An Evolving Gossary of Fire Kasina Shop-Talk Terms:
Kasina: an external object viewed initially to generate an afterimage (see below). It can be nearly anything, but traditional items would include colored disks (traditionally white, yellow, red, or blue), a candle or fire, a light, a limited are of space, etc. These can be images on a screen or phone, a picture on paper or a card, or material objects. For this practice, any light source will do that is strong enough to give a good afterimage (see below) but not hurt your eyes. For candles, you might need to be in a room that has less than full daylight, and stare for perhaps 30-120 seconds to get a good afterimage. For LED and other electric light sources, much less time might be required, depending on how bright it is, and you will have to experiment. Dimmable electric sources are good to accommodate changing external light conditions.
Afterimage: those images that appear immediately after viewing the kasina and closing one’s eyes, particularly initially. They are typically of the complementary color of the viewed kasina and its background, and may include variable amounts of what is behind and around the kasina. These typically change in some way to become the dot (see below). What the afterimage does will change as practice evolves: this is normal.
The Dot: the often round but possibly oblong or other shaped cleaner image that appears out of the afterimage. If using a candle, it is often shaped something like a candle flame. It tends to be more clean and well-bounded than the afterimage, more simplified. The color will vary depending on the kasina object and to some degree on the practitioner. For a candle, it tends to be some sort of red initially, often soon developing yellow in its center. For an LED source, it might be green or some other color. The color doesn’t matter: whatever color you get to work with is a good color. The Dot may also be called the “nimitta”, but this can annoy traditionalists and dogmatists who argue over the meaning of the term, and is less straightforward than “dot”, so it might be best to just call it the dot. What the dot does and how it presents will change as practice progresses: this is normal, and the most important thing is to just attend to it. Any movement within the dot is a great thing to notice carefully. It is possible to learn to intentionally change aspects of the dot. The dot tends to be two-dimensional, but may acquire more volume.
Rings: typically, the dot will get some rings around the edge of it. For a candle flame, these will often be dark green, purple, or blue, but may be other colors: all these colors are fine. The ring may shift, spin, get little moving bumps on it, and change in other ways: all of these are very good details to notice, particularly anything moving. It is possible to disconnect the dot from the rings at times.
First screen: the screen on which the dot appears, or, said another way, it is the dot itself, as the material of the dot and the first screen are one and the same. It tends to be small, generally is centrally located, corresponds with the focus of attention, may initially wander off-center until practice stabilizes, is not pixelated, and, when displaying internal movement, tends to do so rapidly, and that rapidity generally correlates with the phase of the breath once the details of the dot are noticed. This rapid movement has some correlation with the second vipassana jhana. There are four major screens, with a few oddities that seem to in some ways be their own screens, and trying to figure out which screen they relate to best can be fun.
The Black Dot: the dot will often progress to become a black dot, and this tends to be a bit larger than the original dot. It may also be other dark colors, such as very dark green, purple, blue, etc. depending somewhat on the practitioner and phase of practice. All of those color variants are just fine and great objects. The dot may undergo many odd transitions before it becomes the black (or other dark colored) dot. The black dot initially tends to be flat, but later may acquire more dimensionality, such as becoming a disk that may even rotate, as well as a ball or sphere. It initially tends to appear to be on the main “inner screen” of the visuals, but later may seem to be in front of that screen (see second screen below), or even seem to be depressed into that screen. The black dot correlates with the fifth insight stage, dissolution, in some way. Remember that black is a valid color to concentrate on, and that pure black is almost impossible to achieve, though it can be fun to try. Black nearly always has a bit of static, color, or other subtle details, and noticing those is great practice. The black dot sits on the junction of the first and second screens, and may seem to move between them at times. The black dot also sits on the border of the dot and the murk.
The Murk: what happens after the black dot appears, as well as referring to images that may appear around the dot. The murk takes place on what is called the second screen. Figuring out the murk is one of the major initial projects on a fire kasina retreat, and can take days to get a handle on. Patience helps. The murk can present in a wide number of ways, with some of the common themes described below. Getting through the murk to more satisfying images can be frustrating, and may take some reasonable number of hours or days, depending on practice conditions, the practitioner, the dose, and other factors hard to define. One who is more willing to just be interested in murky images without judgement will often do better than one who is irritated or frustrated, particularly due to comparison or expectation, as those are trouble in the murk. The murk, when it starts to get less murky, is really where the party is, and leads to many great things. Thus, learning to work with the murk is most of what the practice ends up being about. This takes time, like any other skill.
Second Screen: a wide screen that curves around towards us as it gets wider, generally relatively flat, though may become more 3D at times, tends to have a sense of being at a fixed distance from our eyes initially, often described as being about 12-18 inches from our face initially. It starts as the murk, and gradually becomes less murky as one progresses in concentration. It responds much more slowly to intent, requiring patience and a somewhat more laid back approach to attempts at control, but what occurs on it may become much more complex than the second screen. It initially may start out very murky, but, with practice, can become much more intricate and vivid. Often, images that form on it will have some sense of symmetry or repetition. It is a more pixelated screen, and images that appear on it tend to seem like drawings or cheap CGI rather than being photorealistic. It is a complex screen with many aspects. It eventually may start to interact with or incorporate the first screen. The third screen, which is much more photorealistic and less pixelated, can often be first glimpsed through holes in the second screen, though sometimes there will just be a clean, complete screen transition.
TV snow: an early murk appearance, in which the second screen appears to be undifferentiated, but may contain lots of little color static that is barely organized into patterns or not at all.
Long/short practice cycles: these refer to the length of time it takes to look at the light source, close one’s eyes, see whatever you see for as long as you see it, and then open your eyes again (to refresh on the light source), that being one cycle. Often, in the beginning, our cycles are relatively short (like seconds to a few minutes), and then, after we get better, people often go longer (like minutes to tens of minutes to even hours). However, when The Murk sets in, people often go back to shorter cycles, but, at some point, may find that longer cycles are required to get to the cool stuff out past The Murk. Cycles may naturally get shorter again in a Review phase (insight stage where insight cycles move through fast and easily). In short, the length of people’s practices cycles is non-linear and often varies significantly during a retreat, a day, and even an individual practice session.
Color washes: generally appear as blobs of a color, such as purple, blue, red, green, or even black or grey washing across the visual field of the murk, on the second screen. When these become very vivid, more confluent, or even completely fill the screen, this is a sign that the second screen is being mastered and is much less murky. The same is true for when one attains to “color control” and even color fine-tuning, such that, not only can one make the washes any color one wishes, but one can fine-tune the exact hue of the color and even do things like make it glow a neon color or make it shimmery metallic. Color washes can also be shaped into images, initially rudimentary, crude representations, but finally definite images, and this is called “image control”.
Your color: color washes, as well as other things that appear in the murk, will often appear of a color that one will end up identifying as one’s own, sort of default color that comprise objects in the murk if attention or intention doesn’t turn to some other color. Common colors are purple, blue, and red, yellow, green, and white, and even lines made of rainbows. It is unclear what the meaning of one’s particular color might be, though creating theories can be fun.
The Black and Grey: tends to be frustrating, dark, shifty, complex, an odd mix of organic curves and harsh angles, moves oddly, seems out of phase, and can be frustrating, particularly to those who have a hard time accepting grey and black as colors. However, the Black and Grey is a very valid object, and focusing on it can lead to lots of other interesting effects and colors. The black and grey is found “up” (see below). It may be more static at times, forming Structures that appear somewhat stable, in an earth-element sort of way, but at times may move harshly.
Structures: things that demonstrate the earth element characteristic of stability. They can appear in any shape. They can appear both up and down.
Up/Down: when we close our eyes, we can point our physical eyes more up or down behind our closed eyelids. If we point them up, the bones behind our eyebrows block out much of the surrounding ambient light, and if we point them down so that only the eyelid itself is in front of the eyes, we let in more ambient light. Both positions are good positions, and they lead to different effects, all of which are valuable. Getting good at both positions helpful. Up is where we find the Black and Grey, the Grey, more earth element structures, the White and Gold, the Molten Gold, as well as the Star Field and other interesting visuals.
The Grey: very much like the Black and Grey, but often a lot more uniform, though may contain texture, lines, angles, and curves, and so, for those who like colors other than grey and patterns that are more defined, can be frustrating, though ends up being like the Mother of All Colors, and eventually can be transformed into any color with practice. Both the Grey and the Black and Grey may form structures or move in harsh ways, thought the Grey can also sometimes flow slowly, sort of like lava.
The White and Gold/Molten Gold: tends to occur high and centrally in the visual field, up, often with the eyes crossed somewhat and focused up towards the “third eye” or sixth chakra. It tends to be blobular, a mix of bright white and a pale to golden yellow, and moves with a rapidity that taxes our ability to comprehend it. If it moves more slowly and flows, then it is called the Molten Gold. The Molten Gold may drip down. Distracted attention tends to make it fade rapidly, and very strong attention that yet is able to get out of the way of the very rapidly presenting shifting of the surface and edges. It is an intense and compelling object that can be made larger and more intricate, but holding attention that delicately yet intensely tends to eventually cause fatigue. It is hard to tell if the White and Gold is really on the second screen or actually third screen (see below), or something sort of in-between. It can be iridescent, as well as be made to become any color. It is a fascinating material once we get a sense of how to work with it, which just takes practice and interest. As a material, it can be made into very flowy objects, as well as transparent and translucent objects, as well as structures. It often starts with a very fiery quality, burning, bright, flickering rapidly, but can also be made into more earthy and watery elements. It is hard to make into an air-like object. It can also be made to fill the entire visual field with brilliance, and even used as a way to get into other realms (see fourth screen below).
