Understanding Karma January 10 2018

by Peter Carlson on January 11, 2018

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

by Peter Carlson on March 28, 2015

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

by Peter Carlson on March 28, 2015

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

by Peter Carlson on February 19, 2015


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.

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Universal and Occasional Mind Conditioners

by Peter Carlson on February 19, 2015

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”.

Calming the Mind Fabricators

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 […]

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Notes For Calming the Mind Fabrications

CALMING MENTAL FABRICATION This week’s discussion focuses on the next stanza in the Anapanasati Sutta, again downloaded from the Access To Insight site, translated by Thanissaro: “On whatever occasion a monk trains himself, ‘I will breathe in…&…out sensitive to rapture’; trains himself, ‘I will breathe in…&…out sensitive to pleasure’; trains himself, ‘I will breathe in…&…out […]

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