Tintin and Captain Haddock are Buddhist!

Via on Dec 22, 2009

This just in! Tintin and Captain Haddock, my childhood idols (okay, I’m still rererereading Tintin comic books) like to meditate!  Click below for link (we have no idea no idea none what this comic is about, but neither do we have any solid handle on Buddhism, or meditation, so hey). Here’s an interpretation via a sangha friend:

Dear Nick,

Thanks for your interpretation of the anonymous TinTin cartoon, copy attached; it drags me out of my lethargy to offer my own view.  Frame by frame:

FRAME 1
From the famous TinTin cartoon series drawn by the Belgian artist Herge (long dead), we find his title character TinTin accompanied by his sidekick Captain Haddock, in the present (a pastoral setting) now with white hair, obviously wizened, but still on the road.  TinTin’s faithful terrier “Snowy” is gone (likely from old age), but his dog dish has become the iconic begging bowl of renunciates.The ground for their meditation is the prajnaparamita mantra of the Heart Sutra.

FRAME 2
Their meditation is popped by something surprising to their left.

FRAME 3
A panoramic view evokes a rural Nova Scotia scene inexplicably invaded by an outlandish procession preceded by a flashing police car, and equestrians, military, a band, a limousine, busses, ultimately a hot-air balloon.  A handful of surprised locals turn out to watch what’s coming their way.

FRAME 4
The focus of the parade is an exotic royal couple, pretty obviously the current Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo, riding on a ceremonial elephant.  They are surrounded by kasung marching with banners, playing pipes and drums.  He is waving from his canopied howdah; she is throwing flowers.  Their mahout is androgynous.  A helicopter with news cameras hovers.

FRAME 5
The end of the parade passes with as much pomp and frivolity as it began, with a last limo followed by a white horse ridden by the former Sakyong Wangmo (?) in dressage costume.  She is accompanied by exotically-mounted soldiery with a bugler.  All of the parade’s dust has assaulted the nostrils of Haddock and TinTin.

FRAME 6
The entire Fellini-like parade has left Captain Haddock tearing his hair in apparent frustration, with his face buried in the grass.  TinTin asks him something not recorded in the empty (except for a question mark) caption box, suggesting the cartoonist has left space inviting readers to fill it in when they have penetrated the riddle.

My own caption choice would be:”I understand how you feel, but how can we help?”  or something like that.  And if I was this cartoonist’s art director, the elephant-driver would be [Shambhala Int'l President] Richard Reoch, and at the end of the procession I would have inserted staff in business suits, with huge begging bowls, much bigger than Snowy’s, hustling the meditators to finance the cost of the extravaganza.

As to the identity of the artist, it would not surprise me to learn that she, he, or they were commissioned by Barbara Blouin to illustrate her sharp examination of the Shambhala court’s current affairs.  (Nov.26 www.radiofreeshambhala.org).

Yours, with gratitude, Dan Taylor.

Click cartoon below for full series.

tintin buddhist

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5 Responses to “Tintin and Captain Haddock are Buddhist!”

  1. more via the Shambhala Sangha:
    Dear Friends,

    We are appreciative of your many responses to our question about the attached cartoon for which we can find no explanation, excepting for all of the letters that you have sent to us. We return our full thanks for these interpretations. We have been asked to post them, and we have done that, to follow, leaving out the personal addresses from respect. This is to all of you. It is a big surprise to us that everybody who has written a message to us does not seem to know any more about it than we do, but on suggestion we have asked Shambhala International about it, supposing they must know. We will post this response when it comes, and maybe finally settles these speculative opinions following. Some of you talk about people who we don't know, and is all the more confusing to us, although we are grateful for anything about it, and everything is helpful in our condition of confusion.

    Hello, Gordi and Lyske. Do you mean the first box? That's the Heart Sutra mantra. Maybe the artist meant to convey that reciting the Heart Sutra mantra resulted in all of these merry visitors arriving?

    Is this from a Tin Tin book?

    I suspect you are teasing your North American cousins a bit. Herge was French, n'est-ce pas?

    In any case, it's a very clever cartoon. Here's my exegesis:

    Captain Haddock and Tin Tin have grown old gracefully, retired to the country and taken up the practice of Buddhism. Their meditation on complete liberation is interrupted when the parade of samsara in its full display comes to their doorstep. Haddock is abashed; Tin Tin in the final panel reminds him that samsara and nirvana are not two.

    Thanks for posting the cartoon!

    I just remembered: Herge was Belgian — my apologies.

    Hello friends,
    I am at Denver Shambhala Center. To me, it is only about the mind and our distraction, even when it is the ancient ever present Shambhala community, all dressed up, like so many of our other thoughts which take us on a ride and away from our seat during practice.
    (like this run on sentence) They catch themselves in the last scene. Only my take.

    Mindfully,

    -
    wow – it looks as though something is missing in the last dialog panel. please be sure to let us know if you find out, ok?
    cheers.

    -

    Extraordinary. Are you sure this is samsara that is evoked by the mantra that so explicitly goes beyond?
    Following the police escort, a load of kasung, one seemingly riding on an ostrich, banners, drums and what looks like Lady Diana on a white horse behind the limo, and the Sakyong and Sakyong Wangmo riding on an elephant. Householders come out and greet them.

    Ah well, clearly one person’s samsara is another person’s enlightened society. Indeed samsara and nirvana are not two.

