Thank you Geoff. I think the manojalpa
definition is uniquely Yogacara (but see below). While it has its utility in the context of vipaśyanā
as understood by the Yogacarins, I am hesitant to apply it to the early suttas to interpret vitakka
, since the early canonical 3-vitakka
model is clearly geared towards samatha
. Perhaps there is something useful to be gleaned from the Yogacarins' understanding of vitakka
, since many of the Pali vipassati
proxy verbs have to function in the presence of vitakka
. That still needs to be studied.
If you have a copy of the Mahāyāna-saṃparigraha-śāstra, I note that the Chinese translation of this text's explanation of manojalpa
(意言) does not seem restricted to only a vipaśyanā
context. Tellingly, the word nimitta
pops up here (相), wherein the respective function of vitarka
(覺) and vicāra
(觀) as manojalpa
is reduced simply to 見識 (encountering/being introduced to) and 相識 (familiarising) respectively. These could be the 2 nimitta
at their most "basic". Alternatively, the Chinese is saying that vitarka
encounters the nimitta
, while vicāra
familiarises with the nimitta
; based on the syntax, the 2nd reading seems more likely. Either way, it sounds rather like the Peṭakopadesa and the Vimuttimagga analogies. The Chinese is available here-http://tripitaka.cbeta.org/ja/T31n1595_007
Whether the translator correctly rendered the 2 Indic words into "encountering"and "familiarising" can be the matter for further study.
On a personal note, I just realised that my dad's personal name is Majestic Nimitta!