In this Answer for escaping the analogy as shown in Plato's cave.

Socrates remarks that this allegory can be taken with what was said before, namely the analogy of the sun and the analogy of the divided line. In particular, he likens our perception of the world around us "to the habitation in prison, the firelight there to the sunlight here, the ascent and the view of the upper world [to] the rising of the soul into the world of the mind" (517b).

He shows two analogy.

1). Analogy of the sun.

2). Analogy of the divided line.

Is this two has any relationship with Buddhist two truths(Conventional and Ultimate)?
conventional truths is believing worldly things.(eg. the car Is). If so what is the " Divided line"?
Or else, What is then 'Majjima Patipada'(Middle path)? Why Middle?

  • 2
    It can be tempting to draw parallels between several philosophers to derive a perennial common ground, but it's tough enough to understand one let alone two. It leads to too much thought about the world of man and little insight into the reality of all things. See also, (westernbuddhistreview.com/vol3/plato.html)
    – Buddho
    Oct 4, 2015 at 12:48
  • “We must not allow other people’s limited perceptions to define us.”-Virginia Satir "For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen." -Douglas Adams "Realists do not fear the results of their study."-Fyodor Dostoevsky from 'halyale's intro'
    – Shrawaka
    Oct 5, 2015 at 1:34

4 Answers 4


I'm not sure why this got so many down votes. It is a very valid question. If this site is going to take up a discussion on topics on comparative religion (i.e. whether or not Jesus was a Buddha), there's no reason why questions of comparative philosophy can't also be entertained. In fact, I'd say that this is actually an important question because it really gets at the heart of the difference between Buddhism and Western philosophy.

I don't think you can draw a perfect parallel between Buddhism and Plato Cave, but there are some fleeting similarities specifically between what is written in the Republic and the use of koans in Zen Buddhism. In Plato's cave, we find Socrates advising Glaucon that the most effective form of study "has a power of drawing and converting the mind to the contemplation of true being". Knowledge of the sciences has the double use of being functional (as for the military leader) and revelatory (for the philosopher). It is at once pragmatic and soteriological. For the philosopher, study of a single aspect of reality reveals a kind of universal truth. Socrates for example, uses the perception of fingers giving rise to a conceptualization of unity.

In the sciences, we study one specific aspect of reality. The value in the scientific method is in it's keen ability to narrow the focus of an experiment, be able to control for variables, and draw conclusions. Zen koans are also extremely specific. Koan literally means "public case". Their scope is as narrow as a legal decision. A koan is given to alert the student to a very specific aspect of reality. Just as Socrates uses the external sciences and geometry, the phenomenon addressed by koans can often be a matter of external sense perception. The Buddha Holds Out a Flower, Hsiang-yen's sweeping, and many other koans use an isolated case of sensory perception as a means of revealing something about the nature of reality.

While external nature is revelatory in both systems, it's the difference in approach that really distinguishes Buddhism from the methodology used by Socrates. Over and over again in the Republic, Socrates' philosopher is using his discriminating mind - his reason - as a means of apprehending the truth. He thinks about the ramifications of his subjects. Consider the following passage:

Until the person is able to abstract and define rationally the idea of good, and unless he can run the gauntlet of all objections, and is ready to disprove them, not by appeals to opinion, but to absolute truth, never faltering at any step of the argument --unless he can do all this, you would say that he knows neither the idea of good nor any other good; he apprehends only a shadow, if anything at all, which is given by opinion and not by science; --dreaming and slumbering in this life, before he is well awake here, he arrives at the world below, and has his final quietus.

The man liberated from Socrates' cave is a rational being of intellectual understanding. The philosophy that rises out of his study of science lives in the world of conceptualization. Contrast that with the student of Zen. The value of his study isn't based on what Buddha's flower means intellectually, but rather in the actual perception of that flower in a mind marked by emptiness. The student of Zen isn't concerned with the philosophical implications of why Hsiang-yen was liberated when the rock hit the bamboo. A student of Zen, in a state of emptiness, wants to hear the "tock" for themselves. The kind of sensory experience used in Zen can only be had through deep meditation and the emptying the mind of forms.

The western philosophy uses the mind to escape the cave. Zen uses no-mind.

  • I think you may heard, If someone escape from the cave and come back to tell others what he found. then the others react to him by murdering.
    – Shrawaka
    Oct 4, 2015 at 15:04
  • Well, in Zen they just think you're crazy. ;-)
    – user698
    Oct 4, 2015 at 15:08
  • So, Load Buddha says Every person is a mad ('Sabbe puthaggana ummaththaka'). except those who have escape.
    – Shrawaka
    Oct 4, 2015 at 15:28
  • This site isn't for "a discussion on topics": it's for questions which potentially have a single/true/specific answer ... and "Is Jesus considered to be a buddha?" has a pretty clear answer for what it's worth.
    – ChrisW
    Oct 4, 2015 at 15:59
  • I agree with you. The first sutta in 'sutta nipatha' shows what is it. some quote in this answer.
    – Shrawaka
    Oct 4, 2015 at 16:17

I think that it is a serious misreading of both Buddhism and Platonism to try to conflate these different metaphors. They are given in very different contexts to very different audiences with very different sets of assumptions.

