Further to the two excellent responses above, I'd just like to draw attention to the fact that talk about whether things exist or not is bestial animal-talk.
AN 10.69 wrote:“Then the Blessed One, emerging from his seclusion in the late afternoon, went to the meeting hall and, on arrival, sat down on a seat made ready. As he was sitting there, he addressed the monks: “For what topic of conversation are you gathered together here? In the midst of what topic of conversation have you been interrupted?”
“Just now, lord, after the meal, on returning from our alms round, we gathered at the meeting hall and got engaged in many kinds of bestial topics of conversation: conversation about kings, robbers, & ministers of state; armies, alarms, & battles; food & drink; clothing, furniture, garlands, & scents; relatives; vehicles; villages, towns, cities, the countryside; women & heroes; the gossip of the street & the well; tales of the dead; tales of diversity, the creation of the world & of the sea; talk of whether things exist or not.”
“It isn’t right, monks, that sons of good families, on having gone forth out of faith from home to the homeless life, should get engaged in such topics of conversation, i.e., conversation about kings, robbers, & ministers of state… talk of whether things exist or not.
“There are these ten topics of [proper] conversation. Which ten? Talk on modesty, contentment, seclusion, non-entanglement, arousing persistence, virtue, concentration, discernment, release, and the knowledge & vision of release. These are the ten topics of conversation. If you were to engage repeatedly in these ten topics of conversation, you would outshine even the sun & moon, so mighty, so powerful — to say nothing of the wanderers of other sects.”
The Buddha teaches us to navigate the middle way between the polarity of existence and non-existence...
SN 12.15 wrote:Dwelling at Savatthi... Then Ven. Kaccayana Gotta approached the Blessed One and, on arrival, having bowed down, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One: "Lord, 'Right view, right view,' it is said. To what extent is there right view?"
"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is supported by (takes as its object) a polarity, that of existence & non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one.
"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is in bondage to attachments, clingings (sustenances), & biases. But one such as this does not get involved with or cling to these attachments, clingings, fixations of awareness, biases, or obsessions; nor is he resolved on 'my self.' He has no uncertainty or doubt that just stress, when arising, is arising; stress, when passing away, is passing away. In this, his knowledge is independent of others. It's to this extent, Kaccayana, that there is right view.
"'Everything exists': That is one extreme. 'Everything doesn't exist': That is a second extreme. Avoiding these two extremes, the Tathagata teaches the Dhamma via the middle: From ignorance as a requisite condition come fabrications...
As this sutta demonstrates, the path of understanding that navigates through the middle of this polarity is understanding phenomena by way of paticcasamuppada.
This is important for two main reasons...
Firstly, it shows that the Dhamma is about that which is experienced and the nature of what is experienced. Thus, it is phenomenological... it is not ontological. Affirmations or denials of a soul are each ontological propositions, animal-talk on whether things exist or not, are not connected to the phenomenal, are beyond the scope of "The All
", and are therefore irrelevant to the Dhamma.
Secondly, it shows that all experienced conditioned phenomena (sankhata-dhammas) have "ignorance as a requisite condition". Thus, any thing, any sankhata-dhamma experienced, is experienced as it is, on account of ignorance (avijja). A meditator cannot magically wash the ignorance away from a sankhata-dhamma and somehow reveal its "true nature", since its true nature is
that it is rooted in ignorance.
When this truth is properly understood, any compulsion to reify dhammas, construct conditional relations between dhammas, microscopically analyse dhammas, any worldly/bestial regarding of dhammas as being "real" or "existing" etc. all fade away, as they are seen as the irrelevant follies they are. This is the path to nibbida
This has significant implications to what one studies and how one practices the Noble Eightfold Path, that I'll leave for the reader to discern for themselves...