Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Buddhist Temple in Plato's Cave

The lesson behind Plato's cave is perhaps that the puppets' shadows are not "things as they are" (e.g., outside the cave), but are instead mere pale reflections of a fire that is in turn dwarfed by the Sun outside the cave. Enlightenment in Buddhism can be construed in terms of coming to realize this in how we experience the world and realizing that not even the puppets themselves are the whole story; enlightenment fully realized involves being able (and willing) to perceive the cave as part of the world outside; the puppets' shadows on the cave's wall inside do not really exist. In fact, neither does the cave as an entity (i.e., there is no "other shore"). Returning to the cave, the enlightened person thus sees it in a new light--one that situates that of the fire relative to that of the Sun outside. 

A Buddhist temple in a cave. The light streaming in provides one way in which the interior can be viewed in relative rather than absolute terms. (Image Source: Kiomi Moore)