September 24, 2010

Buddhism and the Suffering Artist

On September 13, 2010 a few of us Tricyclers had the good fortune to be able to attend a conversation about contemplation and creativity between Matthieu Ricard and Philip Glass, moderated by Mark Epstein. While the event was really fantastic with many inspiring and interesting ideas discussed, it left me chewing on some thoughts. It left me wondering about the role of suffering in art and the archetype of the suffering artist.

At one point Ricard said something along the lines of, “If we can speak about creativity, I think that it comes out of the space and awareness cultivated through meditation.” However, if meditation is primarily a means for us to get a handle on our suffering, what about all of the beautiful art that comes out of suffering? If, for example, Edgar Allan Poe had become an adept meditator would he ever have written his great works? What about van Gogh?

Here is my question:

If Buddhists are seeking to end suffering, are they also ending art? From a Buddhist perspective, is art worth suffering for?

Please share your thoughts.

Image: Francis Bacon Self Portrait,

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REDdirt's picture


" I would feel that I was guided by a power outside just myself. Sometimes I would be in awe of what ended up on the canvas and know inside that it was good, but I couldn’t take credit for it. Has anyone else had that feeling?"

Sometimes work just flows out effortlessly; I doing is not present, sense of time passing is not present, just .... ?

The feeling of non ownership for whatever happened is how I feel and it is appropriate. No sense dusting me buddha.

Whatever, it is one nice ride while it happens. " You dont know what you've got (and) it's gone."

Dominic Gomez's picture

@ Catherine Spaeth-
I can agree with your observation that "the trope of the suffering artist has shifted from the artist to the work, involving all of us - including the artist - on the same side of the work as viewers."
But I would also mention that suffering, melancholy or negativism are not the only options available to artists and viewers to experience through works of art.
Takashi Murakami (quoted in another blog topic) says, “I seek to produce a creative process which is a bridge between the past and the future.” In that light, artists and viewers can also tap from within their lives at this very moment a powerful positivism that transcends the transgressions of the past and the uncertainties of the future.

Catherine Spaeth's picture

Thank you all for this discussion, there is lot offered and much to chew on with fresh consideration! At this point I could add that in the history of contemporary art criticism, it might be said that the trope of the suffering artist has shifted from the artist to the work, involving all of us - including the artist - on the same side of the work as viewers. In that shift the word "melancholy" has become very important, sometimes posed as an obfuscation of history in a fetishized and absorptive beauty in the expression of loss, a kind of affective arrest that does not allow adequate working through in the task of mourning. I think that if there is anything sweeping to say about art and suffering in contemporary art, it might be in part to describe how beauty now appears to us, and it is very true that something deserving the word "melancholy" has made its appearance as the beautiful. The work of artists as varied as Gerhardt Richter and Christian Boltanaski, have been described in discussion of the melancholic, artists who have each differently picked up the Holocaust as their content.

Dominic Gomez's picture

@ Barbara Cary,
Thanks for sharing your experience. Having begun my career as a "commercial" artist, I am both an artist and a businessman. The subject for me has more to do with the practical, real-life ramifications of so-called "suffering". For instance, I'd suffer if I had trouble coming up with a successful visual solution to a problem soon enough before a publishing deadline. In those cases, the suffering didn't always produce satisfactory (i.e. "good") art.
As far as seeing something develop on canvas or paper that was "awesome", it was mainly the result of a fortuitous accident. I may be able to use it, or scratch the project entirely. I trust my own instinct for aesthetic visualization (prior to putting brush to canvas) more than any "power outside myself".

Barbara Cary's picture

Having considered myself as both an artist and a therapist, the subject really rings my bell. So glad it came up in discussion. It's a weighty one. When I was really into my oil painting years ago, I would feel that I was guided by a power outside just myself. Sometimes I would be in awe of what ended up on the canvas and know inside that it was good, but I couldn't take credit for it. Has anyone else had that feeling?

Sam Mowe's picture

Thank you all for contributing such thoughtful comments. There is a lot to chew on here, which is exactly what I was hoping might come out of posing a question about Buddhism, suffering, and art.

@ Catherine, I feel like I should clarify that I do not believe that there is an intrinsic relationship between art and suffering. However, sometimes of course, there is a relationship between the two. The question was meant to be provocative, and encourage a meaningful discussion. It seems to be working!

While I was reading this thread, David Foster Wallace jumped to mind as a "suffering artist." His writing benefited from this hyper-self-conscious, uncomfortable tension that he perceived between things as they are and things as they could be. He was depressed. How does this effect how we evaluate his work? He talked about how he wanted off antidepressants because it hindered his art, but then he killed himself when he got off of them. Would Buddhists rather that he wasn't inspired by his suffering? Should we appreciate his writing as an accurate representation of suffering mind (I'm thinking about when Allen Ginsberg said that Chogyam Trungpa appreciated Jack Kerouac's writing as an accurate representation of mind)?

masha's picture

Hi Catherine.

I agree that suffering is not necessarily integral to the success of all art, and art can be both beautiful and touching without it. This discussion, it seems to me, is set up to discuss those instances where suffering is seen as adding to artwork and to analyze the value of the popular notion of the 'suffering artist.'

Buddhism does address suffering and the grip on our lives of the things that make us suffer. Isn't it worthwhile to consider what happens to the work of an artist when Buddhist notions influence that artist's life, work, and relationship to his or her subject matter?

Coming from a Russian background, I am familiar with an artistic and literary tradition that focuses often on suffering and places a great value on melancholy. Tolstoy's Death of Ivan Ilyich comes to mind as an example. It is interesting to consider whether the Buddhist aim to ease suffering would clash with such work.

Personally I don't think such a clash would occur, since I believe the value of suffering in art (where it exists) lies in the ability of the artist to draw awareness to the suffering that is pervasive in our lives, and Buddhist meditative traditions only add to this awareness.

monk-san's picture

Obviously, judging by the breadth of comments, this question hits a nerve. My teacher has always told me that the purpose of practice is to fully manifest the dharma activity, which is the death or dissolution, and then the resurrection, of the self. The emphasis is on living your life fully, or completely -- spending your life wisely, as it were, instead of hoarding it or wasting it due to fear or greed. You learn to give your self away through each activity, whether it's painting, playing basketball, making love, eating etc. The self dies as you give it away, and it's reborn in the next instant. The point is that there's no TIME for suffering when you're practicing -- or, putting into practice this principle. The end of suffering is a biproduct of putting into practice the fundamental principle of giving the self away and having it be reborn through no effort of your own. Whether your gig is art, commerce, law, motherhood etc, the principle doesn't change. It may be trickier to manifest given your line of work, but the principle never ever changes.

Buddhism and the Suffering Artist « Buddhist Art News's picture

[...] [link] [...]

Carlos's picture

Hi Catherine.

Just to make clear: when I mentioned my academic background, it was meant to be only a reference, to make it easier the context in which I was referring to "myths". It was not a credential or meant to give "authority" to what I was saying... As we don't know each other and are trying to express ourselves using the internet, I thought it was worth to make more explicit the reference/background.

I do try and I think it's worth to make explicit these references, always! And not rely on the supposed authority of any discipline. In a sense, that's something I relate to my own Buddhist practice, moment to moment.

Thanks for the insights!

Catherine Spaeth's picture

Dear Carlos,

I should say that I have a degree in cultural studies, earned at the very moment that the Comparative Religion Department became the Comparative Cultural Studies Deprtment, and at a time when interdisciplinarity meant that my feet were also in the History of Art Department. And what I have learned is that these things are not all the same ball of wax.

One of the things that cultural studies can be said to do is provide a broad diagnosis, and I can see us doing that here. There is no need to peel away on our own, as I think everyone here agrees that there is a field of inquiry we can call "Buddhism and Art," and that it is worth discussing. On the table is the suggested failure of language to adequately correspond to actually existing practice, and this is where the words "myth" (I understand of course the word can have positive value but I do mean it here in the sense of a debilitating mythification) and "rhetoric" come into play.

Your interest in "how passion, aggression, ignorance affect differently the creative process, establishing varied connections to the basic underlying suffering" is something I look forward to hearing. I wonder though what happens sometimes when broad diagnoses meet the obstinacy/generosity of a thing. Cultural Studies is also the domain of Theory, with a capital T, and sometimes theory really does get in the way. At others, it changes/reveals the very ground we stand on. Maybe the difference is between a rock and a hard place. :)

Carlos's picture

Hi Catherine. I'm not sure if we're entering a discussion that will interest us only, if it's so maybe we can continue using another channel.

