Jangchup Donden wrote:While there may be an objective reality out there, your entire experience of it is contained within your mind right? If your experience of objective reality is all mental, then what's the difference between saying external reality exists inside or outside your mind? Does it even matter?
If there were something "out there," some phenomenon that truly, objectively existed, it would have to be eternal, unchanging, and could not be conditioned or interact with anything else. If something changes, then there is no basis on which to impute onto it a single, static identity, and therefore it cannot be said to truly exist. Also, if such an objective, unconditioned phenomenon existed, what could account for it being limited to a certain size and spatial location? If it were small, why? If it were big, why? If it existed in relation to other things, which would be necessary for it to have a perceivable size and location, then how is objectively existing?
Now, if we consider that everything observable is made of smaller parts which are themselves made up of smaller things, all the way down to space, where could this objective reality be and what could it consist of?
Jangchup Donden wrote:At yesterday's teaching the teacher pointed at one of the two three-foot-wide, foot-thick concrete pillars in the room and asserted "The post is not there". This led to a burst of questions.
Wielding the logic of parts and sub-parts like a scythe, he mowed down objection after objection, many of which were objections that have caused me difficulty. Then someone said, with a note of desperation, "But everyone in this room agrees the pillar is there!" The teacher, without pause, dropped the logic he had been using and took a mindbendingly different tack - he smiled, shrugged and said "All your dream people agree it is there."
Now, this is pure solipsism and perilously close to nihilism. But on brief thought, there is clear, true and much wordier truth underlying this statement.
It appears very similar to solipsism, but the subtle distinction has not so subtle implications. You have to remember that Madhyamaka, which sounds like what this teacher was speaking on, says the subject is as much a "dream person" as the objects it perceives. "I" am a "dream person" and "you" are too. From your POV, "you" are a dream person and so am "I." You can mow down the subject and object equally, in terms of analysis aimed at the ultimate level of truth; but it's not nihilism because, on the conventional level of truth, these things clearly appear and have clear functionality. And obviously, Mahayana doctrine differs from solipsism in that the whole Mahayana path is centered on the objective of helping other sentient beings become liberated and enlightened, and it features teachings on the positive results we experience from benefiting them vs the negative results of harming them.
As an aside, here's a link to an MP3 teaching on The Nectar of Manjushri's Speech, which might be particularly valuable to you for the commentary on the 9th chapter of the Bodhicaryavatara:http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?titl ... ch%27_(MP3