This stage of samadhi is cultivated a the beginning of a meditation session, and is directed towards being mindful of the object, noticing when a distraction or other hindrance has arisen, and applying the antidote.
One Teacher, Many Traditions states:
- Using the example of an earth kasiṇa, a meditator makes the kasiṇa disk—a round disk of clean clay about four fingers wide that is placed on a board in front of the meditator. With her eyes open, she looks at it, thinking “earth, earth.” When the image of earth is firm in her mind, she closes her eyes and continues to focus “earth, earth.” The actual object of meditation now is the image of earth, which is an object of mental consciousness, not visual consciousness. This is the preliminary work sign (parikamma nimitta). If the image fades, she opens her eyes and looks at the earth kasiṇa to refresh her visualization and again lowers her eyes and meditates on the image of earth appearing to her mental consciousness. In this way she “develops this sign,” forming the image in her mind sometimes with open eyes and sometimes with them closed. At this initial stage of practice her concentration is called preliminary concentration (parikamma samādhi), and most of her effort goes toward being mindful of the object, noticing when a distraction or other hindrance has arisen, applying the antidote, and bringing the mind back to the meditation object.
- She continues to develop the preliminary work sign until the learning sign arises. This subtler object replaces the preliminary work sign and arises when the meditator sees the mental image just as clearly when her eyes are closed as when she is looking at the kasiṇa. Now she stops looking at the external kasiṇa and focuses exclusively on the mental object, the learning sign (uggaha nimitta). However, if her apprehension of the learning sign fades, she again looks at the physical earth kasiṇa with her eyes. Coarse engagement (vitakka) is important at this point to establish familiarity with the learning sign.