Pursuit of Truth in Doris Lessing’s Shikasta: Plato and Nagarjuna in Conversation

  •  Shaereh Shaerpooraslilankrodi    
  •  Ruzy Suliza Hashim    


In Doris Lessing’s novels, obtaining Truth to transcend the soul has been notably emphasized. Similarly, in Shikasta, the necessity to acquire genuine awareness has been focused as the mere way to self-transcendence. The detailed inspection of the novel explicates how human species live in amnesia, unable to remember their authentic reality and trapped in the disease of individuation. While the novel does not reject reason as the mean to “remember” the Truth, it mainly regards mindfulness and intuitive knowledge as a tool to achieve authenticity. The facets of amnesia and illusionary conception of the world make the novel a satisfactory text under both Plato’s and Nagarjuna’s interpretation of visionary world. However, its tilt towards non-dual patterns to attain Truth makes Nagarjuna’s approach a contribution to Plato’s rational manner in this regard. Hence, the purpose of this paper is to apply Plato and Nagarjuna’s pursuit of Truth to examine Lessing’s elucidation of authentic knowledge in Shikasta. The methodology appropriated in the paper entails depiction of visible world as an illusion of the Real pointed in Plato’s allegory of Cave and Nagarjuna’s Mundane Truth. We clarify emotion as the main motivator of such illusionary status stressed in both Plato and Nagarjuna’s thoughts. We argue that while the importance of reason and eradicating emotion cannot be ignored, what adjoins people to Truth is mindfulness and intuitive knowledge which is close to Nagarjuna’s non-dual patterns. By examining ordinary life as the illusion of Real, and emotion as the main obstacle to achieve the Truth emphasized in both Nagarjuna and Plato’s trends, we depart from other critics who undermine the eminence of essentialist trace in Lessing’s works and examine her approach towards Truth merely under postmodern lens. This departure is significant since we clarify while essentialism has been abandoned to a large extent and supporters of Plato have become scarce, amalgamation of his thoughts with spiritual trends opens a fresh way to earn authenticity in Lessing’s novel. 

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