The Allegory of the Cave, also entitled Analogy of the Cave, Plato’s Cave or Parable of the Cave is said to be presented by the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato in the Republic to compare “the effect of education (παιδεία) and the lack of it on our nature.” “Plato has Socrates describe a gathering of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them, and begin to designate names to these shadows. The shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall do not make up reality at all, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners.”
Normally I find comparison risky for several reasons. But I venture here to draw at least some similarity between it and the analogy of the moon found in some Tibetan Buddhist sources such as in Mi-pham’s commentary on the *Guhyagarbhatantra. Also the analogy of a dialogue between various sentient beings with regard to the perception of what is known as “water” (to human beings) discussed by Rong-zom-pa may be comparable. Likewise the analogy of two princes used by Klong-chen-pa may be comparable as well. Also my own analogy of “Magic Eye 3D Card” may work.
The Moon Analogy
Suppose person A has never seen the actual moon in the sky. Person B who has seen the moon tries to describe it to A in words. A then obtains an abstract understanding of the moon. B goes on to depict the moon with a sketch/painting. A gets even a better idea of the moon. Likewise B shows A the reflection of moon in the water and finally the real moon in the sky. The moon is the true reality/luminosity. These stages are described as: go yul tsam gyi ’od gsal (tshogs lam), dpe’i ’od gsal (sbyor lam = ri mo bris pa’i zla ba lta bu on drod rtse gnyis & chu nang gi zla ba lta bu on bzod chos gnyis), don gyi ’od gsal (mthong lam), slob pa’i zung ’jug gi ’od gsal (sgom lam), mi slob pa’i zung ’jug gi ’od gsal (mi slob lam = sangs rgyas kyi sa).