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Secular Meditation

The Liberating Practice of the Fire Kasina – with Daniel Ingram

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Author and meditation teacher Daniel Ingram speaks with host Michael W. Taft about how the Fire Kasina practice can be used as an insight practice. Subjects include: the background of kasina practice in the Thervada tradition, using kasinas to go into jhana, how vipassana practice interacts with jhana practice, meditation on the Three Characteristics, and detailed instructions for doing the Fire Kasina practice

Daniel Ingram is an emergency medicine physician and long-time dharma practitioner. He is the author of the seminal text Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha — now out in its second edition-  and also the main force behind the radical dharmaoverground website, which specializes in a brand of unusually-frank discussion of meditation.

The book Michael mentions is Theravada Meditation by Winston King

Daniel explains how jhanas and ñanas can be matched across systems in this video.

The Fire Kasina website

You can help to create future episodes of this podcast by contributing through Patreon.

Show Notes

0:25 – Introduction

2:13 – Michael’s experience with the fire kasina at Denman Island, realizing the practice can lead to awakening

5:34 – Setting the general context for using any kind of kasina, and how it fits in with Theravada practice

9:25 – How and why Daniel started kasina practice, objects he used; whether there’s something special about the fire kasina

14:22 – Elemental imbalance, taking other elements (air, water, earth) besides fire; once you can do one element really well, you can get all the other colors and elements

17:00 – Using kasina practice to enter the jhanas or develop jhanic factors; how insight slips into concentration practices

21:21 – Beginning to describe the stages of working with a fire kasina, and what it means for jhanic factors (and the nanas)

23:48 – The appearance of the red dot nimitta and its characteristics

27:45 – The first jhanic factors that come with tracking and steadying the red dot nimitta; changes in the color of the nimitta and the dropping of sustained thought (being second jhanic factors); the second vipassana jhana’s correlation with the Arising and Passing Away

30:33 – The appearance of the black/dark dot and entering the murk; the gifts and challenges of practicing with the murk; Neko’s triad of patience, faith, and curiosity

37:57 – Learning color, image, and movement control in the murk; bringing in insight elements

42:08 – Exiting the murk and entering fourth jhanic territory; what the transition from third to fourth jhana looks like

47:20 – Things a practitioner can look for to know when they’ve made the transition to fourth jhana / fourth jhanic factors

52:22 – Descriptions of the first through fourth ‘screens’, how the screens don’t perfectly correlate with the jhanas

54:16 – Moving from fourth jhanic territory to awakening; cultivating the three characteristics

1:02:50 – The challenge of taking the fire kasina to the immaterial type jhanas

1:04:38 – What’s most exciting to Daniel about this practice and why he continues to do it

1:09:21 – Community and learning resources for people who want to work with kasina practice; warnings about doing the practice intensely or without a support system when one has a serious mental health diagnosis

1:14:51 – Outro

You can support the creation of future episodes of this podcast by contributing through Patreon.

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5 Comments

  1. Sandra Forester March 28, 2019

    Hi Michael. I’ve heard Daniel speak of fire kasina before and have immediately tuned out thinking it is just too far out and woohoo. However I repeatedly get a bright round yellow light when developing samatha by any method. Recently when following one of your guided meditations to focus on mental pictures the yellow dot just stated going crazy. Starting very large and then getting smaller and disappearing over and over. Also you guided to pay attention to mental talk and I realized a mantra spontaneously appearing. The word yellow kept repeating in my mind in time with the appearance and receding of the dot . Is this nimitta? I usually transition to vipassana when I start seeing the yellow circle. Is there another way to work with this aside from what Daniel describes ? Thank you! I love and appreciate all your work.

    Reply
    1. MWT March 29, 2019

      Hi, Sandra. That’s a pretty common phenomenon. Kinda cool, right? However, it’s different than a nimitta, and you shouldn’t try to work with it in that way. Your response, to do vipassana, is the best way. You can observe the flow-and-gone qualities of the yellow dot, and that is insight-producing.
      Thank you for your kind comments. I’m so glad you’re finding it valuable.

      Reply
  2. BLAINE LESLIE REININGER April 5, 2019

    This podcast contains the best guide to this practice I have encountered online, far superior to even what is available on Daniel Ingram’s site.

    Reply
    1. MWT April 5, 2019

      Thanks, Blaine.

      Reply
  3. iwelsh2016 August 20, 2019

    Something similar to fire Kasina is dead common in Hinduism. But I first heard of them from a student of Chinese Chan (Mahayanna) Buddhism. Detailed instructions of all the elemental ones, plus various weird ones (like color Kasinas.)

    Reply

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