That is very helpful–thank you. I can see the utility of Bhante Sujato’s reframing of these concepts within the Four Noble Truths. I also liked the analogy of the well.
A related question: how do other common terms, such as sankhara, anusaya, vitakka and vicara, relate to citta, mano and vinnana?
Anusayas are latent tendencies. Wikipedia, drawing from Hamilton’s “Identity and Experience”, mentions that “Undeliberate thought is often an expression of latent tendencies (anusaya ), which are conditioned by the volitional [nexus] of the past”. They could thus be viewed as a precursor to vinnana (or conscious perception or awareness of the latent tendency).
Sankharas are conditioned formations. One can have a citta-sankhara, for example, which is a mental formation. Would this be viewed as a vinnana (a conscious perception) or as a mano? Perhaps the distinction depends on the level of volition or effort since Bhante Sujato mentioned “Mano is typically used in an active sense of will or volition”. So, if one simply notices a citta-sankhara appear (perhaps arising from an anusaya or latent tendency), then this perception, thought the sense door of the mind, would be vinnana. If one then acts on it, it would transform into mana and have karmic repercussions. Specifically, it could defile the citta and lead to a return to samsara.
Vitakka is a term used for applied thought, especially in the jhana framework. Thus vitakka could also be viewed as a subset of mano, since again there is an element of will/volition present? Vicara, sustained thought in the jhanas which follows vitakka, is also perhaps a subset of mano.
I find this type of discussion helpful, not pedantic, because so much (perhaps all) of Buddhism revolves around the mind, yet we make the mistake of using the word “mind” too loosely when discussing Buddhism. Perhaps, as a step towards accuracy, we should just drop the English term “mind” altogether and try to use these Pali terms. But first, we (or more specifically, myself) need to understand the terms.
Ultimately, this is important also because it identifies different therapeutic targets or loci for intervention, when trying to intervene on the psychopathology spectrum, starting from the inception of the thought. For example, an OCD intrusive thought could be a sankhara (a constructed mental thought, such as a fear of germs) which could be triggered by an anusaya (latent tendency from a past experience getting sick). When it rises to the surface of awareness and is recognized by the OCD sufferer, it becomes a vinnana (a perceived thought). Then the decision of the OCD patient to act on the thought in a counter-productive way (such as taking a compulsive 30 minutes shower) would be mano that has a negative effect on the citta (by cultivating a contracted, fearful mind). Alternatively, from a therapeutic perspective, labelling this negative thought (skillful/unskillful), then engaging in directed thought (vitakka) to move away from this negative thought towards the first jhana, perhaps through an anapanasati practice, could be helpful.