Thanks @faujidoc1 for starting this topic. It is something that has occupied me for quite sometime. I actually started framing a topic about this question yesterday. This was my way of conceptualising the issue. It was very interesting reading your view about the two approaches Dhamma follower/Vinaya follower, as traits of the person… My own conceptualisation was in lines of purpose or function of the material. I’ll just copy in what I was formulating…
Vinaya; Did it evolve from a Training/Practice guide to a Management tool?
I’ll start this with an apology… I’m a bit confused and am trying to find a bit more clarity and ease in how to think about and implement aspects of the Vinaya. One thing that I find quite interesting is that the more I read the Suttas, the clearer they are and the less questions I have, in direct opposition to how I find the Vinaya - the more I read, the more questions I have, and the more I find parts of it to be at odds with the fundamental teachings of the 4NT’s. Overall, I am left with the impression that the vast majority of it is for the expediency of ‘managing’ the sangha and sangha/lay relationships. This is important because while the conditions conducive to diligent practice are relatively static (those that give rise to Sila, Samadhi and Panna), the conditions pertaining to the rest are very context specific. Therefore things that were useful in the socio-economic and cultural context 2500 years ago, have changed significantly… and can’t be smoothly transposed to todays context.
I’m interested in hearing opinions of those who are familiar with the Vinaya from a practical point of view, rather than discussion about dogmatic adherence to doctrine… ie this topic isn’t about whether the Vinaya is good or bad, or whether it should or shouldn’t be adhered to, but about the underlying purpose and structure, as well as it’s evolution, in an attempt at greater understanding.
It is clear to me that many of the rules have a basis in setting the best conditions for practice to yield fruit (basically the 10 precepts and similar). This makes sense, but also contrasts with many other rules for which I cannot see any ‘direct’ relationship with providing good practice conditions ie, some seem to be about training and others seem to be about managing a communal environment and monastic/lay relations. The issue that I have is that these two aspects are quite 'inter-mixed, yet have a fundamental difference in purpose and implications for practice in different settings, and thus a different weighting as to importance regarding the goal of practice – Liberation.
So one question I have, that leads on from reading the way the vinaya rules were developed is, can we infer that the earliest rules were concerned with practice and training and the further along in time we go, as the Sangha grew, more rules were added that were more and more about ‘management’ and less about the conditions required for successful individual practice? Ie ordination guidelines and permissions etc etc.
I’m interested in understanding the Vinaya in terms of EBT… in terms of what the Buddha himself laid down, and what came later (even what the Buddha laid down in the beginning before the sangha had grown to thousands). Sometimes, it feels like the Vinaya grew simply to make rules for those without the wisdom to know how to implement the 10 precepts …
Here are two relevant quotes, about what can be considered EBT in the Vinaya, as a reference point.
And from Bhikkhu @Brahmali 's introduction to his translations of the Vinaya
Comparative study of the various pātimokkhas makes it clear that these texts in large part go back to the pre-sectarian period of Buddhism (Pachow, 2000). As for the rest of the material in the Suttavibhaṅga, academics normally consider this material to be significantly younger than the pātimokkha rules (v. Hinüber, 2000: 13f), but it is nevertheless likely that some of it goes back to the earliest period (Pachow, 2000: 14ff). In the absence of more detailed research, it seems prudent to regard the pātimokkha as the only part of the Suttavibhaṅga that belongs to the Early Buddhist Texts.
But even this overstates the case, for it is clear that not even all the pātimokkha rules belong to the earliest period (Pachow, 2000). This is true of many, perhaps all, of the most minor rules of the monks’ pātimokkha, the sekhiyas, but especially of the rules for the nuns, many of which vary considerably between the different schools, making it likely that they stem from the sectarian period.
Now I realise that this has a number of complications… and probably millions of practitioners over the past 2500 years have sought to separate out ‘optional’ rules from the core absolutely necessary rules for the successful following in the footsteps of the Buddha on the N8FP. But still - the more of it I read, the less satisfactory I find it. (Note; satisfactory from the perspective of creating conditions conducive to practice – that the focus goes to the adherence to rites and rituals, rather than cause and effect of conditions)
Even worse, (taking the question of ordination out of the picture and only looking at it from a practice/training perspective) I find many of the rules can actually be hindrances, and many express a lack of inclusivity, that while understandable from a ‘management’ perspective, are non-sensical from a personal practice perspective, eg… that a person missing a hand cannot be ordained… I cannot see how the loss of an appendage can be a barrier to practicing well and to full awakening. It is clear that having a person with limitations may be a burden to the Sangha - and the ‘management’ implications are clear, but they should not be confused with ‘practice’ and the potential of a person to practice well or attain awakening.
Sure the person missing an appendage can practice without ordination, but there is a tension when this is taken in context of un-ordained people not being able to attain full awakening… it seems to mix up an understandable set of ‘management’ protocols, with the prescriptions for training for the abandoning of ignorance and craving…
Does ill will and craving prevent someone from Liberation? - Yes - And it is clear why this is the case. Does ‘not having a hand’ prevent someone from Liberation? - No - so the prohibition from ordination must be about management…
It would seem to me that it would be useful to view the Vinaya from this kind of perspective. Some of the ‘management’ type issues have altered significantly over the last 2500 years (like riding a bicycle) or a woman travelling alone. And unfortunately in quite a few cases adhering to these aspects causes significant hindrances to practice. I find that without full comprehension, of what look like inconsistencies, the otherwise beautiful internal consistency of the suttapittaka appears somewhat compromised…
Looking forward to hearing other perspectives and ways that practitioners have reconciled these things