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."
and venerable Dhammanando says (viewtopic.php?f=16&t=476&start=20#p5464
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.