alan... wrote:correct me if i'm wrong but if a bhikkhu in the buddhas time or even today in the theravada tradition was well respected and thought of as a stream enterer or higher and then started getting wasted on booze, got married and started beating people up, wouldn't they generally be understood to have fallen away from the dhamma at best or at worst to have been total frauds in the first place? i recall one sutta (somewhere in the vinaya i believe) in which the buddha created a new rule, because a bhikkhu slept with his own wife, that bhikkhus could not do this, so i'm fairly confident that i'm right in this regard.
As for the marriage-issue: It has already been pointed out that Zenabbots don't necessarily follow the vinaya. I somewhere read one of the reasons why marriages happen in the zen tradition and found the answer again on some sites (e.g. http://antaiji.dogen-zen.de/kimyou/2007/eng-0303.html
, http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congr ... en_en.html
To quote the important part from the first source:
Now, what changed so that monks and priests started to marry? Funnily, it is not the Buddhist code that changed or was re-interpreted by the clergy in a new way, it was simply the Japanese law that changed. It was the Japanese government that decided in 1872 that it was up to the monks/priests themselves if they want to marry or not, want to eat meat or not. So unlike the Chinese Cultural revolution or the Japanese occupation of Korea, no-one was forced to get married or disrobe. Monks and priests were just given the freedom to decide for themselves what to do. The Meiji Restauration was a time when the Japanese government shifted from supporting Buddhism, on which the Tokugara regime had largely relied for controlling the country between 1600 and 1868, to Shintô - indiginous Japanese shamanism - which put the emperor back into a position of power. Especially during the first years of the Meiji area Buddhism was actively suppressed, with some temples being burned or sold for ridiciously cheap prices to the publc (for use as firewood).
So why then should this anti-Buddhist government give freedom to the Buddhist monks/priests? It is usually said that this was done to strip them off their privileged status. By telling the monks to stay celibate, the government excempts them from the obligation of filial responsibilty as well as the responsibilities and duties of taking care of a family. Celibacy can be interpreted as a privilige as well. By telling the monks to think for themselves, the government expelled them from the shelter of the warm womb that it used to be for the Buddhists clergy during the Tokugawa era. This in itself should have been a great chance for Japanese Buddhism, but it happens to be one reason for its decline. When told to think for themselves, most monks/priests eventually ended up marrying and turning their temples into family homes.
So it seems that the Sangha had quite some status and influence before 1872, partly because the Sangha was supported by the ruling power of Japan and served as a stabilizing factor for society. (more can be read up here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edo_period
). I'm no expert on japanese history but when the government changed in the Meiji Era and the politics went anti-buddhism and pro-secularization, some monks seem to have taken the bait for various reasons. It would be interesting to know more about the circumstances during that time - whether the laity supported that monks get married, whether temples have been set under pressure by being stripped off of previous financial privileges or whether there was some kind of government propaganda going on that led monastics into going down that route. I can't reconstruct how the politicians got so much influence on the Sangha in Japan in the first place, but there seem to be historic and cultural conditions which facilitated that process.
On another note: From my point of view, the impact various Zen Masters had on the contemporary understanding of the noble eightfold path got bigger in japanese society and the japanese Sangha than the word of the Buddha at some point and it stayed like that well after that. The Buddha was very clear in his instructions how the monks are to handle women and who is the teacher to abide to after the Buddha would pass away. Any proclamations of people who are preaching the opposite of what the Buddha taught are well - doing just that.
I'd stick with Ben's advice and would like to add the following: If you have confidence in what the Buddha taught, follow the word of the Buddha. If you have no confidence in the teachings or interpretations of teachings as taught by other people, then do not follow those people. It doesn't matter which title they're given or how other people perceive them - if you have no confidence to begin with, there is simply no use.