I was wondering whether you can help me understand the difference between sankhara(mental formations) and anusaya (latent dispositions).
[/quote]As the second factor in the formula for depenedent origination, sankharas are the kammically active volitions responsible, in conjunction with ignorance and craving, for generating rebirth and sustaining the forward movement of samsara from one life to the next. Sankhara is synonymous with kamma, to which it is etymologically related, both being derived from karoti. These sankharas are distinguished as threefold by their channel of expression, as bodily, verbal, and mental (II 4, 8-10, etc); they are also divided by ethical quality into the meritorious, demeritorious and imperturbable (II 82, 9-13). To convey the relevent sense of sankhara I have rendered the term 'volitional formations." The word might also have been translated "activities", which makes explicit the connection with kamma, but this rendering would sever the connection with sankhara in contexts other than dependent origination, which it seems desirable to preserve.
(2) As the fourth of the five aggregates, sankhara is defined as the six classes of volitions (cha cetanakaya, III 60, 25-28), that is, volition regarding the six types of sense objects. Hence again I render it volitional formations. But the sankharakhanda has a wider compass than the sankhara of dependent origination series, comprising all instances of volition and not only those that are kammically active. In the Abhidhamma Pitaka and the commentaries, the sankharakhanda further serves as an umbrella category for classifying all mental concomittants of consciousness apart from feeling and perception. It thus includes all wholesome, unwholesome, and variable mental factors mentioned but not formally classified among the aggregates in the Sutta Pitaka
(3) In the widest sense, sankhara comprises all conditioned things, everything arisen from a combination of conditions. In this sense all five aggregates, not just the fourth, are sankharas (see III 132, 22-27), as are all external objects and situations (II 191, 11-17). The term here is taken to be of passive derivation - denoting what is conditioned, constructed, compounded - hence I render it simply as 'formations', without the qualifying adjective. The notion of sankhara serves as the cornerstone of a philosophical vision which sees the entire universe as constituted of conditioned phenomena. What is particularly emphasised about sankharas in this sense is their impermanence. Recognition of their impermanence brings insight into the unreliable nature of all mundane felicity and inspires a sense of urgency directed towards liberation from samsara (see 150:20; 22:96)
-- From the introduction to Bhikkhi Bodhi's translation of the Samyutta Nikaya
[/quote]On the defilements:The latent dispositions (anusaya) are defilements which “lie along with” (anusenti) the mental process to which they belong, rising to the surface as obsessions whenever they meet with suitable conditions. The term ‘latent dispositions’ highlights the fact that the defilements are liable to arise so long as they have not been eradicated by the supramundane paths. Though all defilements are, in a sense, anusayas, the seven mentioned here are the most prominent. Both sensual lust and attachment to existence are modes of greed; the others are each distinct cetasikas. Thus altogether six cetasikas function as anusayas.Latent dispositions
Seven latent dispositions: the latent dispositions to (1) sensual lust, (2) attachment to existence, (3) aversion, (4) conceit, (5) wrong views, (6) doubt, (7) ignorance.
From Acariya Anurrudha’s Abhidhammatthasangaha
From Bhikkhu Bodhi’s edition of A Comprehensive Manual of the Abhidhamma