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Top Ten Things To Meditate On: A Modernized Approach To Kasina Meditation

The mere mention of meditation brings upon a chaotic response to a number of people. For some, meditation is the training of the mind to bring it to utmost stillness. For some, meditation is the awareness of thoughts that can lead to an eventual stillness and then enlightenment. Whichever way you define meditation, whichever method you utilize to achieve it, it’s clear that this practice helps clear the mind. With a clear mind, the indi- vidual becomes stress-free, happier, peaceful and a whole lot of adjectives that define a healthy cognitive level.

It was simpler in the older times

The Pali Tipitaka, also referred to as the Pali Canon, is one of the earliest Buddhist text references. It is believed that after the death of the Lord Buddha, his disciples wanted to preserve his teachings. It was then that the canon was passed from one generation to another before being written in text in Sri Lanka. Aside from the teachings of the en- lightened one, the canon also includes various important ideals taken from before the Buddha’s time.

This ancient Buddhist text mentioned ten visual objects for meditation. They were known then as the kasinas. These visual objects were hemispherical in shapes. As you would learn later, they vary but most of them were taken from the earth’s different ele- ments or the primary colors. Their primary purpose was to hone the eyesight to simply gaze upon an object without developing any other emotion or thought unto them. Be- cause of their luminance, they can create after-image effects that indicate a deeper lev- el of meditation to the practitioner.

A take on the kasinas in relation to the modern times

The practice of kasina meditation has become obsolete and rare. Some even regard this type of meditation as less insightful than the others. But for beginners, kasina medi- tation is a great way to ease into the practice. Why? Because it’s fairly simple to do and it doesn’t require as much skills. In fact, kasina meditation was once the stepping point of novice meditators in the olden era. So without further adieu, here’s our modern take on kasina meditation.

1. Pathavi Kasina (Gazing On Earth) - Soil Tray

What: The first kasina is none other than the element of earth. In the olden days, this type of kasina was made using dawn-colored soil placed on a disk. Now this is a very neutral object to meditate on and it doesn’t elicit much emotions nor thoughts for the normal person. In our modern approach to this kasina, we can instead opt for the usual soil that we have around us. Simply put brown-colored or preferably red-colored soil in a clear tray or pot. You can opt to mold the soil into a preferred spherical or disk-shape, as in with the traditional disk shape of the pathavi kasina.

How: Place the soil tray in front of your gaze, around two to three feet away. Sit in a comfortable position with your gaze directly upon the soil tray. Relax and begin meditat- ing by uttering the words, “Pathavi, pathavi, pathavi…” Continue doing so for at least two minutes while gazing upon the soil in the tray. Drop the mantra by the third minute and just continue to gaze upon your object. By the fourth minute, close your eyes and imagine the soil, its texture, its shape and its color. Do so for the next two minutes and finally open your eyes.

2.

Apo Kasina (Gazing On Water) - Clear Glass Of Water

What: The second kasina is the element of water. In the olden days, this type of kasina was made using a disk filled with pure water. Just thinking about the sea, the river or the ocean can give one a relaxed mind. It can elicit a bit of excitement though for those who naturally enjoy swimming or any activities associated with water. A modern approach to this kasina is simply putting some water on a clear glass. If you have a small and clear fish bowl, that can work too.

How: Place the clear glass of water in an elevated platform leveled with your gaze. Po- sition yourself around two to three feet from the glass of water. Begin sitting, preferably in the lotus position or half lotus position. Once you have assumed a comfortable posi- tion, gaze at the glass of water, giving attention to the content inside it. Focus on the stillness and the blue hue of the water. Do this for two minutes whilst uttering, “Apo, apo, apo…” Drop the chanting by the third minute and close your eyes. Now imagine the object you have previously gazed into and don’t be afraid once you see the after- image effects of your meditation.

3. Tejo Kasina (Gazing On Fire) - Light Of A Candle

What: The third kasina is the element of fire. It can be impractical to start a whole bon- fire for this kasina. So with our modern approach, the light of a candle will do. In one of our previous blog posts, we have discussed zazen or zen meditation. Now instead of imagining a candle in front of you, this time, you have a real candle to aid you in focus- ing. Remember that you need to breathe slowly enough that the flame of the candle is rendered still in front of you. If you have previous negative experiences with fire, it’s best to avoid this object as it can trigger emotional responses.

How: Light a candle, preferably a mildly scented one, and place it around two to three feet in front of you. Make sure that the lit candle and your gaze are at equal level with one another. Position yourself in front of the candle, you can opt to place it on a table

and meditate while sitting. Gaze upon the flame of the candle, taking note of its colors and movements. Chant your mantra which is “Tejo, tejo, tejo…” and do this for at least two minutes. Slowly close your eyes and imagine your object which can appear like a fiery red spark. The meditation is completed within five minutes but you can opt to do it longer if you feel that you still have the focus for it.

4. Vayo Kasina (Gazing On Wind) - Swaying Of The Leaves

What: The fourth kasina is the element of wind. It can be more difficult to find an object or scenario for this one. If you live within a forest or naturally covered area, you can open your windows instead. You can then observe the gentle swaying of the leaves of trees for this object. Or you can also opt to find a park or woody area and do your medi- tation there. Do this on a cool, windy day so you can enjoy the natural breeze around.

How: If you’re staying at home, open your windows and place a chair in front of the view of the swaying leaves. If you’re going outside, bring your own mat and position yourself a bit further from the trees, in a place where you can easily see their swaying leaves. Now utter the mantra “Vayo, vayo, vayo…” while gazing upon the winds and leaves. On the third minute, drop the chanting but continue gazing on your object. Close your eyes thereafter and imagine the winds, which should have a fog-like appearance in your mind.

