dharmagoat wrote:I am more willing to accept that neither consciousness nor phenomena truly exist, at least in the form that they are experienced. To put one before the other seems to be considering them separate realities, whereas I am inclined to view them as different aspects of the same reality.
Edit: As I wrote this I became increasingly aware of how difficult it is to make sense of this subject. Let me then just say that I find Yogācāra too problematic to be of any practical use to me.
Perhaps your familiarity of Yogācāra is too problematic to be of any practical use to you. What you describe here is more or less the Yogācāra position...
You may start with consciousness and phenomena, the creator and created. Then take away phenomena and be left with consciousness. But you will then have to get to the point where you realize without an object there can also be no subject. They are more like aspects of the same illusion.
From the perspective of someone who is more comfortable with a materialist point of view, any system that has idealism as its basis is going to cause difficulty. Specifically I find that the idea that only consciousness is truly existent to be at odds with the consensus that living beings seem to share regarding the physical world.
With the above understanding, you will see that Yogācāra is not idealism, and "consciousness-only" doesn't mean "only-consciousness". To explain consciousness-only and to answer your problem of consensus:
You will find that consensus is only shared between those of like-karma
. For example, the general consensus among human beings is that manure is smelly and repulsive, but flies generally agree that it is quite fragrant and even tasty! Humans generally view the world in an abundance of colorful, while dogs would say its only black and white.
You may ask yourself how you know a table exists. Your immediate answer may be that "you see it", but eyes only see color which is a subjective creation of eye-consciousness based on your karma
. When the table's color is contrasted with another, for example the floor, there appears to be a line drawn forming a rectangle. Based on the shape you see (which is only contrasting colors in your consciousness) you deduce that there is a physically external object which you call a table. But you haven't seen a table, you've only seen color.
Or you say "you feel it", but you can only feel hard, soft, hot, and cold–– all of which are subjective creations of body-consciousness based on your karma
. You have never felt a table. You have only felt subjective sensations.
Same holds true with sound (if you knock the table), or flavor (if for some reason you lick the table), or aromas (if you smell the table). What you experience in each case is completely a subjective experience happening only internally by your own consciousness. Based on those experiences you make an assumption about what seems to be a physical object you call a table.
Again you object that it has a function. You are able to place books on the table. Again you can apply the above logic to the "book" and "table" independently and together, with the added knowledge that 'function' doesn't indicate 'reality' or 'existence'. An obvious example, you are being chased by a tiger in your dream. It's gaining on you and gaining on you then takes a leap toward your back, jaws wide, claws out. Then you jump up out of bed panting and sweating with fear. Here the tiger had a function in scaring you, but it was not real. The "table" seemingly displaying a function is also dependent upon your own karma
If you follow me so far, then you can see that if your experience of a "table" is only a subjective experience of consciousness, then when countless other people have similar experiences, all it shows is that you share similar karma
as human beings. It doesn't make a "table" an external objective reality. The subjective delusion doesn't become an objective reality because it is shared by 7 billion human beings.