For Plato, the analogy of the cave isn't just a dramatic fable about abandoning falsehood and coming to see the truth, but instead is a parable that is deeply intertwined with his metaphysics. For Plato, objects of the physical world are but mere shadows cast which are cast by abstract concepts called forms. For example, all the chairs in the physical world are but mere crude reflections of a single perfect immaterial form called the form of chair, which resides off in the world of forms.

In this context, Plato's cave allegory is about abandoning the physical world of mere reflections and instead turning towards the contemplation of these immaterial forms, and ultimately, to the highest form known as the form of good.

The Buddhist understanding of the two truths is fundamentally different from this in many respects. In Buddhism, the two truths aren't two different levels of metaphysics, but rather two different levels of inquiry. Conventional truth is done from the perspective of ordinary language and human perception, and ultimate truth asks deeper questions that go beyond that. For example, if I look at a car and think "That's a car" I am working on the level of conventional truth, and if I instead look at that same car and after reflecting on it think "a 'car' is merely a name which we give to a collection of parts' then that is ultimate truth. But at the same time, there is only one car that I am looking at. Conventional truth and ultimate truth are two different perspectives we can use to look at things, not two layers of reality as is the case for Plato contrasting the world of forms with the world of matter.

  • Have you check the drawing. the philosophers are blind by seeing the light. hence they cannot find the path. " This is all unreal" .
    – Shrawaka
    Oct 4, 2015 at 16:46
  • I think that it's perfectly possible that "two different levels of metaphysics" means "two different levels of inquiry". The Platonic world of forms is a tuning of the mind to a mode of perceiving the particularization of ideas into concrete, tangible realities. That way the mind is in effect "emptied" from the "noise" of fragmentation and is filled with "eternal" unification principles, i.e., abstract principles to which our minds may or may not be tuned.
    – exp8j
    Mar 1 at 20:09

Here is the Middle path leads to Escape. The Seventh Principle: The Absolute in its absoluteness – Paramartha

This is the principle which states that awareness (vidya) is the inherent condition of Being itself. There is no 'Being' beyond the awareness of that Being. This means that awakening (or 'enlightenment') is already a done deal. Nothing 'in Being' needs be awakened, or cleaned up, or changed – made more spiritual, more aware – for it must already Be. Which means that the world of Samsara, just as it is, already is Nirvana, and vice versa. Mundane existence is simultaneously absolute transcendence. Ignorance dawns as Gnosis.

To Achieve this have to follow the path witch has two ways: enter image description here

  • your name means hearer, and yet no sound-hearer has such views? Further, if this is already nirvana, then what is liberation? And so how does one "escape from plato's cave"?
    – Sam Reeve
    Oct 8, 2015 at 18:16
  • @SamReeve "No sound, No hearer" it is Nirvana.
    – Shrawaka
    Oct 9, 2015 at 1:25
  • Then what for Nirvana?
    – Shrawaka
    Oct 9, 2015 at 1:51

It's been a long time since I read Plato, so beware this answer may be based on childish misunderstandings and bad memory.

As mentioned here the "shadows" which people see in the cave are a metaphor for "real" objects perceived by the senses, which are shadows of "ideal" or "spiritual" objects.

So if we're in the cave and if we see for example a (real) horse, Plato wants us to understand/believe that there's such a thing as an "ideal" horse, of which the real (visible) horse is a projection.

I think that this is similar to some Buddhism doctrine but actually almost the opposite. Buddhism says there's no ideal horse, in fact there's never even a real horse, instead there's just some assemblage of bones and guts and so on. I suspect that the Anatta doctrine of Buddhism might be the opposite of Platonic Idealism: Anatta would say there's no self in the world, maybe also no horseness (no horse-ideal or no soul-of-horse) in the alleged horse , etc.

Buddhist "escape from the cave" might be to understand that the cave is just an analogy, an idea with little or no basis in reality.

  • This is what we have to get alert on. All the philosophers get caught on this point. They draw the line. (Divided Line). (There is/ There is not).
    – Shrawaka
    Oct 4, 2015 at 16:54
  • If someone believe he is buddhist. what is the basic beliefs?
    – Shrawaka
    Oct 4, 2015 at 16:56
  • "There are these two extremes that are not to be indulged in by one who has gone forth."Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta"
    – Shrawaka
    Oct 4, 2015 at 17:14
  • This drawing clearly show there is a path to escape.
    – Shrawaka
    Oct 4, 2015 at 17:19

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .