During this dhamma talk, Peter described paticca sammupada, typically translated as dependent origination. Peter expressed a different view of this concept, calling the process contingent provisional emergence. This contemporary view applies understandings derived from complexity theory, which is a non-linear perspective on the incredible complexity of the mind’s ability to respond to sensory input. He described the links of associated factors in this process, with an emphasis on how important vedanupassana, mindfulness of feelings, the second of the four foundations of mindfulness, is for reconfiguring how the mind responds to each moment of self-state organization. This awareness requires the full functioning of the wholesome mind conditioners, through the practice of vipassana.The practice of vedanupassana will be cultivated later during the retreat through the training in body sweep meditation.
During the fourth night talk, Peter described the “mind conditioners” that the Anapanasati Sutta trains to calm with mindfulness of breathing. He described the 14 wholesome conditioners, with particular attention to the “beautiful pairs” of conditioners (describing the pairing of mind and mind conditioners), tranquility, lightness/agility, pliancy, wieldiness, proficiency and uprightness. These 14 conditioners combine with other “universal” and “occasional” mind conditioners in every moment of wholesome self-state organization.
HOW MIND CONDITIONERS WORK
THE UNIVERSAL AND OCCASIONAL CETASIKAS
In exploring the section of the Anapanasati Sutta related to training oneself to be “…sensitive to mental fabrication…calming mental fabrication”, there’s benefit in understanding the nature of the factors that fabricate each moment of self-awareness. These fabrications emerge from the categories of conditioning factors called cetasikas. The meaning of the term is “that which is associated with the mind”. This term is a kind of categorical listing of what are called sankharas, a term synonymous with karma. Both are derived from the word karoti, which means “to do”. If you imagine the cetasikas to be just the conditioners, then the “action potential” is karma. For me, the basic value of the cetasika “system” is to “deconstruct” the notion of a separate, enduring self.
This talk continues the exploration of the Anapanasati Sutta. The topic this week is “…sensitive to the mind fabrications…calming the mind fabrications”, regarding the cetasikas, the categorically listed functions of the mind. Specific attention was given to the universal cetasikas, involved in every moment of cognition, and the particular or occasional cetasikas, which may or may not be involved. Peter emphasized that these functions were developed over the centuries after the historical Buddha as part of the Abhidhamma, the “higher teachings” of Buddhist psychology. They can be somewhat dry as a focus of study; their value is in “deconstructing” the belief in a separate, enduring self or soul.
This was followed by general discussion of how training awareness to discern the emerging formations increases the functional competency of the seven awakening factors, particularly “investigation of mental phenomena”.
Next week’s discussion will review the 14 “unwholesome mind conditioners”.
During this dhamma dialogue, Peter explored the transition from cultivating a calm and stable focus of attention to the practice of vipassana, insight into the conditioned nature of subjective reality. He described the meanings of kamma (karma in Sanskrit), sankhara, cetasikas and cetana. Kamma and sankhara are almost synonymous and the cetasikas are categories of the different functions of the personality that are organized into kamma by cetana, intention.
This was followed by discussion of how kamma functions in action and how breath awareness interrupts the formation of self-states, allowing opportunities to modify the mind conditioners toward more wholesome and adaptive functions.
Next week’s discussion will focus in on the cetasikas, to foster a deepening insight into how self-states are formed, deconstructing the misperception of a separate, enduring self.