Like many religions, Buddhism leads a certain lifestyle that comes with rules and regulations. For example, Christians follow the Ten Commandments to seek after Christ. But, it seems that Buddhists live in perpetual obedience to not one but numerous sets of rules (or teachings) in order to achieve the ultimate goal of leaving the cycle of samsara and reaching nirvana.
Nowadays, abiding by these rules can be very difficult and seemingly unjust while living in a land of freedom and especially in the twenty-first century. However, there is always a purpose in obeying these rules. In Buddhism, those becoming monks must recite the Vinaya at the ordination ceremony and vow to renounce the world. The Vinaya is a set of disciplinary precepts for monks and nuns to refrain from worldly affairs such as cussing, drinking alcohol, sexual activity, and more. It plays a pivotal role in leading a monastic community (or Sangha), and therefore constitutes a purpose of having these rules. In addition, Sangha and the laity go back and forth in dependence. As the monks and nuns depend on the laity for housing and food, the laypeople seek for guidance from the monastic thus having the Vinaya as a framework for the monks.
It seems, though, that the Vinaya serves a greater purpose. In our world today, there are rules everywhere: in the classroom, the workplace, at home… Without these rules, there would be no order. In the same way, I perceive the Vinaya as the bedrock in a system of reciprocating dependence between the monastic community and the laity. The mutual reliance is in its best effect when the monks obey the Vinaya and proceed to perform their duties. Moreover, the precepts express a deeper meaning to the lives of the monks and nuns. As a Christian, interpreting the Bible can be overwhelming and confusing at times but as life goes on, instances come up that make the passages a lot clearer and life a lot more meaningful by following the messages from the Bible. Similarly, the Vinaya holds the truth and guidance to life in that there is meaning behind each rule of the Vinaya. But life experience will guide a monk to become a wise leader.
It is interesting to note that one set of rules can hold such a heavy purpose and responsibility in leading many Buddhists. Overall, the importance of the roles of monks and nuns lie in the heart of the Vinaya.