dimensional shape such as the round shape of a sphere. As mentioned before, some can just see a piece of plowed mud or threshed rice and take that as a Sign.
When one has prepared everything and is ready to meditate, it is recommended to take a shower and scrub the body in order to be comfortable, relaxed, and eliminate everything which disturbs the mind. Contemplate the negative consequences of lust and sensual desire, see it as the cause of suffering and make oneself love and have faith in the Kasina. Think ‘I will attain Nirvana by using this earth Kasina,’ then, close the eyes and recite, ‘Pathavi, Pathavi, Pathavi or earth, earth, earth.’
Whenever this initial sign disappears, the meditator can open his or her eyes and stare at it until he or she can remember it again. Then, close the eyes and meditate over and over, 100 times, 1,000 times or more. Soon he or she will attain the Learning Sign (Uggaha-nimitta).
When the Learning Sign arises, keep maintaining it. Soon, one will be able to continue onto the Counterpart Sign or Patibhaga-nimitta. When one attains the Counterpart Sign, it means he has succeeded in reaching the First Jhana. Continue doing the same procedure until reaching the Fourth or the Fifth Jhana.
Please note that for this Earth Kasina, the Learning Sign will appear with the cracks, blemishes and flaws of the Kasina, but the Counterpart Sign will appear one hundred to a thousand times purer and clearer than that of the Learning Sign, like a crystal lens coming out of a bag or like an oyster shell which has been well polished or like the moon coming out from behind a cloud.
2. The Water Kasina (Apo)
Various methods for making and using the Water Kasina are similar to those for the Earth Kasina, so only that which is different will be explained. One who has made merit in a past life regarding this Kasina will be able to attain the Learning Sign easily when he or she sees water in the sea, in a pond or in a well.
Those without such previous merit will need to use a container such as a bowl filled with clean, clear, colorless water and find a quiet place to sit and meditate. The meditator sits and looks at the water alternating looking with the eyes open and visualizing with the eyes closed, while reciting ‘Apo, Apo, Apo or water, water, water’ over and over until the Learning Sign is attained.
For this Water Kasina, the Counterpart Sign (Patibhaga-nimitta) will appear like a crystal clear sphere standing still or like a crystal palm fan in the air.
3. The Fire Kasina (Tejo)
One who has past merit with the Fire Kasina can easily attain the Learning Sign (Uggaha-nimitta) just from seeing a fire such as a forest fire, a fire in an oven, a fire in a lamp or a fire people have lit.
Others must gather hard firewood that will burn a long time without going out and will not be smoky [If the fire goes out quickly, one will have to waste time adding wood and smoke would disturb the meditator]. To make a Kasina, light the fire, then place a thick mat or piece of leather which can withstand the fire between yourself and the fire for protection from the heat. Make a hole in the center about four inches wide. Contemplate the fire as seen through this hole.
An oil lamp or candle can also be used. One disadvantage is that the wind can easily extinguish the flame. One must find a place protected from the wind, such as a closed room or cave. Another disadvantage is that the lamp or candle could fall while the eyes are closed and be dangerous. Make sure everything is safe before using an oil lamp or candle.
The advantages of an oil lamp or candle are that they are more convenient than finding wood and building a fire and there is no need for the protecting mat or piece of leather, it is also not as hot as sitting by a fire. The meditator can just light the lamp or candle, stare at the flame, and mentally recite ‘Tejo, Tejo, Tejo’ or ‘Fire, Fire, Fire.’
In this Fire Kasina, the Learning Sign appears like a spark from a wood fire falling to earth or if the meditator is staring at a fire that he or she did not light, it may appear as burned wood, charcoal, or smoke within the sign. But when the Counterpart Sign is attained, it will stand still like a red cloth hung up or a golden palm fan or golden pillar.
4. The Wind Kasina (Vayo)
A meditator observes the leaves on the topmost branches of a tree, seeing how they are moved back and forth by the wind, or one can observe the hair of a person being blown by the wind. These can be taken as sign, or one can observe the wind blowing against one’s own body. In any case, the meditator contemplates wind and recites ‘Vayo, Vayo, Vayo or Wind, Wind, Wind.’
For this Kasina, the Learning Sign will appear as a moving sign like the steam rising from boiling rice. The Counterpart Sign appears as a sphere standing still.
Note: the first four meditaton objects or kasina are grouped into Element Meditation Objects.
