hmmm … a hot topic! Let us just please not forget that this is Ayya @vimalanyani sharing ideas and thinking aloud with us! Even the topic title says “thought experiment”. So let’s set back and relax and do that kind of experimentation of though where there is nothing to lose and everything to gain!
Ayya @vimalanyani I agree with you that this kind of detailed Vinaya training is far from being suitable to everyone, on the psychological level, and especially at the beginning of the going forth. But it is also important to remember that one gradually gains confidence and experience in it, absorbs it naturally, and even depend on it. The problem is often in the way Vinaya is taught or enforced, but I don’t think it is inherent in this kind of practice. Further it is also important not to filter out those who might actually need and want that kind of training, and who might benefit from it. And there is another factor, if you do establish such community successfully, you yourself will soon be surprised by your own need to “restrain those lacking shame” in your community. Training in “higher virtue” does not come naturally to everyone!
It would of course be great if ‘everything’ in monastic life can be a matter of individual choice. But the way communities ‘actually’ develop, i believe, follows a different path characterised by utter reality and practicality than ideals. It’s hard to establish communities and harder to sustain them over time; that’s why there is a propensity towards rotting!! The resources are also quite limited in a renunciate context, even in the event you will confine your needs to the bare minimum! If Sangha around the world adopt the new system (fancy!), than resources can certainly be relocated, but otherwise, you are very dependent, extremely dependent (there were times when certain communities even in Buddhist countries nearly vanished due to lack of support)! If you have a community which members choose whether monk and nun can live in the same monastery, then you will need “three” monasteries, one for those living together, and two for those living separately! And then if other things are determined in the same way (other rules about contact between monks and nuns for example), then you might have further divisions within each monastery. At this point you will find that, perhaps, this is not really a community, but more like a commune, where people are living in the same place but do not necessarily have much in common. Perhaps that’s the idea?!
Anyways there is actually much to learn from those who have already embarked on similar adventures, for there are some here and there, and they seem to be growing and appearing slowly, and gaining respect gradually. Same story of every new monastic tradition or group. Most of the time in history, this is built around an influential or famous persona which is experienced in both Teachings and practice, and endowed with the kind of social skills and leadership that would be required for establishing something like this and to sustain it successfully (maybe that’s gonna be you Ayya!)
On the side: I sometimes think that an ideal monastic community is one where no one has the power to tell another what to do! But when I come to think of it; it’s impossible to have such community without something very similar to the Vinaya we already possess, that is, without having something to tell us all what kind of stuff not to do! Otherwise it becomes a mess! It is a mess!!
But I will say that, must always remain calm and soft inwardly, while attending to how things should otherwise be! There isn’t time! And these are mundane things.