Discipline: The Canonical Buddhism of the Vinayapitaka is a penetrating analysis of a heretofore neglected, yet centrally important portion of the Pali Canon. In identifying the pivotal role of discipline in the bhikkhu quest for nibbana Professor Holt finds that Vinaya rules represent a practical implementation of the Budha's Dhamma. Specifically, adherence to this monastic code theoretically facilitates an overcoming of asavas, mental dispositions that foster attachment to the "self" and thus perpetuate the process of samsaric kammic retribution. The formulation of Buddhist monastic law, therefore, need not be seen as the result of casuistry; rather, it is the consequence of a conscious attempt on the part of the early Buddhist tradition to identify behavioral expressions that at once generate and reflect a calmed, detached and disciplined mental and spiritual state.
The author has also examined the significance of the principal rituals of Buddhist monasticism as they are prescribed within the Vinaya text. He interprets these rites as cultic celebrations of discipline which, in turn, legitimate the Sangha's claim to be the embodiment and reservoir of the Buddha's teachings. The claim supported the Sangha's role of occupying a mediating position between the spiritual needs of the laity and the authority and the spiritual exemplar of Buddhism, the Buddha. In short, Discipline, written from the perspective of the history of religious approach, contributed significantly to the increased understanding of the dynamics of the Buddhist religion in its formulative stages. [via]