Rachmiel wrote:So is the prevalent conclusion among Buddhists that (Buddha thought that) there IS in fact an eternal ground, but that it's too dangerous for the mind to believe that, so the entire issue is deemed moot? Or that there is no eternal ground? Or that no one can ever know with certainty if there is or isn't?
It sounds a bit like this to me:
There's this guy who's been to the other side of the hill outside his village. He meets with a bunch of villagers who have not been to the other side of the hill. The village, btw, is in dire need of fresh water. They ask him: "Is there a fresh-water lake on the other side of the hill?" Rather than saying yes or no to them, he spends all his time trying to get them to understand why they are asking the question in the first place.
I think there is some merit in that analogy. However, in the case of 'fresh water', the question of motivation is not really important. The villiage is in dire need of fresh water, as you said, so it's just a matter of saying 'that way'.
The question with regards the higher truth is not directly analogous, because the kind of need it is, and the way to finding out about it, is very different from just walking over a hill. It requires right view. I suppose you could say 'right view' is analogous to 'the water is in that direction', because if you start off with wrong view, then you might travel the right distance, but in the wrong direction, and so not get anywhere, and die of thirst meanwhile.
So in order to establish right view, it might indeed be appropriate to ask someone 'why are you interested in this? What motivates you? What are you really seeking to understand?'
As regards the question of 'certainty' - I don't think you can know in advance. I don't think it's a matter of it being 'too dangerous' but a matter of forming unjstified opinions which then become dogmas. If you study (for instance) Nagarjuna's Philosophy by K Venkata Ramanan (Motilal Banirsadis) you will find throughout it there is constant emphasis on 'not adopting dogmatic views'. These are generally paraphrased under the heading 'it exists' (eternalist view) and 'it does not exist' (nihilist view). That is why there is the link between Madhyamika and scepticism. Madhyamika is actually a properly sceptical philosophy, in that it insists on 'suspension of judgement' regarding those things that you really don't know. Otherwise it is very easy to think you know something you really don't, which is the origin of most dogmas.
Now dogma has its place as a kind of guideline and a summary way of expressing agreed points. So it's not as if dogma is always bad. To say it is, is another dogma. But not clinging to ideas and dogmas is very much a part of this approach.
It all goes back to the Ananda Sutta, in which the Buddha is asked 'does the self exist' and refuses to answer either 'yes' or 'no'. 'Self exists' is the eternalist view, that there is an unchangeable self being reborn in perpetuity. 'Self does not exist' is the nihilist view, that at death and the break up of the body there is no further fruition of karma and so on. So the middle path is to avoid both those. That necessitates living with a sense of uncertainty. That is the real meaning of 'scepticism' in the original sense. Buddhist teachings is always focussed on understanding the very process by which mind creates its world, and you have to have insight into how it is doing that, not simply have beliefs about it.