Water/Flows: water element flows and coheres, and so things that flow like water may be called flows. Flows may sometimes flow over structures (earth element). Paying attention to every little detail of a flow is a great practice.
Air/Mists/Fogs: the air element may manifest as mists (bright, able to see all the little particles that make up the mist), and fogs, which are like mists but less clear, less particulate, with less detail and often more obscuring. Mists may become brilliant and sparkly. Both mists and fogs are great objects. Mists may be made to move around as mists do, and, when they also get more of a water element component to them, may become like blowing rain or even blowing snow. All are great objects. Mists, fogs, rains, and snows are often found down, but may also be found up sometimes.
Fire/flares: the White and Gold is the most obvious example of the fire element, as it may get very bright, move and flicker very fast as a fire does, and be quite intense. When fire is found down instead of up, it may manifest as very bright, brilliant color washes, often of a red or orange color that shift sort of like the orange on burning coals does, and may combine with the air element to produce brilliant, sparky mists. It may also interact with the earth element to produce the Molten Gold, or things like lava.
The Black and White: tends to involve harsh lines and angles, jagged irregular shapes, tends to move moderately quickly, and, while somewhat interesting, can also be irritating and erratic. Continued attention through the frustration tends to make it eventually morph into much more pleasing colors and images. It is found up in the visual field.
Spirals and tunnels: may arise out of lines of color in the second screen. They often move and may even rotate or move towards us or away from us slowly. They can be sort of like bent, moving grids sometimes. They are generally found down. These are structures that may also move in ways that has some sense of flow to it, mixing earth and water elements.
Spirographs/Sacred Geometry: commonly appear around the edge of the black dot initially, but can also appear independent of the black dot. Often involve some sort of complex radial or other symmetry. May be of any color and may resemble fractals. These can be beautiful, fascinating, rich objects, and they may morph and shift in fascinating ways. They are a sign that the murk is being mastered, as are the patterns getting wider and finally seeming to extend to the edges of our peripheral vision of the second screen. They are generally found down.
Creepy crawlies: the second screen may present arrays of creepy images, such as centipedes, spiders, fingers, mushrooms, eyes, skulls, snakes, crabs, strange creatures hard to classify, and the like, often moving around in creepy ways. Those who have seen things like this on Ayahuasca may find similarities. These images are not harmful, but may disturb some practitioners rather than be a source of fascination. They are a very valid concentration object. They may emerge from holes in structures, comprise structures, or even occur as flows of these objects.
Third Screen: often initially seen through holes or translucency in the second screen, though may suddenly be flashed onto as a complete transition from the second screen. The third screen is much more photorealistic than the second screen and its pixilation is very subtle to often undetectable. These presentations tend to be very brief for most. The third screen tends to present much more complex images whose obvious origin is often mysterious, though it can sometimes respond to intents to see things that were intended before the screen arose. Landscapes, faces, scenes, realms, and many other images may arise. Controlling what happens on the third screen in realtime is very difficult for many, and often may initially result in rapid image deterioration of the images or regression to the second screen. The third screen responds well to quiet fascination and calm interest rather than control. It tends to be much more volumetric than the second screen. The third screen is not needed for deep jhanic, insight, and magickal attainments, but, when it does occur, is very satisfying, generally. One should be careful to not miss out on the amazing things the second screen has to offer chasing the third screen. Third screen images are often more likely when we are very relaxed, and rarely occur when intense effort is being applied. One should be very careful not to judge, dismiss, or become frustrated if one isn’t getting Third Screen images, as this can be poison for practice. It is not uncommon for a few third screen images to occur pretty early on in practice, only to disappear and not recur for a long time or maybe never recur again.
The Star Field: found up, typically through holes in the Black and Grey or the Grey initially, but may eventually be made to become the whole field. It tends to have more of a third screen quality to it, often seeming like a field of bright stars on a black background. These stars may be made to move, as if we were in a space ship on hyperdrive. The star field is easier to find if we focus Far.
