This is the first of a series of talks that explore the 52 cetasikas (cheh-tah-see-kahs), categories of factors that condition the self-formation process. The talk reviews the several sub-categories of these factors: Universal, Particular, Unwholesome and Wholesome. Peter states an intention to review the cetasikas more thoroughly over the course of the next several meetings, with an emphasis on how the concepts of mind conditioners can be more clearly observed and, in the case of the Wholesome mind conditioning factors, be applied practically and skillfully, rather than becoming intellectual points of interest. In this regard, it may be helpful to consider these factors as ways to understand the operation of karma. This talk was followed by discussion between Peter and one of the participants regarding how these issues apply to life experience.
Here are the notes prepared for this talk: OVERVIEW OF CETASIKAS
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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”.