the 8 'stages of mastery', are powers to
be obtained by means of the kasina-exercises (s. kasina). In the Com. to
M.77, where Āyatana is explained by 'means' (kārana) it is
said: "The abhibhāyatana through their counteracting may master
(suppress) the adverse states, and by means of higher knowledge they may master
the objects of mind." They are means for transcending the sensuous sphere.
The stereotype text often met with in the Suttas (e.g. D.11,
D.33; M.77; A.VIII.65; A.X.29) is as follows:
(1) "Perceiving (blue..., red..., yellow..., white)
forms on one's own body, one sees forms externally small ones, beautiful or
ugly; and in mastering these one understands: 'I know, I understand.' This is
the first stage of mastery.
(2) "Perceiving forms on one's own body, one sees forms
externally, large ones .... This is the second stage of mastery.
(3) "Not perceiving forms on one's own body, one sees
forms externally, small ones .... This is the third stage of mastery.
(4) "Not perceiving forms on one's own body, one sees
forms externally, large ones .... This is the fourth stage of mastery.
(5) "Not perceiving forms on one's own body, one sees
forms externally, blue forms, forms of blue colour, blue appearance, blue lustre,
and mastering these one understands: 'I know, I understand. This is the fifth
stage of mastery."
(6-8) The same is repeated with yellow, red and white forms.
As preparatory kasina-object for the 1st and 2nd exercise one
should choose on one's own body a small or a large spot, beautiful or ugly, and
thereon one should concentrate one's full undivided attention, so that this
object after a while reappears as mental reflex or image (nimitta)
and, as it were, as something external. Such an exercise, though appearing quite
mechanical, if properly carried out will bring about a high degree of mental
concentration and entrance into the 4 absorptions (jhāna). In the
3rd and 4th exercises the monk by an external kasina-object gains the mental
reflexes and absorptions. As objects of the remaining exercises, perfectly clear
and radiant colours should be chosen, flowers, cloth, etc.
A kasina-object of small size is said to be suitable for a
mentally unsteady nature, one of a large size for a dull nature, a beautiful
object for an angry nature, an ugly one for a lustful nature.
In Vis.M. V it is said: "By means of the earth-kasina
one succeeds in reaching the stage of mastery with regard to small and large
objects .... By means of the blue-kasina one succeeds in causing blue forms to
appear, in producing darkness, in reaching the stage of mastery with regard to
beautiful and ugly colours, in reaching 'deliverance through the beautiful',
etc." (cf. vimokkha II, 3). The same is also said with regard to the
other colour kasinas.