I wouldn't say I was referring to "myths", at least the way I understand "myth", which I'd refer to a context related to psychology/anthropology/epistemology, in the sense that myths frame our understanding of the world (here it may be useful for you to know, so that you may understand the context I'm referring to, that my academic studies were in Greek literature and epistemology).

I was referring to a much more everyday use of "hypothesis", even in the academic sense: an "idea" that may be meaningful and which is being proposed for discussion. I use this term meaning only that I'm not saying "it's this", but that it may be worth considering this. Also, my hypothesis is "cultural" in the sense that it'd fit what I think would be "cultural studies", in the sociological (not anthropological or psychological) sense of the term.

So... I see it basically as a way to discuss, based on my experience of them, part of the contemporary art and cultural scene, including theater; how exclusively connected to "ideas" they seem to be, with no connection to something other than "ideas", and how this may be said to be ignorance (of one's own [meditative] connection with other experiences than "ideas").

And as the hypothesis goes, I'm asking, based on some of Trungpa's teachings, how passion, aggression, ignorance affect differently the creative process, establishing varied connections to the basic underlying suffering.

If one is ignorant of any dimension of experience other than one's own "ideas", accepted by their face value, this means something in terms of the outcome of one's creative process. The underlying suffering may remain untouched, or reified. Aggression and passion would have different effect... And of course personal processes would vary.

This goes beyond an academic speculation. As my inspiration for this hypothesis there's the sense that creativity is being misused if based on plain ignorance, and other ways to work with creativity may be essential to one's Bodhisattva's inspiration in contemporary society.

And... re: “Buddhism is supposed to be about responding to and alleviating suffering, isn’t it? If we alleviate suffering doesn’t this logically extend to the end of art, which is dependent upon suffering as its origin?” -- I confess I can't see this formulation other than as a rhetoric one. I wouldn't say that art is dependent upon suffering, and also I don't interpret the noble truths or the path as meaning alleviating suffering in a nearly therapeutic sense, basically in the sense that the end of suffering doesn't deny the first truth, the truth of suffering. The suffering will be there, even if it ends...

mike's picture

Andy Goldsworthy's work is a good example of an artisitic response to being aware of immersion in THIS, exploring the connections, and making offerings based on his experience.

He clearly struggles,at times, as he seeks clarity in making. Struggle can be unpleasant.

For me his work is an affirmation of and an encouragement to another's experential authenticity. Art serves best when doing this.

A finger pointing to the moon.

Catherine Spaeth's picture

Hello, Carlos! You say you intend "a kind of cultural hypothesis that needed to be worked on, but that at the same time is supposed to express something others recognize." There is much about the value of myth, but it is also true that some myths are better than others, and that what they might miss in their telling is worth attending to. Too often what people easily recognize is rhetoric or ideology, and I may have overly stated your wrapping a response around the proposition in my own address to the proposition itself, which seems to go: "Buddhism is supposed to be about responding to and alleviating suffering, isn't it? If we alleviate suffering doesn't this logically extend to the end of art, which is dependent upon suffering as its origin?"

Regarding Van Gogh, for example, Deborah Silverman has done much to undo the overdetermined "drama" and suffering that has dominated popular understanding of the true value of his work by heading straight towards his spirituality. (Van Gogh and Gauguin: the Search for Sacred Art.)

mike's picture

This suggestion of Joy, perhaps any profound experience, being the empowering source for making rings true for me. Immmersed in this experience what comes is an urge, a subtle or a very powerful command, to offer a response.

Although what is made may fall short of expressing the emotional content experienced, it is what was intended. An offering.

I have come to believe offering is the art and the only reason the urge or command comes in the first place. This responsiveness is innate in all of us.

What is made is just its form.

Carlos's picture

Hi Catherine,

my intention when I mentioned "ignorance of suffering" was not suggesting a kind of Buddhist "superiority", and I mixed different point of views.

First, I was referring mostly to the usual Buddhist notion of "ignorance", rather than to "ignorance of suffering", in a very basic understanding of Buddhist: when one is trapped by some misconception and is not aware of being trapped.

Second, my comment was more connected to some kind of "cultural studies" than to an "art study", and by this I try to make more acceptable a kind of cultural hypothesis that needed to be worked on, but that at the same time is supposed to express something others recognize. And I was referring to a perceived sense of art which only refers to itself, or that create dramas that many times seem to be infantile at best.

"Dramas" like Van Gogh's, or like Fassbinder's, are not so common. That's the point I was referring to.

