The Oxford Kamma

The second part of right intention is kamma or “karma” depending on the translator. Everyone knows that means what you did in your past life. When I was a Renaissance painter, then a middle linebacker for the Cleveland Browns so I have ended up as a schmuck in Oakland.

Reincarnation means every every cynic dismisses kamma as a fairytale . But Buddha never even talked about reincarnation. Buddha’s definition is “if this, then that”.

If you eat a dozen donuts every day then you get fat”. It’s cause and effect, the actions you take have a result. Everything you do has a result. Talk about what a great artist you are, the result is people wonder about your ego. Sit on your butt and draw, a finished comic is be the result. Spend all your time on Twitter bitching and you never draw.

Look at any action you take and you can see a result. From the momentary thought you have to scrubbing the toilet. It makes a lot more sense that if you lead a good life, are kind to people, charitable, and don’t harm anyone you end up becoming a better person. So where ever you go after you die is the result of the life you lead.

If you can see those two things, the 4 Noble truths, There’s stress, stress is clinging, It’s possible to end it and the way to end it is following this path and all of this is based on your actions, you have the first step of the 8-fold path.


Why do artists suffer so much?We don’t but we like to think we do. When I discovered Buddhism I was overwhelmed and confused with lists, practices, mythology and a million other things but something felt familiar, that place where the suffering ended something seemed right about it.

Buddha talks about the end when all the fabrications fall away and you just live. Even calls it Nirvana as the coolest place to be. Obviously I hadn’t experienced that but something nagged at me, something felt like looking and drawing.

There’s moments when in drawing that all the lines seem right, it starts flowing out. Often it is in the middle of a project that working becomes a delight. I have built up skills and understanding and drawing is just drawing. No worries about anything but that immediate moment. I’m nothing but paper chalk and my hand making marks on the page. Then of course the worries of the world intrude, get kid from school, will it impress my peers? Will anyone buy it? Will anyone like it? Why are all the editors such idiots?

It’s only 12 years after practicing meditation (it’s not a quick fix) that I’m beginning to see that that is the Second Noble Truth. That moment when I stop clinging to a million things and just do whatever is in front of me.

Sadly Buddha didn’t teach drawing. But he taught a skill, and developing that skill will lead to the end of suffering. That skill is of course concentration. To learn it he used paying attention to the breath or might call it meditation.

The quiver of arrows

So Green Arrow shoots you. You can pull the arrow out bandage it up and go on with life. Or you can take you quiver of arrows and start pulling them out and stabbing yourself with them. Tell any artist that the corner of panel 3 isn’t so good and they will quickly contemplate suicide as the solution to why their art sucks.

That’s suffering or stress. How you handle pain is what causes stress. We all do it, a little pain and we bitch endlessly about it. Artists like to think we are the best at suffering but we’re not everyone does it. When we cling to something obsess over it and go around and around with it all’s we are doing is creating our suffering.

There is a solution to it of course, just drop it, you’ve heard it from your partner, your kids, your mother and father and all the people you work with and hang out with. It’s not important just drop it.

Admittedly the eating of the last jelly bean after Easter is a small pain but I was planning on really enjoying it. When it got stolen by my wife, I shouldn’t spend the next week fighting with her about it. So I should drop it right?

That ability to drop it leads to the end of suffering. Easier said then done and so that is why we need a path to the end of it. This is the most basic beginning to sanity understanding the 4 Noble truths

  1. There is Stress.
  2. It’s caused by clinging to “things”.
  3. You can end it by dropping those “things”
  4. There’s actually a path to dropping it, follow it and you can be a little bit happier. Don’t we all want to be a little happier?

The trick is to take action towards doing your goal and not cling to the crap in your head. Understanding the four truths is the first step.

Artists Suffer (just like everyone else)

” Inventing a car that runs on writers’ insecurity, the most natural and abundant energy source on earth ” said Talia Lavin on Twitter. All artists when they are not chopping off their ears are suffering, we drink, we are insecure, we worry, it’s what makes us sensitive artists “special”. Except everyone else in the world is doing the same thing too. Maybe we’re not so special.

That Buddha guy had a solution for normal people called the 8-fold Path to the end of suffering. Not pain mind you, even Buddha couldn’t stop all the pain in the world, that’s part of life. He saw the emotional and physical pain of life as just something that happens. We get old sick and die, suck it up people it happens to everyone not just artistes. But what Buddha figured out how to end was the Dukkha, the suffering or stress that comes with the pain.

That stress is when you stub your toe before breakfast and until dinner time you are complaining about that damn box in the kitchen. But as a sensitive cartoonist so I don’t cut my ears off I’ve been trying to follow this in life and now am going to rewrite it for artists ’cause we are so special.

The basic path

  1. Right understanding (Samma ditthi)
  2. Right thought (Samma sankappa)
  3. Right speech (Samma vaca
  4. Right action (Samma kammanta)
  5. Right livelihood (Samma ajiva
  6. Right effort (Samma vayama)
  7. Right mindfulness (Samma sati)
  8. Right concentration (Samma samadhi)