Thanks for elaborating, Venerable.
This is the way I understand it, as well.
In other words, “the moon” exists conventionally. However, ultimately “the moon” doesn’t exist. That said, there are mind independent dhammas there, where we see “the moon” arising and falling rapidly, regardless of whether or not they are perceived and mentally processed into “the moon.”
“The moon” is pannatti (conventional reality), but, beneath the conventional reality are paramattha (ultimate reality), in the form of dhammas.
I’ll add, for anyone new to Buddhism, or new to this specific idea:
For the sake of discussing this issue with anti realists and subjective idealists like the Madhyamaka and Yogacara, who would declare that the moon does not exist in any way whatsoever, as nothing does, or it is purely imaginary, and only mind exists, respectively, and a huge swath of unrelated philosophies today which say the same, it is safe to say; “the moon” absolutely exists in the form of ultimately existing objective dhammas. Even though the “moon,” as the word and idea itself is a mental construct, the Arahants could look at it and see that, where we see “moon” there are, in fact, rapidly arising and passing away dhammas that ultimately exist, and are mind independent. Otherwise it becomes an inroad for people to rope in the Theravada, and lump it together with Madhyamaka and Yogacara, and say all three traditions teach the same thing: extreme nihilism/subjective idealism, nothing is real/everything is imaginary, which is patently false.
I think everyone is tired of me bringing this up lol! However, I have watched too many people who are not deeply enmeshed in Theravada devolve from Theravada to Mahayana, and these foundational issues are frequently the turning point, so I will always try to point the way, for anyone new to Buddhism who may be reading, to the proper Theravada points that allow for a valid philosophy, because Mahayana is not valid, since “nothing exists/everything is imaginary” is a self refuting position.
There is a great desire among people to bridge Theravada and Mahayana, but they are fundamentally incompatible, and this is one of the most significant reasons they could never be combined: if the moon does not exist in any way whatsoever, neither do the suttas, and so on, until Buddhism is meaningless, and doesn’t exist, at all. From there, only a fool would practice a bunch of written down rules and teachings, because whatever they may dream up is just as valid, since none are real in any way. The goal ends up being seeing through the very tradition itself, as it isn’t even real, and “true” Mahayana Buddhists should be above and beyond the dharma itself (as the Zen teaching goes “If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him!”). Thus, it’s important to note: in the Theravada, the dhammas, including matter, are 100% real, in fact they are considered ultimate reality, so, by extension, in a sense, are the teachings, etc. In Theravada, if you see the Buddha on the road, touch your head to the ground, and beg him to teach you. It would be a huge mistake to think he’s imaginary, and to try to kill him. Actually, this, in the Theravada, is considered one of the greatest sins imaginable.
This is one of the reasons it is so wonderful that we have Venerable Subhuti, Robertk, and everyone else and this forum! We have a place where the truth, and valid Buddhist philosophy is held high.
It is the dhammas alone that possess ultimate reality: determinate existence “from their own side” (sarupato) independent of the minds conceptual processing of the data. Such a conception of the nature of the real seems to be already implicit in the Sutta Pitaka, particularly in the Buddha’s disquisitions on the aggregates, sense bases, elements, dependent arising, etc.,…
Thus by examining the conventional realities with wisdom, we eventually arrive at the objective actualities that lie behind our conceptual constructs. It is these objective actualities – the dhammas, which maintain their intrinsic natures independent of the mind’s constructive functions…
…the commentaries consummate the dhamma theory by supplying the formal definition of dhammas as “things which bear their own intrinsic nature” (attano sabhavam dharenti ti dhamma).
…concretely produced matter…possess intrinsic natures and are thus suitable for contemplation and comprehension by insight.
Great seers who are free from craving declare that Nibbana is an
objective state which is deathless, absolutely endless, unconditioned,
Thus as fourfold the Tathagatas reveal the ultimate realities—
consciousness, mental factors, matter, and Nibbana.
-Bhikkhu Bodhi, Acariya Anuruddha, A Comprehensive Manual of Abhidhamma, pages 3, 15, 26, 235, 260