I am pro-everybody. Even people I disagree with for the most part. That wasn't an option on the list.
If they love the dharma then I should help them and cooperate as much as possible. If I can't/won't help them then I shouldn't try to make obstacles for them.
All that drama about hierarchies/institutions/my sect/your sect/my teacher/your teacher/history/myth/authentic/pure/lineage/traditional/fossilized/patriarchy/feudal/anachronistic- comes from our own minds. Not everyone has the same issues as we do and no one's delusional story is more or less delusional. IMHO- If it tastes of liberation then it is the dharma and I support liberative transformation in all it's myriad forms. It is essential for the transmission of the dharma that people make the dharma practice their number one, 100% priority in life. Whatever form that may be. I might be stating the obvious though? Or I have a minority belief, I can't really tell these days from some outside DW conversations.Longer (stream of consciousness answer), to the OP:
Because of my delusions...reading this thread made me throw up a little in my mouth actually. I might be a little snarky. Trying not to.
I don't see anyone here (maybe one actually) that is offering a way of cooperation. Just saying how it isn't working but not "aaaand here is an idea we could try", "aaaaand here is possibility in line with the spirit of renunciation and that supports lay/renunciate practitioners alike". Not everyone is going to want to be a monastic, we all know this. Not everyone is going to want to be a lay person either! I don't care for babies or married couples or domesticity. Why exclude the option because the majority sees it as irrelevant to themselves? Instead of comparing it to a reconstructed past set in ancient India let's see how the principles can be applied and purpose retained in a different context.
Some people are more family-social others are more solitary/communal-ascetic. Is either the middle way? Monastic culture simply is to create a harmonious environment and situation in which people can focus their time and effort on spiritual practice.
The lay people can do retreat more often and get away from the media and non-stop non-spiritual inundation of culture. The monastics can interact with the lay people more and use their extra time and low-cost of living to provide beneficial spiritual and social services or spaces. If some lay people don't want it, don't care about it...then they aren't forced to take/support it. If some monastics want to be independent and don't want to interact with lay people...then they can go do that. If lay people want to live in communes and spiritual communities too they can do that! They don't need monastics to make their own communities if they don't like being around celibate people. No one has to help anyone else if they don't want. So why the fuss? For me...it's America. We can redefine it however we want cuz we be doin' that anyway.
I try not to make trouble for people who love the dharma. They are rare. They will eventually become a Buddha and so will you- so we don't need to stress over the screw ups that occur in the learning process. Just cultivate ourselves and live honestly. EVERY community will have it's issues. Power dynamics in groups happen. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it really sucks. Fortunately it changes! Cool!
If only .5% of the population can be saved by a monastic culture then we need a monastic culture for those people. Because my method saves me doesn't mean we should discourage all previous methods. Even if my door now...is like...totally pure, directly from Buddha of the Woo Woo in so-and-so's vision and it says so in 13 sutras and 24 lineage holders traced back to big bang that it is the pure, buttery goodness of the Dharma right into your mouth teaching...if one dharma or one Buddha or one teaching could liberate everyone it would've already by now, right? So these grand claims about "having it" are often limited to time, place and people. Constant revelation!
I've seen all sorts of people, lay and monastic, that have been truly inspiring and truly disheartening. So it is with samsara.
What purpose does a Buddhist monastic serve? First of all this is silly. They serve by practicing the dharma! What purpose does a lay-householder serve? They serve by practicing the dharma! Secondly, instead of asking how it serves you (the you being a non-specific Buddhist lay person posing such a question) ask how it serves all the people you don't know. You've got the dharma practice. All the non-Buddhists out there? All the people deep in their own mind-muck and need to see someone with a clear vision? All the people who might be curious about Buddhism but do not know a Buddhist, couldn't tell one apart and might not know anyone to talk to about it? All the people who think Buddhism is about being "chill and zen" and "tipping is good karma"? All the people that just need to know there other people out there thinking positive thoughts about others? Monastics are valuable at the very least because they are symbols of Buddhism ( or whatever their religion) and offer the public a space to have dialogue about spirituality and world view. I don't see monastics (in the West) asking for handouts or that the "lay people owe me". I see a lot of other things but not that.
As a monastic- I find non-Buddhists have much to say and gain from me being a monastic. I am a symbol for something they might want to learn about and represent positive ideals. I might represent spiritual questing, inspiration or vision. I can also be a symbol for the abuses they've suffered due to organized religion and the contradiction present in any large institution with high ideals. I deal with their negative experiences too and try to accept it with non-judgement. If they got past their 'past' and knew me...they'd might learn I was a queer radical and have a particular distaste for hierarchies and hope to be a voice and ally and that I have my own share of drama from institutional failures. That I hope to transmit the spirit of renunciate culture into a relevant and transparent way for my own culture that aims in being one of cooperative and egalitarian spiritual practice.
I've found non-Buddhist lay people inspired by my commitment or curious about Buddhism and hopefully motivated to read a book, find a temple or consider their own world views. Some people see me as someone to open up to deeply and voice concerns that they might not have space for in their life or discussions about dying, suffering and the burden of life. Many more people are indifferent or just think I am sushi chef at Safeway.
As a convert Buddhist I can see some of the issues with the systems in place in Japan or Tibet or what have you. No Tushita heaven all the time. Having visited or talked to people from these systems I realize I am not interested in reproducing what they do or find much of it relevant. They have a 1000+ years to build it up to where it is now. They managed some good with the bad though so we can take some and leave some. Isn't that great? We can practice and pioneer the dharma here and are under no obligation to copy the screwed up part of the system. We can be respectful and emulate the beautiful parts until it is integrated...in oh... 500 years or something. (As an example of this future I have this one fantasy...I'd like see how seating arrangements done by when a person took their Bodhisattva vows and not by their social, monastic/lay, educational or leadership role might work out. Whoever is leading the practice or teaching should be in plain view. Everyone else sits according to the date regardless of any of other status/affiliations one may have.)