Karmic affinity probably plays a role, but when I was first starting out, I was never attracted to the Theravadan tradition.
In large part this was due to what I perceived as the strong, perhaps extreme, focus on the 250 precepts for monks (and 348 for nuns.) If I had to keep all of those straight in my head, I imagined that each and every day would be occupied with worries about which shoe I put on first, and whether I was holding my bowl in the right hand.
Well, I’ve since learned that it’s a lot more simple than that.
Basically, the precepts are there to help practitioners gather energy and motivation in their practice.
To this end, the situations they address fall into several categories:
1) avoiding things that will create karmic hindrances or damage our energy and faith
2) avoiding things that cause us stress and worry
3) not putting ourselves in the path of temptation
4) not creating the appearance of wrong doing
5) the appropriate situations for teaching the Dharma
6) rules to help a large community live together harmoniously
(there’s one or two more categories that I can’t remember just now!)
The additional rules for nuns basically address their safety in an era when an unescorted female was assumed to be a prostitute, and could be treated as such.
Also for nuns, it’s important to remember who the first nuns were: they were from the noble classes, and were the family members of the Buddha and his great disciples. So when the Buddha said that an 80 year old nun had to bow to a 3 year old monk, these are the women he was addressing. It’s as if he was saying “your family status and connections with the leaders of the sangha don’t count here.”
I smile when I think of what might have happened otherwise: “Ananda! Come here and give your Auntie a shoulder rub!” 🙂
Now for a bit of unrelated silliness: