Venerable Dhammanando's recent studies have revealed some interesting insights... http://www.facebook.com/dhammanando
Re-reading the Nettipakarana. Kaccayana gives an intriguing treatment of the Mahaparinibbanasutta's four mahapadesas. Unlike all other interpreters, ancient and modern, he doesn't conceive them as having anything at all to do with appeals to textual authority. "Conformity to sutta" for Kaccayana is conformity to the Dhamma's general thread of meaning, which is the 4 ariyasacca.
And "vinaya" in "conformity to vinaya" is taken not in the sense of monastic discipline or Vinaya Pitaka, but in the most common sense that this term has in the Sutta Pitaka: raaga-vinaya dosa-vinaya moha-vinaya, "removal of attachment, aversion and delusion".
Then a third yardstick is given: "conformity to dhammataa", which Kaccayana identifies with paticcasamuppaada. This is not found in the Pali Mahaparinibbanasutta but is present in the Sanskrit version and (if I remember right) four parallel passages in the Chinese Agamas.
So, on this reading a putative buddhavacana may be accepted as such if it conforms to two points of principle: the four truths and paticcasamuppaada, and if it is effective in practice in bringing about the three removals.
I think, for many reasons, it is the reading most likely to be faithful to the Buddha's intent
The problem with all the textual authority interpretations is that in an age of oral transmission you simply couldn't put them into practice without violating a cardinal injunction of the whole mahapadesa procedure.
I mean the injunction not to play favourites...
"don't rejoice in..." "don't reject..."
It also jives well with the Kalama Sutta
After Buddhaghosa there come two attempts to harmonize the Paleo-Orthodox take on the mahapadesas with the Sumangalavilasini's Neo-Orthodox interpretation (or rather the one of the six interpretations that Buddhaghosa himself approved of).
One attempt (the "Unified Interpretation", we might call it) combines them into a single rather unwieldy method.
And the other (the "Non-Overlapping Magisteria Interpretation") treats the Paleo-Orthodox Netti approach as concerned only with an individual's private verification, and the Neo-Orthodox with public demonstration.
By the time of the Sinhalese Renaissance and the sub-commentaries the Unified Interpretation has become the de facto official view
At least in theory. But in practice it is the Neo that is always applied in textual argument.
I think the Paleo is long overdue for a revival.
Note that the terms he uses for the yardsticks are sutta and vinaya, not dhamma and vinaya. And note the passage's fourth scenario - this is a great group of monks.