I think that studying the arts and the culture from the point of view of each of the 3 poisons would be interesting: passion, aggression, ignorance. We all suffer, and may react with passion and/or aggression and/or ignorance.

Catherine Spaeth's picture

Yes, Mike. The easy equation of art to suffering can be a self-indulgent notion. This sense of a thing "asking to be made" is closer to being for another, and there is no end to that at all.

Are responses twisted around the proposition? I wonder about Carlos' statement, for example:
"ignorance of suffering usually seems to produce mediocre art…"

Jargon indeed! Without providing clear examples, this feels like a position that has been taken on the basis an ideology about the role of suffering for "true" Buddhists as the be-all and end-all of cultural value. I am not unsympathetic to the idea of how suffering might be involved in the meaning of creative life, but without concrete expression of an object or event this is closer to conjecture than to observation, and far too sweeping a statement for me.

It is Van Gogh's joy that makes me weep. Am I solipsistic if I wonder whether those who do not see this as well aren't really looking at what is in front of them?

mike's picture

Art has nothing to do with suffering. There is no intrinsic relationship. Art is art. Suffering is suffering.

Pouring cement. Waiting tables. Taking the bus. .....

If you attach, you falsely empower the attachment.

When something asks to be made, make it.

Jon Ciliberto's picture

When I hear that "artists suffer", and when I think upon my own experience as the artist, I interpret this as referring the the suffering that describes the gulf between the the inspiration or impulse of the artist, and the actual work that follows. That is, when one feels a motivation to, say, make a drawing, there is a very clear force of will, and it seems less one's own than one that pushes aside one's own will or rather carries it along as a strong river pulls and carries along a thin rivulet.

The suffering is the realization that one's mind, heart, and body are not able to carry out this force as it seems clearly to indicate itself. Working artistically lessens this suffering: one tries, makes an effort, produces something that holds something of the inspiring 'vision'. There is some contentment in this process, but any artist who is honest (who isn't delusional or convinced of his/her own genius) admits that what results is much, much less than what compelled it.

shannon's picture

I find that meditation makes me more sensitive to the way things look, and since I'm a visual artist, that can only be good. I notice visual experience more.

That said, my compulsion to make things sometimes seems, ironically, like a kind of consumerism, and meditation has made me more aware of how little I need. For example: I get a desire to make something, but then I need some supplies, and I have to go buy something. Then I reflect that nobody really needs the thing I am thinking of making, and that the supplies are kind of expensive, etc.

The solution for me is to focus on projects where I have to buy little or nothing. This usually complicates the project and makes it take longer, but sometimes that's good.

Meditation helps you simplify your life, and sometimes that means simplifying your art-making.

Carlos's picture

All of you have highlighted very interesting aspects. Personally, what first came to my mind is that from a Buddhist point of view one can say that the suffering in fact won't end. So besides raising an interesting discussion, I don't see the "danger" of the end of suffering causing the end of art.

I've heard some teachers saying that it's common to hear students complaining they were more creative before starting meditation, and maybe this has something to do with the question raised by Sam -- and with a stage/kind of meditation in which there may be some specific conception of the role of one's practice (for example, some numbness)...

Also: when I think about art coming from suffering, and Sam's examples are good ones, I have the impression that exploring suffering in depth may also bring awareness. Using a kind of Buddhist jargon, for me it seems that ignorance of suffering usually seems to produce mediocre art... Chögyam Trungpa has explored this, and once he mentioned the so-called 3 poisons: passion, aggression, ignorance, and the importance of passion and inquisitiveness for creativity, and the different meanings aggression and ignorance have for the creative process.

But Trungpa has also highlighted that even these differences in meaning are not supposed to be used as the basis for a moralistic approach, in the sense that all of them may be part of one's path.

universal law's picture

@ word play, thought play, mind play:
Thank you for clarifying your question. Good observation, that as people who practice Buddhism and help others learn about it, we "suffer" along with them. In this case, the entirety of life itself would be classified as "suffering". But as you are probably quite aware of, this is a subjective judgement. One person's "suffering" may be another's "rapture".
My point is that your life (and by extension, any artist's life) is not all pain, angst and frustration and creativity is just as likely to arise from the joys of living.

