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Totalities (Kasinas)


Copyright © 2023 Tomás Morales y Duran. All rights reserved

In the Buddha's time, certain ascetics and Brahmins used concentration on the totality of certain objects.

The word kasina, (totality) possibly related to the Sanskrit krtsna, "whole, complete, entire", names a purely external device used to produce and develop concentration of the mind and achieve a certain type of absorption.

The exercise consists in intensely concentrating the mind on a visible object that is taken as a preparatory image, for example, a colored spot or a disk, or a piece of land, or a pond at some distance, etc., until finally one perceives, even with closed eyes, a negative mental reflection of the acquired image.

Now, while continuing to focus on this image, the counter-image that has emerged must be made to appear immaculate and immovable. At that point the proximity concentration will have been reached.

While continuing to persevere in concentration on the object, while trying not to move or dissolve, the object must expand in all directions, achieving complete totality. At that point all activity of the senses is suspended, in which impressions and bodily feelings are no longer seen or heard, nor are perceived, that is, a state of absorption.

The 10 totalities 10 kasinas mentioned in the suttas are: the totality of the earth, the totality of the water, the totality of the fire, the totality of the air, blue, yellow, red, white, space and life.

In the suttas this exercise appears as a practice of ascetics and brahmins. The Buddha knows them, and knows his limitations and that they are not part of the path, as opposed to the jhānas, which is the path by which he achieved enlightenment.

Although the absorption obtained is a state similar to the first jhāna and there are authors who confuse them and even take them as Buddhist practices, their differences are substantial and are related to the last three criteria described in a previous chapter.

Totalities are not useful as they do not lead to any kind of gnosis. They are closed absorptions that lead nowhere and where there is nothing. They are like closed and empty rooms. A break, a break.

In addition, the described method, although it is simple, is so painful that it takes years and years to achieve these absorptions. It really isn't a method as such because doing the same thing over and over again is extremely rare. More than method is a lottery.

And it has no repeatability either. Once this state is achieved, repeating it is almost as painful. It certainly is an absorption and something is something. The few who have achieved it often fall into the mistaken belief that they have achieved something important, when they have not. It is an exercise as painful as it is useless.

In the suttas we are told the following about wholes:


AN 10.26: With Kāḷī

There was a time when the venerable Mahākaccāna was staying in the land of the Avantis near Kuraraghara on Mount Pavatta.

Then, the laywoman Kāḷī of Kurughara approached the venerable Mahākaccāna, she bowed down, sat on one side of her and said:

"Sir, this is what the Buddha said in 'The Girl's Questions':


Having defeated the army

of everything that can be pleasant,

me, alone, practicing the jhānas,

I discovered the bliss of peace of mind, the achievement of the goal.


That's why I don't get close

too much to people

and no one comes close

too much to me


—How should we view the detailed meaning of the Buddha's brief statement?

—Sister, some ascetics and brahmins consider that the achievement in concentration on the totality of the earth is the maximum, they put it as their maximum objective.

The Buddha knew directly to what extent the achievement in concentration on the totality of the earth was the highest. Knowing this directly, he saw the beginning, the drawback and the escape and had the knowledge and vision of what was and was not the path. Seeing the beginning, the drawback and the escape and having the knowledge and vision of what was and was not the way, he knew that he had reached the goal, peace of mind.

Some ascetics and Brahmans consider that the achievement of concentration on the totality of water is the maximum, they put it as their highest objective. Some ascetics and Brahmins consider that the attainment of concentration on the totality of fire... of air... of blue... of yellow... of red... of white... of space... of life is the best, and they put it as their ultimate goal.

The Buddha knew directly to what extent the achievement in concentration on the totality of life was the highest. Knowing this directly, he saw the beginning, the drawback and the escape and had the knowledge and vision of what was and was not the path.

Seeing the beginning, the drawback and the escape and having the knowledge and vision of what was and was not the way, he knew that he had reached the goal, peace of mind.

So, sister, This is how one should understand the detailed meaning of what the Buddha said briefly in "The Girl's Questions":


Having defeated the army

of everything that can be pleasant,

me, alone, practicing the jhānas,

I discovered the bliss of peace of mind,


the achievement of the goal.

That's why I don't get close

too much to people

And nobody gets too close to me.



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