With each new reading, I find that I come up with a long list of questions that far exceeds the list of answers I discover. All I could think of while reading chapter 27 of Buddhist Philosophy, in which C.W. Huntington Jr. explains that our world is only created in our minds, was The Matrix films. To be honest, the idea of the “material world” being completely constructed in our minds is one that we could probably find as a theme in several books, movies and television shows, but this film in particular was truly the first time I had ever seen or thought of such a concept. I have not seen The Matrix in quite some time, so my memory of the details are not very clear, but it is interesting to think about this concept in the context of the film. The main character is clearly unaware that the world he lives is not real. He continues to live in his created world until the events that lead to the realization that nothing around him is real. So is finding out that nothing is real in our worlds equivalent to enlightenment or understanding the Four Noble Truths? Is living in our mentally constructed worlds the ultimate suffering?
What confuses me most about the idea brought up in chapter 27 is that if we create the material world we live in, why do we also create suffering? If suffering is the horrible thing that leads us to the cycle of rebirth, and therefore more suffering, why do we have to have it there? Would it be better if we could create an existence without suffering? Then again, without suffering would there be a need for enlightenment or a need to find our way out of samsara? Suffering is the reason why we want to find a way out of the cycle of rebirth. So without it, there would not be a need for Buddhist philosophy because one of the most basic elements, suffering, would not exist.
So does this then mean that Buddhism relies on suffering for its existence? Without suffering, would Buddhism have been created? I do not think it would exist without suffering, as it all began with the discovery that life is suffering. Since it does exist now, what then happens to Buddhism if we all understand that life is suffering and that we can escape it, and then actually follow through and find a way out of the cycle of samsara?
Huntington, C.W. Jr. “Candrakīrti’s Madhyamakavatarabhasya: A Madhyamaka Critique Vijñānavāda’s View of Consciousness.” Buddhist Philosophy: Essential Readings. Ed. Edelglass, William, and Jay Garfield. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. 309-319.