Huifeng wrote:In short, one needs to have undergone the full ordination (upasampada).
As you know, there's more than one way to become a bhiksu.
Of course, Jeff, you are correct. I didn't want to bring all this into the thread earlier, though.
What you're describing here is ordination via karma proceedings. However, there's more than one way to become a bhiksu in the formal legal sense of the Vinaya. The Ten Recitations Vinaya 十誦律 has ten ways to receive full ordination (是名十種具足戒).
There are parallels in all the traditions, and I was trying to stick to the Dharmagupta vinaya, because that's the main one relevant to this thread, after all.
I. Being the Buddha, where you don't have a preceptor.
II. Like the five bhikṣus who attained enlightenment and immediately obtained all precepts. (This is problematic because at the time there were no precepts.)
If you do a synoptic reading of this, I think you'll find that this may be a later addition. Moreover, the term used is "upasampada". Now, at the time, this can just mean "they made it". Later, when "upasampada" means technically the karma proceedings, then people read that back into the text, and it becomes problematic, because the vinaya hadn't been formed. But, if we keep in mind that upasampada still has significance before vinaya precepts were formulated, it's not such a big deal.
III. Like Mahākāśyapa who made personal oaths and thereupon had all precepts.
IV. Like Sudāya who replied to Buddha's question and was permitted to get the full precepts.
V. In a frontier land with five members of a sangha.
Hardly applies to China, either.
VI. Like Mahāprajāpatī receiving the eight rules of respect.
VII. Like Dharmadinnā who dispatched an envoy to return with the full precepts.
VIII. The Buddha naming and welcoming a bhikṣu into the sangha, whereupon they had full ordination.
The famous "ehi bhikkave!" type.
IX. Taking refuge in the Triple Gem and reciting three times, “I follow the Buddha in leaving the home life,” whereupon one obtains the full precepts.
X. Initiating the four-ceremony karma proceedings.
There are similar lists in other Vinaya texts.
Theoretically number VIII is still possible if one has a vision of the Buddha and is named as a bhiksu by him. I recall some eminent figure got his bhiksu ordination this way, but I can't recall who it was.
Really, still possible? The Buddha himself states that after he implemented the Vinaya, then no more ehi bhikkhave types thereafter. The statement itself says nothing about "vision" of the Buddha, but by the Buddha.
In any case, the early disciples had no precepts and were still nevertheless bhiksus, as were several others who didn't formally undergo ordination ceremonies during the Buddha's life, so it begs the question if this legal definition of bhiksu as proposed is really set in stone. I know what the Vinaya literature says, but that's later period (like around after 0 CE) according to several scholars and the archaeological record of references to "viharas".
As above. Once the Buddha implemented the Vinaya, then the older way was no longer used.
I'd put a fairly earlier date on the vinayas, around the time of the main splits c. Asoka. People like Schopen always like to argue for much later dates, but they tend to be a minority. And, as we know, Schopen doesn't read Chinese, so it helps his own position to downplay all that, and argue that the Tibetan Mulasarvastivadin vinaya is the earliest.
Nobody has implied "set in stone". But, without other evidence, what are we to do? As far as we can see, all the systems that we can more reliably track, from India, through SE Asia, into central Asia, into China and beyond, all had these same basic ideas. So, if we are to take this approach of what reliable evidence we have to work it out, arguments which then make a combination of Theravadin vinaya, Brahmajala sutra and others have even less ground to stand on. It's not like we have some ancient source or evidence of a 50 precept vinaya or something, which doesn't require any form of formal ordination process, after all.