BuddhaSoup wrote:The Chinese Canon differs from the Pali Canon, and it includes vinayas from other schools.
Right, and these other schools are just as legitimate as Theravāda when it comes to being heirs to the Buddha's teachings. Also bear in mind the Mahāsāṃghika literature is preserved primarily in Classical Chinese translation. The Mahāsāṃghikas were the other big branch of early Buddhism with views notably different from their Sthaviravāda counterparts. The Mahāsāṃghika also had their own Vinaya, noted even in ancient times as being the oldest Vinaya (Faxian notes this in his 5th century account of India). This is supported by the fact the Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya has only 218 precepts, among other things.
I'm not a scholar by far of the Vinaya pitaka of the Pali Canon, but as it passed through the filter of Sri Lankan monastics, it likely changed very little from the Buddha's Vinaya.
It would be unrealistic to assume things were not changed and/or evolved over time, even in Sri Lanka. Vinaya literature is a late development as far as Early Buddhism goes.
Schopen believes that the Vinaya literature and vihāra monastic system are in fact post-Aśoka (304-232 BCE):
If the compilers of the various Vinayas considered it ‘highly important’ to regulate the lives of their monks so as to give no cause for complaint to the laity, and if considerations of this sort could only have assumed high importance after buddhist groups had permanently settled down, then, since the latter almost certainly did not occur until well after Aśoka, it would be obvious that all the Vinayas that we have are late, precisely as both Wassilieff and Lévi have suggested a hundred years ago.
Even in the later inscriptions from Bharhut and Sanchi there are no references to vihāras, and they begin to appear—though still rarely—only in Kharosṭḥī records of a little before and a little after the Common Era, about the same time that the first indications of permanent monastic residential quarters begin to appear in the archaeological record for the Northwest, and this is not likely to be mere coincidence.
Quoted in Johannes Bronkhorst, Buddhism in the Shadow of Brahmanism Handbook of Oriental Studies
(Leiden: Brill, 2011), 18-19.
In any case, in ancient times as is now, the Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya is thought to be the earliest extant rendition of Vinaya literature available to us, not the Theravāda Vinaya.
To suggest that the Vinaya Pitaka of the Pali Canon is more related to the maintenance of appearances to encourage wealth building seems quite incorrect.
Academic scholarship might disagree. See citation above. The overarching concern of Vinaya literature is about maintaining image at a time when the sangha has become a landed institution and arguably an already quite capital intensive operation. This happened well after Aśoka.
The truth of the matter is that the Buddhism(s) of the Theravādins and Mahāsāṃghikas were well-developed and self-conscious institutions based on
the original teachings of Śākyamuni, but not the original teachings and practices themselves.
Nobody gets to claim themselves as the original Buddhism.
Anyway, the point is that the Vinaya(s) as we have them now are a later development from a time when Buddhism became a capital intensive religion.