Guy wrote:Have you considered that by living according to rules which you might not always like or agree with there is the potential benefit of getting a good look at craving and thereby understand it's unsatisfactory nature?
Yes, I have. Been there, done that. Time to move on.
I have already used plenty of effort to become German, to act German, to think German. I don't agree or like everything German if that is what you think. But it is the culture I happen to live in so I considered it useful. To become, say, Thai, I would have to brainwash myself and program my personality anew. I have had lots of long discussions with my Thai friend to have a good idea of the differences. Some can be pretended easily, such as behaviour and language, but others really require a complete inner change.
For example, one of the most important aspects of the German culture (and it is one I like because I see the benefits regarding developing awareness) is Artistic licence. The Thais don't have it. On the other hand they have an aspect in their culture that is completely missing in the German one, usually translated as "respect" (don't know the Thai name) but it is something else than what we call respect in Germany, it does not exist here. And worse, it does not go well with Artistic license. Some years ago there was this incident of the movie "Anna and the king of Siam", an never ending offence to the Thais because they don't understand Artistic license. Discussing the movie and the problem with my Thai friend and others (both Thai and not Thai) on an internet forum I did what I always do when I try to understand and analyse a problem: I used samadhi. In this case, samadhi with the Thai way of thinking and feeling. But for the duration of it I had to completely detach from my "German" personality, including Artistic License. It was an interesting experience and I would not want to miss it but I don't see any benefits to practice it for a longer duration. Personalities, cultures, and so on, they are all exchangeable.
Surrendering to the Vinaya might not be pleasant,
It would be pleasant if one would understand it correctly. There are many suttas that point out that to change from householder to bhikkhu is utterly pleasant. The fact that is is considered and experienced as hard only shows that the interpretation of the Vinaya rules is not correct.
The lack of pleasantness is one of the reasons why I think that today's defintion of bhikkhu is not correct. Bhikkhu is an inner change, implying a steadfastness of awareness (among other things)
Now, what is "eating", what is "remote lodging"? I agree with Buddhadasa Bhikkhu that "eating" refers to "experiencing" because that is how the suttas make sense, a Bhikkhu experiences only awareness, because all the rest is the object of insight, thus he is moderate. Similar for "remote lodging": awareness distances one from all experiences, all absorptions, all feelings, and so on. Thus it is a "remote lodging".
Here is one regarding the sangha:
Pleasant is the arising of a Buddha.
Pleasant is the teaching of the Dhamma.
Pleasant is peace & unity in the Sangha.
Pleasant is the harmony of those united.
Ever heard of the social sangha to be united? They argue and argue and argue. This is not the Sangha of the suttas.
Not merely from receiving alms is one a Bhikkhu.
The one attached to forms and rituals is not
truly to be regarded as a Bhikkhu.
Today, the vinaya is interpreted in terms of forms and rituals and a Bhikkhu is supposed to attach himself to them. But attaching himself to forms and rituals means he is not a Bhikkhu as defined in the suttas.
Whoever drops both good and bad action,
lives celibate, walks through the world aware,
untouched and clever, such one is indeed a Bhikkhu.
Dropping both good and bad action means to let them happen on their own, automatically. It refers to all those activity our personality does. Awareness separates us from this activity, thus the "I" that is identified with awareness is not acting either good or badly. "Celibate" refers to the abstinence from absorption, the identification with the states, the non-lucid part of samadhi. "Walking through the world aware": one does not loose awareness in any of the lokas. "Untouched": Awareness is not touched by whatever is experienced, the distance, remember? "Clever", control, insight, wisdom.
So, for me "ordaining", "going forth" means something else than a social change or reprogramming one's personality to fit the forms and rituals of a different culture. It means an inner change, more profound than any social commitment can ever be.
but it certainly produces a lot of good monks and nuns (both Asians and Westerners) who have developed a deep understanding of the Four Noble Truths.
Are you sure it was this that produced them? Or were they already there due to good kamma and only used it because it is a social requirement?
Don't get me wrong. Anyone who wants to ordain socially I would tell: go ahead. But use this chance not only to alter your personality but to be aware of the inner mechanisms that alter them, the mental and physical processes, the how. Because in this way one can become not just a Bhikkhu in the social sense but a Bhikkhu in the sense I accept.