And I find myself asking: where does this legality come from? Us stupid humans have made it this rigid thing. But it arose out of a compassionate Buddha - well maybe… But if it’s in an EBT, then it’s more likely to have come from the Buddha. Let’s assume it is genuine for a moment.
So it comes from this being trying to make life easier for his monks and nuns. He can see past all the - forgive me - crap and can see the big picture and realises it’s not really all that important to have these little rules but institutes them because he wants his Sanghas to survive and be accepted by their wider communities of laity.
So if legality is rooted in compassion, surely we should always go back to that source for our guidance…back to the compassion.
Secondly, (I’m going on observations I’ve made of the only truly amazing Teacher I’ve come across and been able to observe in many settings) people who see themselves and others as a bunch of khandas interacting seem to have a huge, massive pile of equanimity. They don’t care - in a good way. To phrase it more positively, they’re non-controlling, non-judging, fantastic at letting go and being present and mindful - brilliant at all the Brahma Viharas - their love is born of their letting go and that is born of their wisdom. When I’ve observed such a person in different situations, generally (not always - such beings know when to stand their ground and when to bend) they say “yes” to pretty much anything. They seem to live in one big affirmative: yes to this and encouragement for that and everything is accepted and is “very good.” This is especially so for trivial matters.
I understand a lot of the rules were laid down because layfolk whinged and whined… I can just imagine the Buddha being greeted by, say, Joe, one Saturday arvo at dana time. Joe has a bit of a chat, bows a bit, talks about meditation and then gets around to it: he’s seen the monks picking their noses without hankies and he’s seen them flicking boogers about the monastery and then not washing their hands. Joe says it’s gross. The Buddha’s utterly non-controlling and loving and sees the pointlessness of it all in the scheme of things but because he gets all this, he realises it’s easier and wiser to just say, “okay, fair enough, let me see if they did this first … etc…” And then sets a rule about how to deal with one’s snort. And it’s all Joe’s fault. If he’d happened to go up and say, “Bhante, could you ask the monks to put their snort into the compost pile.” Then the Buddha might’ve said yes to that too. I reckon he’d have said yes to anything that he didn’t see the major harm in. I mean he wasn’t all seeing - he wasn’t omniscient. He had to have people come and tell him some of this stuff. Unless he directed his mind to something, he wasn’t conscious of it - and that, the whole you can only be conscious of one thing at a time is basic Dhamma. So unless he directed his mind to all the possible permutations and combinations that society would take in its relation to sex and gender - he wouldn’t have known about it - he couldn’t have.
The Buddha was this person who was going to leave all this behind forever. It was always going to be up to us to take the compassion, the Dhamma and the peace and grow a Path that was kind to all. Yes, respect and understand his legacy and what our ancestors did with it too - but not to be stupidly rigid and miss the Dhamma because we’re so busy focusing on all the rules.
Despite all this, I have to admit I’m rather conservative when it comes to monastics and Vinaya rules. But I always support a compassionate, reasonable interpretation. I am convinced this is what the Buddha would’ve advocated and applauded.
I’m reminded of a story Ajahn Brahm told about two monks who were arguing. One went to see the Abbot and the Abbot said, “yup, you’re right.”
The monk went to gloat to his mate and his mate got so upset that he charged in and told his side of things and the Abbot said, “yup, you’re right.”
Then they both charged in and said, “how can you say that to us both?”
To which the Abbot replied, something along the lines of, “what you both said made sense and so you were both right.”
If you’re really equanimous - you’re open, you’ve got a big picture; saying “yes” isn’t a big deal - especially when you know that in the scheme of things, none of it really matters. Especially when you know you’re on your way out anyway.
Reckon as far as an Fully Enlightened being is concerned, the rest of us are swimming in a sea of stupidity. Most of the time, it won’t matter if you say “yes” to whoever gets to you first! Because the next person’s request is going to be fairly pointless too. Say “yes” and give yourself a peaceful life - unless it’s something that really matters: like the Dhamma or the caste system or a woman’s ability to become Enlightened.
And I’m sure he asked us to check what we’ve been given ( he kind of knew it was an oral tradition being passed down…yeah they had safe guards…but he’d have known it wouldn’t be perfect) against the heart of the Dhamma. Nobody who does this could possibly choose to do anything other than interpret a rule compassionately.