Yes, this was a disappointing argument. I’ll admit, I haven’t been following his progress of ideas too closely. In The Validity of Bhikkhuni Ordination he refers to his change of mind, which he says he has mentioned in previous papers. Now, perhaps in those previous papers he discussed the matter more satisfactorily, but here he just mentions it in passing.
What he says is that:
- He previously followed the consensus that accepted that the garudhammas were an interpolation based on the fact that many of them were also included in the pacittiyas.
- He no longer believes that the fact that they are in the pacittiyas means that the garudhammas are late.
- Therefore there is “no definite reason to reject the whole set of garudhammas as a later interpolation.”
I never followed this reasoning: that is, I never rejected the garudhammas solely or primarily because they were included in the pacittiyas. On the contrary, as I have argued many times, and as was a primary theme of the Authenticity book by myself and @brahmali, our only sure method in such matters is the mutual agreement and reinforcement of multiple independent indications.
No one such indication is itself decisive. And this is for the very reason the Analayo mentions: a single item can be read in several ways. I would agree completely that the issue of the pacittiyas/garudhammas does not, in and of itself, give us a “definite reason to reject the garudhammas”. It is entirely possible that there is some other explanation of this point, such as the one Analayo suggests in his essay (my emphasis):
The garudhammas are mere injunctions and do not carry any consequences in cases where they are not followed. Thus failure to observe a garudhamma could have motivated the promulgation of a corresponding rule, so as to lay down what such a breach would entail in future.
Why yes, it “could have”. Or it could not have. The fact remains that on the whole, the patimokkha rules are the oldest and best established strata of vinaya literature, and it is a priori probable that if something appears both there and elsewhere, it is more likely that they appear there first.
But there is not just one, but very many reasons to question the authenticity of the garudhammas and the Mahapajapati narrative in which they are so deeply embedded. The whole passage is riven with incoherencies and inconsistencies. A list of, I think, sixteen such problems was made many years ago by a Sri Lankan monk in Singapore. But there are many more when the non-Pali texts are taken into account. When all of these factors are considered, by far the simplest and the most powerful explanation is that they were added some time around the time of the Second Council, about 100 years after the Buddha.
Part of the problem here is the burden of proof. Analayo says there is no “definite reason to reject” the garudhammas. But that is not what is needed. What is needed is a reason to accept them. What positive evidence is there that the garudhammas, and the passage that contains them, belong to an especially early strata of literature, one that precedes even the patimokkha?
The evidence that Analayo would, I presume, adduce here is the (relative) agreement between the various versions of this text. To be clear, the level of agreement in this text is not particularly good, and there are many telling variations. However, the various traditions do contain the garudhammas and the Mahapajapati story. Since the comparison of the different versions is, of course, Analayo’s core methodology, this is, I think, the basis for his conclusion.
The problem is that this method only takes us back to the separation of the Sangha, which happened after the Second Council. All the Vinaya traditions have an account of the Second Council, just as they do the story of the garudhammas. So the agreement of the traditions does not in and of itself tell us that a text is authentic, merely that it was included before this time. (More or less: while there were undoubtedly some changes after the Second Council, there is little sign of the addition of major texts after this.)
Now, as you well know, I have no qualms about accepting the idea that the texts common to the traditions, and shared at the time of the Second Council, are mostly authentic, and contain much that is the genuine teachings of the Buddha. However, this does not mean that everything common to the traditions must be authentic in this sense.
Consider what the garudhammas represent: a set of rules for controlling women. That a patriarchy should wish to apply such rules requires no special argument. It is what all patriarchies do, all the time. We see it in the news every day. Seeing this happen in the social sphere is no more remarkable than seeing the rain fall or the sun rise. It’s what they do.
The sexism inherent in these rules is apparently still a taboo topic. But to my mind, if we are to discuss the history of a patriarchy without mentioning sexism, we are not revealing history, we are colluding in concealing it.
This is why the story, the context, and the meaning of these rules are so important. It is, in fact, precisely for this reason that, many years ago, I embarked on a detailed essay on this problem, an essay that became a book, and a book that became a series of books. Along the way, I lost interest in a purely text-critical approach to this problem, as it became apparent that it was inadequate to fully address the issues. This is not to dismiss the importance of such work, merely to accept that, like any methodology, it has its scopes and its limits. So much is left out, and what is left is a shadow of a skeleton.
Anyhow, I ended up writing White Bones Red Rot Black Snakes, which focused on the Mahapajapati story as a creation myth, telling the story of how the nuns order came to be. By taking a larger perspective and seeing this event in the context of the stories told by men about women, and those told by women about women, I hoped to show how the events exemplified patterns of meaning that drew from deep in the complex of attitudes and motivations stirred up by the idea and the reality of women.
One of the things I learned through this process was the crucial importance of letting women tell their own stories. This is, in case you’re wondering, why I have been relatively quiet on this front in recent years.
And yet here we are: a man, commenting on a discussion between two men, about the fate of women. This issue will never be resolved until we can get to a place where this is utterly unthinkable.