5. Odata Kasina (Gazing On White) - White Flower

What: The fifth kasina is the primary color white. This is an easy kasina to find, you can use a white fabric, a white wall or even a white floor. But a recommendation I can give is a white flower because it truly ignites a serene feeling. You can easily find a white flower from your local plant nursery or even around your neighborhood. Just make sure you ask for permission! Or why not plant your own seedling and grow it into a gorgeous flower on an indoor pot so you can meditate anytime you want.

How: Position the flower pot in front of you, within eye level so you don’t get a stiff neck. Sit within two to three feet away and choose your preferred meditation position. Start gazing at the flower, its petals, its purity and its beauty. Begin chanting your mantra, “Odata, odata, odata…” and do so until the third minute. By then, drop the chanting and thereafter, close your eyes. Imagine the previously gazed upon object taking note of its angles and shape.

6. Pita Kasina (Gazing On Yellow) - Lemon

What: The sixth kasina is the primary color yellow. Make sure that you find a naturally yellow object like a lemon. Flowers like jasmine and sunflower would also do. Some ob- jects like a banana and a mango are not advisable to use because they sometimes have color specks other than yellow. Whereas white signifies serenity, yellow signifies vibrancy and activeness. Thus, if you’re feeling a bit depressed or down, this kasina is an appropriate choice.

How: The same instructions follow here, position the lemon on an eye-level location. Find your preferred sitting position and gaze upon the lemon. Chant your mantra which is “Pita, pita, pita…” until around the third minute. Drop the chanting and continue gaz- ing at the lemon. Then, close your eyes and imagine the object. Its bright yellow color, uneven shape and everything that you have gazed upon before.

7. Lohita Kasina (Gazing On Red) - Crystal

What: The seventh kasina is the primary color red. There are a variety of red objects that one can find like an apple or a red cloth. But if you can find a red crystal, it can give that vibrant illumination that red stands for. You don’t have to buy an expensive one, even a cheap crystal can work as a kasina. Red signifies power, strength and passion so if you stand for these principles, this kasina might be ideal for you.

How: Position your crystal in a table or elevated platform. Sit two to three feet away from it, on a flat surface that supports your body well. Now it’s important to decide the duration of your meditation with this object or kasina as the fiery color can be over- whelming. So begin by gazing at the object for a minute and chanting your mantra, “Lo- hita, lohita, lohita…” After that, drop the chanting and close your eyes to imagine the kasina.

8. Nila Kasina (Gazing On Green) - Green Pepper

What: The eighth kasina is the primary color green. You would want to find a smoothly edged object such as a green pepper. Other alternative objects are fabrics, flowers and even papers. To make the color stand out, put a bunch of green peppers into a neutral- colored basket or fabric. Green signifies rebirth and restoration, so it’s a suitable kasina for those who want to turn their minds, or lives, around.

How: Put the green peppers on a neutrally-colored background or basket. Sit for around two to three meters away from the kasina. Focus your gaze upon the peppers and chant your mantra, “Nila, nila, nila…” for around two minutes. Drop the chanting thereafter and continue gazing on the kasina. Then, close your eyes and imagine the just gazed upon kasina. Make sure you imagine all angles, all shades and even the shapes of the pep- pers.

9. Akasa Kasina (Gazing On Space) - Hole In A Fabric

What: The ninth kasina is simply gazing on a space or preferably hole. Thus, in the modern approach, you can find a small fabric and deliberately make a hole in it. The hole should be around seven to eight inches long. You can then put the fabric amidst two supports to make it easier to gaze upon the hole. It is believed that this type of kasi- na allows one to be released from the selfish limits of the ego. Knowing that there’s something out there more vast than the hole you’re looking into gives you a connection to an infinite reality.

How: Position yourself at least two to three feet away from the fabric. It’s best to sit in a chair so that you can be eye-level with the kasina. Focus your gaze in the hole, taking note of the shape, the size and the vastness behind it. Chant your mantra, “Akasa, akasa, akasa…” until the third minute then drop it. Focus your gaze for a few minutes unto the hole and slowly close your eyes. Imagine the hole you have just gazed upon and its perimeters. Let go of all selfish thoughts that could have consumed you within the past few days.

10. Aloka Kasina (Gazing On Light) - Sunlight Amidst The Curtains

What: The last kasina is simply gazing on light. To distinguish it from the tejo kasina, the aloka kasina is focused more on the ray of light. Thus, you can make use of natural sun- light peeping through the curtains of the windows. If it’s a gloomy day, you can use a candlelight set upon a pot with the hole being enveloped by a fabric. You can set a small opening to allow some of the light to come out. In Buddhism, these rays of light can sig- nify the the person himself and his illumination out of the darkness inside him that he wants to get rid of.

How: Set a chair within two to three feet from the sunlight or candlelight. Gaze upon the illumination given by the rays. Chant your mantra, “Aloka, aloka, aloka…” and do this until the third minute. Drop your chanting and concentrate on the sunlight rays for a minute or two. Close your eyes after and imagine the warmth of the sunlight, its color and how it illuminates you.

These are basic yet ef ective things to meditate on

Since they were based from the kasinas, they have properties that even the Buddha re- garded as neutral enough to enhance focus. They are very easy to find or replicate in your homes as well. Note that you don’t have to meditate on all of these objects. You can just choose one which best fits your intentions for meditating. For example, if you want to focus on compassion, you can opt for the akasa kasina. If you are on a dark

path in your life, you can opt for the aloka kasina. If you don’t have a particular intention in mind, opt for the relaxing kasinas such as the apo and vayo.

Share your experiences below with these modern approaches to kasina meditation. Or perhaps you have used a different object to meditate on, share your stories as well. We’ll be waiting for your answers!

perhaps you have used a different object to meditate on, share your stories as well. We’ll

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