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I would like to open this post with a quote from the Gnostic exegete Ptolemy:
The entire Law contained in the Pentateuch of Moses was not ordained by one legislator - I mean, not by God alone, some commandments are Moses', and some were given by other men. The words of the Savior teach us this triple division. The first part must be attributed to God alone, and his legislation; the second to Moses - not in the sense that God legislates through him, but in the sense that Moses gave some legislation under the influence of his own ideas; and the third to the elders of the people, who seem to have ordained some commandments of their own at the beginning. You will now learn how the truth of this theory is proved by the words of the Savior.
In some discussion with those who dispute with the Savior about divorce, which was permitted in the Law, he said Because of your hard-heartedness Moses permitted a man to divorce his wife; from the beginning it was not so; for God made this marriage, and what the Lord joined together, man must not seperate. [Matt 19:8] In this way he shows there is a Law of God, which prohibits the divorce of a wife from a husband, and another law, that of Moses, which permits the breaking of this yoke because of hard-heartedness. In fact, Moses lays down legislation contrary to that of God; for joining is contrary to not joining.
But if we examine the intention of Moses in giving this legislation, it will be seen that he did not give it arbitrarily or of his own accord, but by the necessity because of the weakness of those for whom the legislation was given. Since they were unable to keep the intention of God, according to which it was not lawful for them to reject their wives, with whom some of them disliked to live, and therefore were in the danger of turning to greater injustice and thence to destruction, Moses wanted to remove the cause of dislike, which was placing them in jeopardy of destruction. Therefore because of the critical circumstances, choosing a lesser evil in place of a greater, he ordained, on his own accord, a second law, that of divorce, so that if they could not observe the first, they might keep this and not turn to unjust and evil actions, through which complete destruction would be the result for them. This was his intention when he gave legislation contrary to that of God. Therefore it is indisputeable that here the law of Moses is different from the Law of God, even if we have demonstrated the fact from only one example.
The Savior also makes plain the fact that there are some traditions of the elders interwoven in the Law. For God, he says, said, Honour your father and your mother, that it may be well with you, But you, he says addressing the elders, have declared as a gift to God, that by which you have nullified the Law of God through the tradition of your elders. Isaiah also proclaimed this, saying, This people honours me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, teaching precepts which are the commandments of men. [Matt 15:4-9].
Therefore it is obvious that the whole Law is divided into three parts; we find in it the legislation of Moses, of the elders, and of God himself. This division of the entire Law, as made by us, has brought to light what is true in it.
(Ptolemy, Letter to Flora, ~100 A.D.)
I would suggest there is a similar threefold division of truth in Buddhavacana: that given by truth, that given by the 500 arhantaḥ (the saints), and that given by the myriad sthāvirāḥ (the elders of the community throughout the ages).
Buddhism is a human institution IMO. The fact that it has human vices, discriminations, hatreds, aversions, to me illustrates this. It was made mostly by people, in my view, not by any one particular person.
My own opinion is that people largely created "the Buddha" from the shared memory of a great spiritual teacher none of them personally remembered. I don't believe the story of the 500 arhantaḥ who solidified the canon. The precise number 500 strikes me as a sacred but unhistorical numerology.
Hence why so many details of the Buddha’s life are stock episodes. Much like the miracles of Jesus which draws on the cultural milieu of general Near Eastern miracle workers. I think they remember many of the teachings of the Buddha accurately. But I don’t think they remember the Buddha himself accurately. And I think many things were hopelessly garbled.
This was how Buddhism became so worldly, in my view, as to be obsessed with genitals, gender, physical beauty, and dwarfism. Because people are obsessed with those things, not the Buddha.
I do not believe the Buddha established those rules in the dhammavinaya that discriminate upon people of the world on such arbitrary criteria as whether or not they have in-tact genitals, for instance. Why? Because they are bizarre and arbitrary and reflect more the worldly concerns of an institution trying to seem “proper” to a worldly society than the unworldly concerns of a unworldly master teaching an unworldly path. A master for whom, if seeming “proper” by society’s worldly standards were important, would have never left his riches, his wife, who would have continued to have more children and perhaps entered into politics as a king, had he cared more for worldly reputation.
There are all sorts of bizarre justifications given in Buddhist literature for bans on the ordination, teaching, and sometimes even association, with what we now call sex and gender minorities. In Venerable Buddhaghoṣa's Visuddhimagga, for instance, is said that the homosexuals lust is too disordered the (s)he cannot calm their mind, that the gender-changer is too ambiguous and prone to changeability to sustain samādhi. Venerable Vasubandhu has only similar statements on the matter.
Furthermore, Ven Buddhaghosa’s point on the hindrance of the changeability of the gender-changer is anticipated in the post-canonical Milindapañha and Nāgasenabhikṣusūtra. Are these Buddhavacana? They are very early literatures.
I think, if Buddha is the perfect human being who stays in the world to teach his dharma, we have to measure him largely by our own standards and definitions of what that perfection is. For some people, unfortunately, it seems they believe a perfect human being would believe absurd lies about sex and gender minorities. We ourselves, speaking of human beings in general, are flawed, thats why we create flawed religions and flawed gods and oftentimes that is why we create an idealized Buddha who is in some way flawed invariably on account of our own flaws.
My search for perfection lead me to Mahāyāna Buddhism (which for the record is just as problematic and worldly as any other kind of Buddhism), and I am sure that many people would identify that as a flaw of mine that led me to create a flawed personal Buddha in the mind as to be persuaded by Vaipulya Buddhadharma.
We all just have to try to do our best and have a minimum standard of upholding other people’s dignity in society while we do so.
What do we take from the Buddhas' dharma? What do we reject? Your thoughts, if it please you.