Abhibhāyatana: the 8 ‘stages of mastery’, are powers to be obtained by means of the kasina-exercises see: kasina. In the Com. to M. 77, where āyatana is explained by ‘means’ kārana it is said: The abhibhāyatana through their counteracting may master and suppress their adverse opposite states, and by means of higher knowledge they may master the objects of mind. They are means for transcending the sense-sphere.
The stereotype text often met with in the Suttas e.g. D. 11, 33; M. 77; A. VIII, 65; X, 29 is as follows:
1: Perceiving blue…, red…, yellow…, white forms in or on one’s own body, one sees as if external small forms (e.g.: tooth), 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 these forms as if external, yet now also large ones (e.g.: leg-bone=femur). This is the second stage of mastery.
3: Not perceiving forms on one’s own body, one sees forms externally, small ones (e.g.: pollen inside flower). This is the third stage of mastery.
4: Not perceiving forms on one’s own body, one sees forms externally, large ones (e.g.: planets, galaxies). This is the fourth stage of mastery.
5: Not perceiving forms on one’s own body, one sees forms externally, blue (cobalt, yves-klein, flax, clear & pure) forms, forms of blue color, 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 focus one’s full undivided concentration, so that this object after a while in mind is visualized as a mental reflex or image nimitta and, as if 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 Bhikkhu by an external kasina-object gains the mental reflexes and absorption see: As objects of the remaining exercises, perfectly clear and radiant colors 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.