Focusing Far, Naturally, and Near: most of the time, much of our practice will involve focusing our eyes at a distance that feels natural after looking at the light source. Typically, most people will describe their focus as being about 12-24 inches or 25-50 cm in front of them. However, one can also experiment with setting the focus Far, looking out as one would gaze out over the ocean, for example, as well as Near, looking at what is going on the field of view much closer to our eyes. When we change focus from Natural to Far or Near, there tends to be an adjustment period as our brains get used to this. As we practice doing this more often, it tends to get easier. Changing focus in the Murk generally leads to frustration, but, once we get better at the second screen and we are seeing more defined objects, then playing around with focus can be very interesting. Focusing Near tends to reveal subtle and then overt distortions in the space between our eyes and the second screen, leading to some concluding that the second screen is not actually pixilated, but instead the pixels are an artifact of subtle distortions occurring Near. Similarly, when we focus Far, we might notice layers of experience interfering with each other, for example, mists or flows that are at Natural focus obscuring structures that appear farther away when we are looking down, or structures or the White and Gold that obscure the Star Field if we are looking up.
The White and Gold material, which can get sort of like Plastic, can, when we get good at working with it, create images that have more of a third screen realism to them. The White and Gold material can even become the basis for fourth screen experiences.
Fourth Screen: a fine achievement, and a sign of very refined, sophisticated, balanced, deep concentration. The fourth screen is totally immersive, vast, intricate, with the high degree of resolution, the perfection of life-like, entirely believable, hyper-real graphics, but, instead of being something viewed like watching a scene, we are now totally in the scene or realm, though the sense of us, our body, etc. may be subtle to absent, ironically. Or, if our body is present, then it will often respond as if it is feeling what is going on, such that, for example, if we are flying over a landscape, our body will feel the change in direction as if we were really flying. Entities here tend to seem to have their own intelligence, and may speak and interact in surprising ways, conveying information we don’t consciously know and couldn’t predict, and doing other things, such as conveying wisdom light, divine energy, and other strange magickal things. Fourth screen experiences are so completely immersive and compelling that Conformity knowledge is very close at hand. Attainments such as stream entry, Fruitions, and the like, are much easier when the fourth screen arises, but most will attain such things on second screen images, or occasionally third screen images, as the fourth screen is definitely not required for very deep practice, just as with the third screen. The fourth screen is like total immersion in a magickal realm where anything seems possible. It is like an out of body experience (OBE, travel, etc.), but doesn’t have the lift out nor the snap back, but some hard to comprehend quiet transition where we suddenly find ourself in the space and then later aren’t. The fourth screen often doesn’t respond well to any attempts at control once it arises, presuming one could even figure out how to create enough of a sense of self to even attempt that in the fourth screen. It does, however, respond well to intentions made before one starts the sequence with the flame, dot, etc. It is very important, as with the third screen, to not fixate on this object, get derailed by comparison to others, or dismiss what one is seeing while chasing the fourth screen, as that will just poison your practice. Be grateful if any fourth screen experiences occur, but be very wary of judgement of yourself if they don’t. Fourth screen feels like an extension of third screen. Some, attaining to the fourth screen, will conclude that ordinary waking and dreaming reality are all just fourth screen.
Neko’s Triad: Patience, Faith, and Curiosity. These are qualities that help tremendously when doing this practice. We are patient, not trying to get to something that is not happening, and instead, by paying attention to what is happening, we make good progress. Faith: a quality that is particularly helpful in the Murk, as, if we have faith that attending to murky objects is doing something useful, even if it is not obvious, then we are much more likely to be successful at learning to handle the murk well. Curiosity: an essential quality when doing this practice, as, if we are curious how our visual field works and what is going on, then our attention will naturally follow, and strong concentration will be much more easy to develop.
Fascination and Fun: both also very useful qualities to have when doing this practice. Fascination is like curiosity. Fun makes the whole thing much more enjoyable. In fact, even manufacturing a sense of fun and play, even when things are frustrating, such as in the Murk, will really help make it more workable.
Elemental Imbalance: effects that can come up in the body that impair practice that result from excessive presence of or attention to one element, such as fire kasina practices generating heat in the body.
Elemental Balancing: adding in some attention to other elements to help with elemental imbalance, such as paying more attention to earth, water, air, and space when experiencing too much heat from the fire element.
Kicked Out: a strange phenomena that may happen somewhere around 12-18 or so days into a longer fire kasina retreat, where, after progress, we feel suddenly kicked out, often abruptly, with nearly no colors, none of the previously cultivated abilities or access, like we have just started fresh from ground zero. It often last 1-3 days if we keep practicing on that retreat, and, once we are no longer “kicked out” and progress begins again, it is often much faster than the first ramp up on that retreat.
Updated by Daniel on August 25th, 2022 after a fire kasina retreat at home.