BuddhaSoup wrote:The monks can't ask for anything.
Nevertheless they inevitably do or at least gesture strongly that they want something.
If no one provides alms, they go hungry.
According to the book this is what is supposed to happen, but prescriptive is not descriptive.
In 2013, reasonable people can always suggest that Vinaya rules don't apply anymore.
A lot of it doesn't apply any longer. In fact a lot of it never applied. Much of the Vinaya literature we have today reflects landed monastic concerns where benefactors demanded certain idealized monks to be their fields of merit. This does not really work and never has. If you know how the real world of monasticism works, you'll know the Vinaya is largely ineffective and only enforced when the powers that be feel compelled to punish someone. You might say the fault lay with the people, not the system, but pushing an unrealistic system on people is simply unreasonable.
Why not let Bhikkhus drive cars?
Why not? Plenty of bhikṣus in other traditions drive cars. In fact, the rule says a monk isn't supposed to get into a vehicle unless ill. So, flying or riding in a bus is unacceptable and a transgression, technically speaking.
As Bhante suggested earlier, these precepts cultivate moral discipline and, in practice, mitigate defilements.
With wrong view, however, they propagate the eight worldly dharmas. People become afraid of worldly scorn and shame for breaking precepts. They think of what they gain or lose by following the precepts. They might seek and enjoy praise for being well-cultivated in their precepts. They might fear punitive measures taken against them for defying ecclesiastical law and the powers that be.
Also the Vinaya based disciplinary system can be rather inhumane at times. One text, if I recall correctly from the Sarvāstivāda commentary tradition, suggests you can get a benefactor to withhold food if you suspect a monk has committed a misdeed in order to make them confess it. So, if they take food that hasn't been given, you nail them for that, but on the top of that starve them to make them confess.
That is torture in my definition. Ancient Buddhist ecclesiastical law was rather inhumane at times in my opinion after having studied the subject. However, it often reflects worldly, not spiritual, concerns, and modern scholarship often agrees with this conclusion as I've illustrated above.