Individual wrote:It's been said that modern research has shown that Mahayana Buddhists' Vinaya is older than Theravadin Vinaya.
In HISTORY OF RELIGIONS Aug. 76 Vol. 16 Nattier and Prebish point out that
the Mahasamghika Vinaya is the oldest version (pp.267-9). It is only in the
Pali, Dharmagupta, Sarvistivada, etc. vinayas that we find the three
Nattier and Prebish argue that Mahasanghika vinaya is the oldest on the
basis of the Pratimoksa rules, the Mahasanghikas having fewer rules. They
argue since the Pratimoksa is important for maintaining the identity of the
sangha, it is not likely to be easily changed, and the assumption seems to be
the fewer the rules, the least changes and therefore the older it is. Maybe.
We don't think one can generalize from the specific patimokkha rules -- if
they are older or not -- to the whole of the vinaya. None of the different
schools rules mention the three allowances, but none of the patimokkha rules
of any school prohibit meat eating. The discussion of meat eating in the Pali
texts can be found in at least three places in the Pali vinaya, and these
three allowances are found in the vinaya texts of all except the
Mahasanghikas. Again, it may be that the Mahasanghikas have the oldest
pratimoksa, but that is not necessarily to say that their vinaya texts as a
whole are older.
Nakamura in his INDIAN BUDDHISM states that comparative
study of the vinayas is "a favorite subject of Japanese scholars." He is of
the opinion based upon recent and exhaustive Japanese studies, that the Pali
vinaya is the oldest, followed by the Dharmaguptas, and then we have the
In a footnote in John C. Holt's DISCIPLINE: The Canonical Buddhism of the
Vinayapitaka, Holt states: "Hirakawa argues that the Suttavibhanga of the
Pali Vinaya represents the oldest version of the first part of the
Vinayapitaka that has survived. He bases his assertion on the fact that the
Pali recension contains the least amount of apadana material when
compared to other texts. Hirakawa considers apadanas to be a genre of
literature from a later period. See Hirakawa, A STUDY OF THE VINAYA (Tokyo:
Sakibo-Busshoron, 1960), pp.12-15."
I think you've misunderstood what modern scholars are saying. As there's nothing in the supposedly oldest stratum of the Mahāsaṃghika Vinaya that isn't matched in other Vinaya recensions it's nonsensical to say that scholars regard this Vinaya (rather than the others) as representing the earliest stratum.
In fact the question that modern scholars are chiefly concerned with is which recension of the Vinaya was closed (i.e. stopped adding new material) the earliest. And in this matter the only point on which there is any consensus is that the Mūlasarvastivāda Vinaya was closed the latest. But as to which was closed the earliest, the Theravāda, Dharmagupta and Mahāsaṃghika Vinayas are each treated as the likeliest candidate by one scholar or another.
Bankei wrote:The Mahasamghika version has the fewest rules and he argues, and I forget the details now, that there is evidence from Chinese sources that the Theravadins and others added rules because they wanted to be more strict in certain areas.
There is a consideration based upon the events of the First Sangayana (Council). In this great gathering of arahants, Venerable Mahakassapa, who was its president, put forward this motion: "If it seems right to the Sangha, the Sangha should not lay down what has not been laid down, nor should it abolish what has been laid down. It should proceed in conformity with and according to the training rules which have been laid down. This is the motion. Your reverences, let the Sangha listen to me. If it seems right to the Sangha, the Sangha should not... (thrice repeated). It is pleasing to the Sangha; therefore it is silent. Thus do I understand." All those who are accepted as (Theravada) bhikkhus in the present day follow this tradition as laid down in the First Sangayana. This is Theravada tradition; it is based upon the decision of those great elders who were ennobled with the highest nobility. Who are we indeed, to go astray from their way?
Although the Teacher before his Parinibbana spoke thus: "After my passing Ananda, let the Sangha if it so desires abolish the lesser and minor rules of training," no Sangha anywhere actually ventured to do this, partly because of the uncertainty in defining "the lesser and minor rules" and partly because they were constrained out of respect to preserve that which had been instituted by the great Teacher. Acariya Nagasena explains that "the Tathagata spoke thus testing the bhikkhus: 'Will my disciples on being left by me adhere to the passing, or will they repudiate them?'" (Milinda Pañha text, PTS p. 143). There is also the consideration that those of other sects might say, "While the Teacher (Gotama) was alive, his disciples respected and honored his precepts but now that he is no more, they throw off the training." But principally the reason was devotion arising from the successful practice of Dhamma Vinaya.
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