PeterB wrote:No one has suggested that Sila can or should stand alone...but it is of the essence nevertheless.
To approach Buddha Dhamma from a stand point of rejection of moral absolutes and value judgments because of association with our own cultural conditioning is to risk grave error.
I can't agree with that, if what you are writing is advocating following sila without question.
Kamma is driven by intention. I see better results coming from questioning the "why" behind the rules and owning the "why" than just following the rules because they are the rules.
On a mundane level, consider the precept against intoxicants. That precept is there not to avoid intoxicants as end in itself, but to avoid bad situations and bad kamma that may result from letting your brain function becoming impaired. If you understand the reasoning behind that precept it becomes more powerful. For instance, tea was never considered as an intoxicant, but a modern Buddhist can know that is s/he has had too much s/he acts in a short tempered way angering many people. If that modern Buddhist was only concerned about following the letter of the law, s/he might continue to use tea. However, if she questioned the spirit of the law, the reason and goals behind the rule, s/he would see that using less tea would apply to that precept.
As another example, if a monk needed surgery. The anasthesia before the surgery and perhaps a pain killer after the surgery would certainly impair their brain function. Following the precept without question would disallow the surgery. Knowing the reasoning behind it would allow the surgery to happen.