5. The Green Kasina (Nila)
The Green Kasina can be anything which is green in color. One with past merit can readily attain the Learning Sign by just seeing a clump of flowers, plant clippings by an altar, green cloth or green crystal. Others must create a green Kasina by collecting green flowers such as green Lotuses or Jasmine and arranging them in a vase with the tops even with the rim. Select only flowers of pure petal, no stamen, pistils, stems or leaves.
Another way is to take pieces of green cloth and roll them up to fill a basket so that all the tops are even. Alternatively, stretch green cloth over a basket and tie it down like the head of the drum. The meditator can also color a piece of paper or cloth green, make it round and tack it to the wall. In any case, the meditator stares at the green color, reciting ‘Nila, Nila, Nila or Green, Green, Green.’ For the Green Kasina, the Learning Sign will show the blemishes of the Kasina such as stamen and the gap between petals, but the Counterpart Sign will be free of any such faults. It might appear as a green crystal palm fan in clear daylight.
6. The Yellow Kasina (Pita)
The meditator practicing with the Yellow (Pita) Kasina can use any yellow object such as a bunch of yellow flowers, a piece of yellow cloth or anything naturally yellow. A person with past merit can readily attain the Learning Sign by seeing a group of blooming flowers, yellow cloth, or some other yellow object. Others must create a Kasina. One can use yellow Jasmine, yellow cloth or anything naturally yellow. The meditator stares at the yellow and recites ‘Pita, Pita, Pita or Yellow, Yellow, Yellow.’ Other details are as already explained for the Earth Kasina.
7. The Red Kasina (Lohita)
A meditator with merit from past lives can readily attain the Learning Sign when seeing a clump of red objects, a red flower such as a single rose or a naturally red object such as red cloth or red crystal. Others must create a Kasina by using flowers such as red flowers, red cloth or some naturally red objects. The meditator then sits staring at the Kasina, reciting ‘Lohita, Lohita, Lohita’ or ‘Red, Red, Red’ until the Learning Sign is attained. Others details are as already explained for the Green Kasina.
8. The White Kasina (Odata)
A meditator with merit from past lives can easily attain the Learning Sign by just seeing a white flower such as Jasmine or Lotus, or a piece of white cloth or any other naturally white object. One might also use a round object of silver or tin or even the moon as a Kasina. Others must construct a Kasina. They may collect white flowers, or use white cloth or naturally white objects as previously described. Then, one stares at the Kasina repeating ‘Odata, Odata, Odata or White, White, White,’ over and over, 100 to 1,000 times or more, until the Learning Sign arises.
Note: The fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth Kasina are grouped into Color Meditation Objects.
9. The Light Kasina (Aloka)
A meditator with merit from past lives can readily attain the Learning Sign by simply seeing sunlight or moonlight hit the ground or passing through a hole in a wall or seeing light through a hole in the ceiling or through the leaves of the trees. Others must construct a Kasina. Use the light from a candle or oil lamp inside a pot resting on its side. Cover the opening of the pot with cloth and make a hole in the cloth to let the light out. Turn the pot to face the wall, so there will be a circle of light on the wall. If the pot is not covered, the sphere of light will be too large. This will cause one’s vision to blur. The circle from a lamp will last longer than sunlight or moonlight. When all is set, the meditator stares at the circle of light and recites ‘Aloka, Aloka, Aloka or Light, Light, Light.’ For this Kasina, the Learning Sign is like a light circle on the ground or wall. The Counterpart Sign is like a three-dimensional round sphere or bright crystal ball.
10. The Space Kasina (Akasa)
The Akasa Kasina is also called the Paricchinnakasa Kasina or Delimited, Excited Space Kasina. The Kasina is staring at the emptiness of a hole, not the emptiness of the whole sky. One stares at the empty space in a hole in a wall or partition between curtains.
A meditator with merit from previous lives can readily attain the Learning Sign from just seeing an empty hole in a wall or a window. Others must create a Kasina by making a hole in the roof of a tent or in a piece of leather or mat. The width of the hole should be the distance between the tip of the thumb and tip of the forefinger when spread out, plus the width of four fingers [6-7 in. or 15-17 cm.]. The meditator stares at the Kasina and recites ‘Akasa, Akasa, Akasa or Space, Space, Space,’ until the Learning Sign (Uggaha-nimitta) arises. In this Kasina, the Learning Sign is like the hole one has made, if the hole is square, the Learning Sign will be square. The Counterpart Sign is like a bright sphere of the hole. Other details are similar to the earth Kasina.