Is mind activity the best way to translate Mano sankhara and what’s a couple examples ?
It’s not bad, but the main connotation is not just activity in general (like random thoughts) but purposeful intention. Both mano and saṅkhāra are often used individually with this connotation. And the main usage of manosaṅkhāra is as part of the group of three, kāyasaṅkhāra, vacīsaṅkhāra, manosaṅkhāra, where they refer to intentional acts (AKA kamma) by way of body, speech, and mind.
Examples include AN 3.23, AN 4.233, AN 4.171, and MN 57.
Wow I’m talking to the Venerable Sujato I’m star struck ( u may not have that term down under) I just discovered your talks on Dhammanet (you tube) great stuff Venerable Sir and thank you.
Well you may be starstruck, but I’m talking to a mythical figure from a literary classic, so …
This is a good point, and to just make a furthur one, “activity” and “purposful intention” give a good account of what “mental” things we are talkimg about, but (and @sujato can correct me if ive got the wrong end of the stick here) also importantly, - that which has formed over time, so not just the actions, but the dispositions that motivate those acts, so it is the activity of the heaps of previously formed dispositions or habits of mind that give motivation to our current mental activities.
This is why other translations include; formations, confections, fabrications, all trying to capture the sense that we are talking about something like - "the activity of thought born from now habitual thinking (repeated, combined, reinforced, formed, confected, predisposed, etc).
Unfortunately all those translations lose the very thing @sujato rightly stresses - that we are talking about what is happening actively, purposfully, with intention, now.
The disadvantage of @sujato s approach is that we lose sight of the “manifold”, the converse is to lose sight of the “activity” on the manifold.
The only way to begin to see these things clearly is to read various translations and importantly the footnotes where the translator explains thier choices.
Then read all the examples of the term in all the contexts to see where the word is used in different topics.
Then trying always to read the pali on suttacentral beneath the translations.
So in the context of kamma formation, lets call kamma action, and say that the manifold previous actions of your life (you can think of actions of mind, speach, or bodily action, any or all make no difference to the demonstration) are the place from which new actions are produced.
To see that this is so we can look at how our actions might be in regard to a bowl of bananas and apples.
We might prefer bananas, and eat 3 of them first before becoming sick of them and having an apple.
The desision of what to eat next, another apple or another banana, depends on the previous manifold of actions (3 bananas and then an apple) poctured as a mental question about what you will eat next we have a manosankhara.
But sankhara itself is very broad, and can treat of subjects that have nothing to do with your bodily movments, speach, and conscious thought.
Anything whatever that is put together must come apart, sankhara are anything at all that is put together.
Anyway, good question!
I also wanted to let you know Venerable sir I am an avid listener of your translations available on Audible. As soon as I hear mendicant I remember it’s you. Your Long discourses and Numbered discourses couple with Bodhi’s MN, SN translations keeps me pretty busy. Much merit dear sir