The Allegory of the Heart Cave
As part of A Roadless Walk, I’ve decided to compose a semi in-depth study of two pieces of writing by the philosopher Plato and the spiritual teacher Ram Dass. The works are titled the Allegory of the Cave and the Heart Cave respectively. You’re wondering why? It is necessary for my vision of this blog. Understand that before we begin to walk, we must realize what we can do. We must realize that we are capable of “turning our heads” so to speak. We must realize and discover the core of our personality – that is the heart cave.
Ram Dass (a.k.a. Dr. Richard Alpert) is an American spiritual teacher and the author of the book “Be Here Now”. Let us begin with his concept of the cave, the heart cave. Heart in Sanskrit is Hridaya derived from Hridayam, which means “this is the center”. Physically, our hearts are the center of our circulatory system and is vital to our health and wellbeing. However, we often forget that it is also the center of something else – our eternal essence. This is why we have sayings such as “home is where the heart is” or “sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye” (H. Jackson Brown Jr.). Why do we say such things? Maybe, because it IS our “inner Home”.
More often than not, we forget to return to our inner Home. Mainly because our lives are continuously becoming “contaminated and conditioned by delusory material envelopments” (Singh, 2013). What does that even mean? These “delusory material envelopments” are the material and impermanent aspects of our lives: anything that brings about desire, dependence on emotions, expectations, habits, etc.
This is where Plato’s Allegory of the Cave comes in to play a crucial role. If you’re unfamiliar with this piece of work, it emphasizes the need to break from the shackles that bind us in the cave of shadows (illusion) and to step out of the cave into the sunlight that clarifies reality. Furthermore, Plato states that there is more to our lives than meets the eye. Plato described two types of perception: sensory perception and spiritual perception.
Sensory perception allows us to process stimuli in the environment through the use of our senses. Plato argues that this view of the world is false; it is an illusion. Presently, Brain Games is a National Geographic television series that showcases the extraordinary ways in which our brain plays tricks on us in terms of what we think we perceive and what the reality is.
Plato argues that to perceive the truth or reality, one must use spiritual perception or in the case of this article, delve into the heart cave. Spiritual perception is possible when we break all the material chains that hold us down, when we practice non-attachment and when we free ourselves from these “delusory material envelopments”.
These two pieces of work complement each other. Plato’s Allegory of the Cave helps us understand where we come from. Ram Dass’ Heart Cave helps us understand where we need to return to. This is the goal of spirituality! I emphasize the word spirituality because your life is personal. Instead of asking for practices to follow, search for meaning. Instead of defining right and wrong, accept what is and how you are connected to it. Instead of arguing over truths and falsities, you can live.
Now I do support Plato in his division of perception but I don’t completely agree that we must use one or the other. Yes, we can return to the heart by the process of detachment and becoming aware of ourselves. However, we must question our perception of reality. We can believe in something that we can’t explain. I’m not suggesting that you get rid of your iPhones and live in a temple in the mountains of Tibet. No, I’m encouraging the practice of awareness and conscious action in everything we do. To wake up and stop settling for an unexplored life. “This is an important action and it will help us to understand clearly that the essential awareness of our own being is not a function of reason. It is not the mind or a product of the mind, nor is it ordinary thoughts, but it is a radiance emanating from the region of the chest” (Hridaya Yoga, 2015).
You might find this contradictory. Why are we stepping out of one cave to return to another? Naturally, I am speaking figuratively. Buddha’s fourth noble truth, the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering, explains this paradox. The path, “is a conditioned thing that is said to help you to the unconditioned” (Allan, 2016). Philosophically, A Roadless Walk calls for an awakening to our true nature: to fully examine our lives. Breaking from the chains in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave symbolizes this need to break away from the material world. Spiritually, A Roadless Walk calls for a return to our inner Home: the Heart Cave. Knowing THAT, we can experience the world from this point of view:
REALLY knowing that you are the same as everything and you MUST involve total, unbearable compassion because it not only involves direct knowing of beauty in ways that go way out there, but also the same one-ness with deep pain, sorrow, confusion; what a beautiful arrangement, that even knowing pain is a direct expression of the highest form of Love: Compassion. Compassion is beauty; it is one of the greatest transformations to witness (Anderson, 2010).
As you read my posts and begin to walk, keep in mind how we are slowly becoming aware of ourselves again and becoming aware of the wonder as well as the beauty that surrounds us. Something as simple as taking a bite of a green apple can be beautiful if you choose for it to be.