The process of attaining enlightenment is already complicated enough without throwing cats into the mix (please don’t throw your cat). People all across the globe remove themselves from society, secreting themselves away in monasteries in an attempt to achieve the almost impossible dream of enlightenment. Most of those people are not cat owners and for good reason. Cats, as lovable and cuddly as they can be, are clearly out to keep everyone in the cycle of Saṃsāra: rebirth and suffering for eternity.

I call this “The Garfield Effect” where man and cat are forever trapped in suffering and possibly eating lasagna.

This comic is actually more about my brother than it is about me, he has long made his allegiance to the canine species known to both his family and our cat. There’s something about felines that just strikes a very strange and angry chord with him, perhaps it is the poop or perhaps it is something deeper. Science may never have the answers.

Buddhism’s thoughts on reincarnation, rebirth, and the cycle of suffering known as Saṃsāra have their roots in Hinduism, not unlike Christianity’s roots to Judaism. The idea that all life possesses spirit and that this spirit is reborn after each death is not unknown to us here the West, but it is often understood incorrectly. Many people have a positive view of reincarnation, seeing it as a good thing, a continuance of the existence they know and love, a way of escaping death not unlike the Christian afterlife. To Buddhism, this could not be further from the case. To achieve Nirvana, (the spiritual state, not the band, you can acquire that at your local music store) is to remove oneself from this cycle of rebirth, to realize that the cycle is not a gift, but a curse of sorts that keeps us tied to a wheel of suffering for eternity. Life, in this view, is a kind of Hell unto itself.

It’s hard to imagine for those of us that grew up with the Christian concept of everlasting life, that this could be the case. You hear people talk about reincarnation sometimes and there’s typically a positive note in the voices of those discussing it. There’s also a lot of people talking about karma as if it were this immediate thing, that by doing good deeds, one is rewarded instantan