Indrajala wrote:When a community is up and coming without widespread support from society, then of course the leadership and common vision are essential for anything to happen. This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of developing Buddhism in the west. Without the right people, then there's not even general social support to fall back on to keep things above the water line.
Sure. And there are different ways that Buddhist intentional communities are organizing and structuring themselves in western countries. Some are using more traditional hierarchical models, and others are using more egalitarian democratic approaches, which can also be compatible with vinaya.
Indrajala wrote:For various reasons though a lot of Buddhists are unwilling to consider modifications to the formal Vinaya systems, even when they admit not everything can or will be followed in the present day. The sacrosanct quality of it is remarkable despite it really being house rules aimed primarily at irresponsible young men and women.
I think both historically as well as now it's generally a matter of interpreting the received traditions within any given community. Even using traditional Mahāyāna sources, a case can be made for interpreting and thereby modifying the emphasis given to the prātimokṣa vows in light of the bodhisattva vows and vajrayāna samayas. And this sort of thing isn't new. Examples can be found in the Tibetan three vows literature (and probably also in the Chinese Mahāyāna literature that you are familiar with).
Related to this, it's likely that many monastic communities in western societies are going to have to be largely self-reliant. And again, there are both historical and contemporary examples of how this can be done. These include looking to traditional Chinese and/or Tibetan monastic models, as well as looking to the Christian monastic orders, which continue to develop cottage industries, etc., to support their communities.
It's also worth recognizing that there have been times in the course of western history when there was significant public, political and sometimes even ecclesiastical opposition to mendicancy and monasticism. For example, in the 4th and 5th century Greco-Roman world, and again during the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, and yet again during the French Revolution and subsequent events in late 18th and 19th century France. Yet monastic orders still continue to exist. There are still people who find meaning and value in ascetic renunciation.
Indrajala wrote:What's really striking is the literature which outlines in detail the long years that will be spent in hell for violating even minor precepts. You can go to hell for immeasurable years if you eat yeast and fail to confess it according to the authors. Quite terrifying and ghoulish punishments await he who eats yeast or brewer's lees and fails to confess the sin.
Again, this leads me more and more to agree with Jizang's conclusion. In both Indian and Chinese literature I see a lot of logical inconsistencies and easily refuted metaphysical speculations.
Well, this sort of thing isn't unique to the vinaya literature. There are also speculative metaphysical statements made in the sūtras and śāstras with regard to the results of karma that are rather provincial.