Catherine Spaeth's picture

Patrick wrote: "Part of the problem is what passes muster as art these days. The art world is very particular about what is included and what is dismissed. The trope of the suffering artist, the age of anxiety, even the “outsider” crazies are so ingrained that anything else is not considered unless it is in the past. Those Chinese sages Clare Moran writes about wouldn’t get gallery space today."

Whoah, sorry, this is way off base. In fact, the question as to whether art would die without suffering is pretty well off the map with regard to contemporary art which is generally known for its rather cool temperature (Philip Glass, hello?!). I did not go to the panel, but wonder if the notion of suffering has been added into the conversation? And if so, Sam Mowe, can you take some responsibility for thinking it belongs in the conversation and why?

Here is an excellent show in Chlesea,, in an earlier interview the artist explains:

"I am for the search, which I see as a search for meaning. Buddhism overlaps quite well with studio art because a lot of the ideas - of mindfulness, time and attention - are relevant for the state of mind essential for studio practice..."

and "When people started to refer to me as the person who made Buddhas, I felt uncomfortable. I wanted to make things that were more about getting inside of the Buddha, more about what it is like to be alive an breathing."

Pat Pendleton's picture

Interestig and meditation are both mindfulness practices. In my experience, the angst has dissipated over time. Meditation has changed my art practice and melted some of the urgency to express. Sometimes seeing and being are enough. Chogyam Trungpa commented once about the possibility that art can become a form of environmental pollution.

Cris Holanda's picture

Meditation is to deepen the roots of your suffering. Art is to deepen the roots of your suffering. Francis Bacon understands non-form of suffering and bring it to our world of form. Art (when it is really art) is a meditative process. There is no paradox.

word play, thought play, mind play's picture

@universal law - the reason I asked that question is that some traditional depictions of a bodhisattva indicate that they are postponing their personal enlightenment, or postponing the end of their own suffering until they can alleviate the suffering of all other sentient beings.. so in a sense they are suffering along with everyone else.. and their art is to help release others from it

then again, the initial line of inquiry itself begins with a premise that is untenable for a number of reasons - it is the same as asking "does a dog have buddha-nature?"

Cass's picture

Does that blank canvas or paper, that lump of clay, that sketchbook--don't they all bring up a million kinds of suffering thoughts? And is being aware of those thoughts going to change the blank canvas or paper in any way? You can unconsciously act out on the paper, or you can simply be aware of the struggle and go forward anyway. Great question, really thought provoking answers, thanks!

ray's picture

There is no end to suffering. The idea that anything can end it is deeply flawed.

universal law's picture

To "the anti-bodhisattva" re: Isnt a bodhisattva a “suffering artist”?

Not in my experience. When I'm in artist mode the main sufferings I go through are not being able to afford art supplies, finding time to paint while holding down a day job and being there for my wife and kid, pounding the pavement to snag venues for showing my work, pricing...the list goes on. But when I shift gears and go into bodhisattva mode, helping other people learn about Buddhism is simply great, immeasureable pleasure!

the anti-bodhisattva's picture

Isnt a bodhisattva a "suffering artist"? Is being a bodhisattva worth suffering for?

Patrick's picture

Part of the problem is what passes muster as art these days. The art world is very particular about what is included and what is dismissed. The trope of the suffering artist, the age of anxiety, even the "outsider" crazies are so ingrained that anything else is not considered unless it is in the past. Those Chinese sages Clare Moran writes about wouldn't get gallery space today.

Lync's picture

Art expresses life. Suffering is just one (large) bit of life. Ending suffering would not end art. Even if it would, ummm, probably not something to worry about in our lifetimes...

universal law's picture

"If Buddhists are seeking to end suffering, are they also ending art?"

Many of humankind's most beautiful and moving works of art derive from joie de vivre. Think the Mona Lisa, or Hokusai's 36 views of Mt. Fuji. It's rather disingenuous to believe that suffering is the only acceptable prerequisite for creativity.

"From a Buddhist perspective, is art worth suffering for?"

Of course not. It may be from a Judeo-Islamic-Christian perspective, though. You know...guilt, disgust of human flaws, crown of thorns, etc.

