Matt J wrote:Let me modify this example with a counter: if I am dreaming about playing Russian roulette, and there are five empty chambers, and one contains a dream bullet, does that establish the reality of the dream? No--- even if I shoot my dream self in the dream head and die. So it is clearly in our experience to have non-existent things appear to us, behave consistently, and follow established patterns. But none of this means any of it is is real or really established.
I think the confusion is in saying, well, if it doesn't exist, then it is nothing. But as the dream example shows, this is not the case at all. There is plenty of color, sound, and sensation in dreams. Gedun Chophel points out in the quote above that thinking that worrying about people becoming nihilists in the face of experience is pointless. We see and touch things, so of course there's not nothing.
Agreed. Also, regarding your dream example--it's clear that, in samsara, even things which happen in dreams can impact waking life,in different ways. Aside from what happens in the dream, it's often the case that one can be "upset" for a time after waking from dreams. In that sense, from the POV of Samsara, it's helpful to realize that what happens solely in our minds can have great effect, even in the absence of physical manifestation or "Form" in the "external world."
When we wake from a vivid nightmare, in a cold sweat and an emotionally turbulent state, we tell ourselves "it was only a dream, it's not real." Our sensory appartii and mental experience of being awake then gradually supplant the experience of the dream, even if we can vividly recall the details and content of the dream. We can see that things are not as they appear, yet they still have an influence or effect on us in certain states. Samsara is like that, but much more rooted. When Buddhas awaken from Samsara, they still understand the effects of mistaken ontological assumptions in the mindstreams of sentient beings. Neither Buddha nor Nagarjuna, nor any Madhyamaka teacher, argues for complete and utter nonexistence.