This is also one of my favourite quotes
I listened to the talk given by ven. Sujato which you posted recently, in it he actually mentions that there isn’t so much “punishment” in Vinaya, and that the role of “admonishment” is to help and support rather than punish. So I guess you are thinking about exclusion from Patimokkha recitation as a punishment, but it isn’t, especially for …
Think about it! What would make such a nice monastic refuse to confess an offence?! Or even apologise for something slightly unpleasant s/he may have done?! So the exclusion is for a stubborn monastic who thinks everyone else is at fault, or who intentionally refuses to abide by Vinaya in a community that does. Think about this also, if a monastic does any offence privately, there isn’t a way for others to know about it unless s/he confesses it. This means that s/he can join Patimokkha as they please, and narrows down the exclusion to the kind of person who does an offence, admits it, but refuses to make amends for it (which would be quite unusual by the way).
We only depend on the goodwill and devotion and sincerity of each practitioner, there is no Sangha police or inquisition to check people’s private behaviours and intentions. One reveals an offence because one feels ashamed and guilty of having committed it in the first place, and would be even more ashamed and guilty if s/he should hide it. The whole point about confession in all religions is that it allows you to start over with a clear conscience and a hopeful energetic heart; it is never a punishment. The psychological effects of this are remarkable, and actually quite necessary for avoiding the accumulation of aversion, towards others and toward one’s own self, in the future. That’s why, except for a Sanghadisesa, confession is always almost instantly followed by forgiveness. What is not forgiven is to carry on, in this renunciate life, harbouring within one’s heart all that guilt and shame and self-contempt. It is out of compassion that we have this system, not out of a desire to punish and control. This is actually mostly how it is still followed today; cruelty and punitive/control passions of some abbots and powerful monks (quite wonderfully!) find expression against others only against Vinaya, in contradiction with Vinaya, but never through it.
I feel like I want to cry out this truth sometime, especially to young monastics who are afraid of Vinaya because they don’t understand it and only think that they are violating it all the time! The vinaya is for our protection and peacefulness, and for our practical support and moral fortitude also; the more we insist on it, the less we are subjugated! The more it is upheld, the less grows the power of corruption and decay in Sangha.
But in the end, friend @sabbamitta, the problem is never in the rules, the problem is in the impossibility of “living together” without conflict. It will never happen!! I know the Buddha, and I needn’t anything else, but i’m never really sure i myself can totally spare others from my own agony! Not yet! If even under Buddha monastics had conflicts and followed their kamma and got bored with practice, why not today? Why always complain about the cruelty of others? It’s not gonna go away; it is a part of nature!
But let it be remembered, at least remembered, that a lone monastic who is morally upright is as massive as the whole Sangha of the ancient times! He shall emerge victorious who lives with integrity and devotion; no harm shall befall him and no obstruction shall be placed along his open path; woe to them who should ever think it is otherwise!