Simon E. wrote:
I am referring to a dramatic decline in numbers. And to the fact that the Sangha no longer has the authority it once had...of course to some degree this might be associated with moral issues.
In most Asian countries secularism has meant the sangha is not to wield any authority or be directly supported by the state (indirectly it still happens).
On top of that, it is not in the interests of secularists to let the sangha possess much cultural capital as it would jeopardize their own base of power.
In the late 19th century Europeans were aware that Buddhism was probably the largest identifiable religion in the world. However, over the course of the 20th century the number of Buddhists was rapidly diminished. Communism, secularism and numerous other factors has seen the vast decline of Buddhist sangha members.
However, the function of Buddhism has changed. In many places the state now takes care of social welfare, whereas in the past it was largely done by Buddhist institutions (like in Japan). You still see such functions carried out amongst Tibetan monasteries in India and Nepal.
Also, popular culture has meant that younger generations often see little value in Buddhism. In Singapore and Korea, for instance, Christianity is new, strong, western and associated with professionals.
Humanistic Buddhism out of Taiwan attempts to portray itself as educated and professional, though it doesn't have the occidental appeal.
Monastic discipline I reckon isn't really a big deal. In fact I'd argue that too much discipline alienates sangha from people rather than inspiring them. Laziness, sloth and a few screwups here and there are all part of a living and sustainable spiritual tradition.