Jim Paredes's picture

You feel the pain but you are not IT. I am an artist and a meditator. I can feel all the angst and all that I need to feel to do art. And yet I know that in the end, i can move on. It's not always easy but it can be done.

masha's picture

Suffering in personal life and representing the suffering of others may go more hand-in-hand than it seems. Intense awareness of suffering keeps that suffering a part of personal experience, though it helps free an individual from defining himself by the suffering and allowing it to dictate his/her life. Meditation lessens the paralytic grip of suffering on human life, but it doesn't keep it from being a fundamental truth of human experience.
One could argue that anybody that can successfully express suffering artistically must have attained a certain detachment from that suffering, as the creative process involves the transformation of a purely personal experience into an experience that is public and separated from its creator. Meditation helps to recognize the honest truth about life and suffering, and one could argue art can only be successfully made with such honesty. Artistic merit, then, cannot be lost through awareness.

Sam Mowe's picture

@Jen, the idea that art could be a form of meditation was discussed some at the Ricard/Glass conversation, and basically what was said is that it depends on your definition of meditation (and probably art, for that matter). Ricard said that it if one were to use their art as a meditation that they could probably benefit from some time on the cushion as well. But, if I understand you correctly, I totally agree: to be completely aware of flux of reality during the moments of creative acts is a beautiful thing (if rare, speaking personally).

@Clare, thanks for the thoughts. I'd like to hear more about what you see as a relationship between awareness and art in Chinese culture.

Sam Mowe's picture

@Masha, thank you for your thoughtful comment. I think it brings up a good point re: the suffering artist archetype—that there is a difference between an artist that is suffering in his or her personal life and an artist that depicts suffering in their art. They don't necessarily go hand in hand, although it probably helps to be personally familiar with something you are going to represent.

It also makes me think that art without suffering, for the most part, is probably not a very honest representation of life (i.e. the First Noble Truth).

But what do you think about the cases where the artist is both suffering personally and putting that suffering into their art? Does that intense, personal suffering enhance the art? There is a certain kind of agitation, intense pain that can come through in art that might be lost if you're too aware of it?

Clare Morin's picture

Look at Chinese contemporary art, and you'll see Buddhist concepts driving many of the artists. Here's an nice example:

The ancient literati of China were the poets and writers and painters who trained their minds, spent time observing life and created art that was the synthesis of all of this. It was art that created imprints in the minds of its audience, and showed them the way out of suffering. I think that by looking to this ancient tradition, we can become inspired, and see that by becoming our highest potential, we are not going to be a lesser artist.

Chris Lemig's picture

There are many Buddhist meditations on the sufferings of samsara. These are intended to guide us to a deep understanding of suffering, to the renunciation of the causes of that suffering and hopefully to its ultimate cessation.

Is art that is grounded in sufffering or even just explores it really any different than that?

Problems for the mind only's picture

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it still hit the ground?

Does the boat follow the wind, or does the wind drive the boat?

wes zeigler's picture

Creativity comes from the mind, subconscious as well as conscious, and meditation provides the practice that is conducive to creativity and the activation of archetypes.

d's picture

For me, both meditation and medication end my ability to create. Experiences suddenly just fail to fascinate and drive. But it's not just lack of emotional punch. Perception of imagined patterns subsides. All automatic mechanisms that contribute to both illness and creation. Then I'm content to just let things be ordinary. It really disturbed me at first, the disorientation and loss of identity. But that was only because it was all I had known. There is generation apart from loss. Proper therapy for artists should include creative rehabilitation. It took awhile for me to relearn it on my own. We shouldn't encourage people to remain with disfiguring pain because its visualizations are interesting tchotchkes.

bubba's picture

I agree with masha that the suffering does not end. It is the perceptions and attachments that are changed. I would suggest that painting and even writing can only be done with a pointed focus of the artist's/writer's attention. Is not, then, painting and writing a crude form of meditation? Many artists are also acutely in touch with the suffering of others as much as their own. Think of the murals of Diego Rivera or The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.

Jen's picture

I find art to be my main vehicle into meditation. The process of expressing yourself allows you to fully be in the present moment. I believe in the healing powers of art therapy which greatly coincide with meditation.

masha's picture

I think there may be different ways to interpret the observation that creativity comes from the awareness cultivated through meditation. Even if meditation is primarily a means to lessen suffering, the awareness it cultivates includes a more clear perspective on the nature of suffering and how pervasive it is. The meditator becomes more aware of suffering, not less; no wonder the cultivation of compassion is also integral to his practice. Perhaps the melancholy art of the 'suffering artist' is not so much about the artists' own pain, but about the pain he or she perceives in the world. In that case, meditation would only support the creation of art that recognizes and explores that pain.