Working With Karma February 19 2020

This talk focuses on what is probably the most frequently used Buddhist term karma, which is often misunderstood.  During the talk Peter explained the various complexities of this term that the Buddha described as “only understood fully by an Arahant”.  Other terms were provided by Peter: karmaphala, vipaka, cetana and sankhara, all of which can be almost synonymous with karma, with subtle but practically useful differences.  The karmic process was related to contemporary neuroscientific, psychological and sociological concepts.  Peter then reviewed how cultivating mindfulness of breathing, applied to mindfulness of feelings can change the manifestation of karma in beneficial ways.  This was followed by general discussion of how understanding karma can be beneficial to those attending the talk.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  Working With Karma

Next week’s talk will begin and extensive exploration of what can be considered the most useful of all the Buddhist suttas, the Satipatthana Sutta, the Discourse On The Four Foundations of Mindfulness.


Understanding Karma

During this talk, Peter describes the Buddhist concept of karma, the intentional application of various mental conditioning factors that form the sense of self.  The traditional concepts about the various attributes of karma were described, then compared to current psychological and neuroscientific research that clarifies how karma actually operates in the human brain, and how neuroplasticity supports changing karmic formations in the mind.  This was followed by discussion among those attending about the implications of traditional and modern understandings of karma for cultivating mental clarity, peace of mind and kindness.

Here are the notes prepared for this talk:  Understanding Karma

Next week’s talk will focus on cultivating beneficial intentions in life.


Deerhaven 2015 Fifth Night Dhamma Talk

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.

Deerhaven 2015 Fourth Night Dhamma Talk

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.

The Universal and Occasional Mind Conditioners Notes


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.