Good question, Dosakkhayo.
1. The concepts of jhana and kasina have been badly interpreted in current Theravada texts.
– Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga is mostly responsible for that.
2. We need to start with understanding the FUNDAMENTAL idea of Nibbana.
– Even though relatively little suffering manifests in realms higher than the human realm, a “living being” spending most of the Samsaric journey in the lowest four realms (apayas) filled with suffering. Thus, the Buddha taught that this world of 31 realms is filled with suffering.
3. “Full Nibbana” (Parinibbana or the “complete release from suffering”) is attained at the death of an Arahant. That Arahant will not be reborn in any of the 31 realms.
I need to keep repeating those basics because many people have not grasped those ideas (I am not directing this to Dosakkhayo). I just want to emphasize the foundation.
4. Thus, any meditation where the focus of the mind is a “worldly object” CAN NOT be a Buddhist meditation.
– In the “Samādhi Sutta (AN 10.6)” the Buddha explained that to Ven. Ananda.
– There Ven. Ananda asks the Buddha whether there is a Samatha meditation (samādhi bhāvanā) in Buddha Dhamma that is not based on kasina or other (e.g., breath) meditation.
– Instead of contemplating worldly things, one MUST contemplate the unfruitful nature of worldly things. That is vipassana meditation (as explained in the Anapanasati Sutta and in even more detail in the Satipatthana Sutta.
– If someone with magga phala likes to cultivate jhana (with Samatha meditation) they should contemplate the Nibbana that they have experienced (at that level):
“‘etaṁ santaṁ etaṁ paṇītaṁ yadidaṁ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭinissaggo taṇhākkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānan’ti.”
– While anariya yogis get to Samatha (and anariya jhana) with the traditional kasina and breath meditation (detailed in Visuddhimagga) Ariyas (Nobel Persons) attain Nibbana with the above verse.
– That is what the Buddha explained to Ven. Ananda. The above verse is in that sutta. Note that the English translation could be misleading in some places, but one can get the general idea with my explanation. That translator, just like any other current Theravada teacher, still practices traditional kasina/breath meditations!
5. Of course, #4 requires more details. I will start on a series of posts on jhana/kasina with the next post.
– I just got started on a series of posts on Anapanasati, but that needs to be on hold.
– That is fine because this background on jhana/kasina should be understood first.
6. Let me address the question by Dosakkhayo briefly. I will discuss that in detail in the upcoming posts. The following is the verse he quoted:
“Dasa kasiṇāyatanāni pathavīkasiṇaṁ āpokasiṇaṁ tejokasiṇaṁ vāyokasiṇaṁ nīlakasiṇaṁ pītakasiṇaṁ lohitakasiṇaṁ odātakasiṇaṁ ākāsakasiṇaṁ viññāṇakasiṇaṁ. Tattha yañca pathavīkasiṇaṁ yañca āpokasiṇaṁ evaṁ sabbaṁ, yañca odātakasiṇaṁ. Imāni aṭṭha kasiṇāni samatho. Yañca ākāsakasiṇaṁ yañca viññāṇakasiṇaṁ, ayaṁ vipassanā. Evaṁ sabbo ariyo maggo yena yena ākārena vutto, tena tena samathavipassanena yojayitabbo.”
– Note that the verse refers to “Dasa kasiṇāyatana” or “ten kasina āyatana“.
– This DOES NOT refer to kasina OBJECTS.
– Anything in this world related to one or more of those “kasina āyatana“. Material things are made of pathavi, apo, tejo, and vayo and are located in ākāsa. Some objects have colors represented by nila, pita, lohita, and odāta. All “nāma dhammā” are associated with viññāṇa.
– Thus, to get to Nibbana (Arahanthood) saññā for all ten of those kasina āyatana must be uprooted. That needs a detailed explanation. That is what I will be doing with the new series of posts.
7. The relevant point to remember is the following.
– Traditional kasina meditations or breath meditation can get one to jhana. One who cultivated such jhana WILL BE reborn in a Brahma realm.
– However, once that lifetime ends, rebirth in the human realm will take place first, and after that rebirth in ANY realm (including apayas) will again be “in effect”. That is why it is useless to cultivate traditional kasina meditation (with kasina objects like clay balls/water bowls, etc) or with breath meditation.