This remains such a loaded phrase for us. We are currently considering attending a daylong meeting with Thanissaro Bhikkhu, abbot of Wat Metta and author of Access To Insight, a popular website and great resource. However the announcement of the listing includes an invitation to read an article entitled: "How to Sit With Monastics." As you know we are proponents of modernizing tradition, increasing accessibility for the modern American interested in Buddhist Practice. The article supports the confusion between Vinaya (the Discipline taught by the Buddha) and Asian Tradition.
The Vinaya is a tool and a guide to be used for personal growth, to eliminate the hindrances and strengthen Practice. It is not to be used to set monastics apart or above the common person or other monastics. Multitudes of exceptions allow flexibility so that kindness and fellowship can be shared with other beings without difficulty. Our feeling is that the intention of the Buddha was to create friendly community with all, a greater value than holding to rules unless your Practice needs that support.
Many members of the fourfold sangha believe it is important for monastics to set themselves apart and above the common person. But for us that would be less than honest, less than helpful. It is a private matter for us to be monastic, for us to observe our personal growth (or lack thereof) and to support each other's Practice as Noble Friends. We acknowledge that Laity are as likely to become enlightened as Monastics, we choose to be monastic to strengthen and deepen the Practice but it does not require ordination to become enlightened. For me, it fell in my lap and I have carried it since.
Ven. Madika has decided to avoid any potential conflict and not go to the talk. This calls to mind a teaching of Jesus or Yeshua as I think of him: Sit at the bottom of the table not by the host and wait to be invited up to a higher place.