    -

    Gordi and Lyske,
    I don't know for sure. My take is that they are siting there with nothing on the side of the road with a begging bowl between them. They are practicing simultaneously and manifesting the same opulence. Then it all disappears because one of them with the grey hair stopped believing or imagining. He could only see it so great then couldn't have it sustain. With love,

    -
    Did you get a good answer? I am also curious. Thank you for sharing.

    -

    umm….
    I don't know anything about a captain or Tin Tin, but that man is, without a doubt, Jon Ohm of SMC.

    -
    Reminds me of a cartoon by R. Crumb.

    Mister Natural goes to meditate in the desert. Nothing anywhere around, throws out his blanket and begins. Slowly an entire world builds around him. First someone walks by with plans in their hands. Then you see surveyors measuring things out. Then you see a road get built, houses, buildings being built, shops being opened. Then all kinds of people walking by: businessmen, mothers, kids, hippies, drugs dealers, pimps and bodacious women (R. Crumb signature characters). Finally a uniformed policeman comes up to Mister Natural, taps him on the shoulder and says "Hey buddy, no loitering, you have to move along, you can't just sit in the middle of the road, ya bum!"

    Mister Natural, without even glancing up, no hint of irritation or aggression, inhales deeply and then chants a long "OOOoooooooommmm" and the entire world built up around him crumbles back into nothing. He finds himself once again in the open desert, folds up his blanket, gets up and walk off the page.

    In this cartoon, both characters look to be a bit less in control than Moster Natural, a little more uncertain, nonplussed or chagrined about what they just witnessed (real or otherwise) but I somehow suspect the two cartoons are in some unspecific but significant way related.

    Maybe encounters with sunyathata?

    It's so hard to grok non-verbal teachings if you weren't actually there….

  2. Reminds me of a cartoon by R. Crumb.

    Mister Natural goes to meditate in the desert. Nothing anywhere around, throws out his blanket and begins. Slowly an entire world builds around him. First someone walks by with plans in their hands. Then you see surveyors measuring things out. Then you see a road get built, houses, buildings being built, shops being opened. Then all kinds of people walking by: businessmen, mothers, kids, hippies, drugs dealers, pimps and bodacious women (R. Crumb signature characters). Finally a uniformed policeman comes up to Mister Natural, taps him on the shoulder and says "Hey buddy, no loitering, you have to move along, you can't just sit in the middle of the road, ya bum!"

    Mister Natural, without even glancing up, no hint of irritation or aggression, inhales deeply and then chants a long "OOOoooooooommmm" and the entire world built up around him crumbles back into nothing. He finds himself once again in the open desert, folds up his blanket, gets up and walk off the page.

    In this cartoon, both characters look to be a bit less in control than Moster Natural, a little more uncertain, nonplussed or chagrined about what they just witnessed (real or otherwise) but I somehow suspect the two cartoons are in some unspecific but significant way related.

    Maybe encounters with sunyathata?

    It's so hard to grok non-verbal teachings if you weren't actually there….

    -

    Hi,

    I had a look at the posting. It looks like a play on the Tintin Series of cartoons by Hergé. Tintin (on the right) and Captain Haddock
    (on the left) are reciting the mantra from the Heart Sutra, which concerns emptiness. Their meditation is disturbed by a large parade that is anything but “empty” – much fanfare, many people and a revered “lama” (may be hinting at the Karmapa, here). In the end, I think they are confused and can’t see how the two work together – emptiness and such a manifestation (the parade).

    Don’t know if this helps, but that’s what I got from the cartoon.

    Cheers,

    -

    These characters are from the TinTin comic books…probably TinTin in Tibet. My children and I used to read them quite a lot, as did the Vidyadhara. Perhaps you could find the book online. Or maybe an artist made up her/his own cartoon in the TinTin style. What I see is that the TinTin (character on the right) and the other character whose name I cannot remember but I think he’s a sea captain had their meditation disturbed by a royal wedding procession (perhaps representing samsara), and we’re being asked to fill in the blank.

    If I find my copy of TinTin in Tibet, I will let you know what I find out.

  3. -

    Thank you for forwarding the cartoon. I enjoyed it very much. The cartoon seems to be poking fun at the elaborate processions and rituals that accompany the Sakyong, as Shambhala king, and contrasting it with the quiet meditation practice that is at the heart of Buddhism.

    -

    Yes, it seems a bit cryptic to me, as well. Great drawing/cartooning, though. All I get is something about appearances and emptiness, but not sure what
    the last frame indicates, exactly. I wonder if it has something to do with "Enlightened Society", the Shambhala mandala, and all of it being appearance-emptiness …?

    If you got some helpful insights from others, I would like to read what they have sent in response to your query.

    Thank you,

    -

    Well, let's see what the visuals say.

    First frame: You've got two guys who look like father and son sitting in meditation by a dirt road. They are wearing loose clothing and what look like Birkinstock sandals, all of which is usally code for "out-of-date hippie." The older man also has a beard which adds to that designation. They are alone with a barn and a country scene in the background.

    They are praciticing the prajnaparamita mantra from the Heart Sutra, which may signify that their main practice is sitting meditation and, more generally, the mahayana. They have a bowl in front of them, which may mean that they are engaged in the sutrayana practice of begging for their sustenance as well. All of this is code for a practice based in renunciation. In the context of what follows, it may also be code for "out-of-date hippies" as well.

    Second frame: mantra practice vanishes with a pop and attention turns to something to the two characters' left.

    Third frame: The scene shifts to what is across the road from the father and son. It shows a house nearby, other houses, and a lake. The road extends into the distance and is full of a large parade of people, cars, horses, busses, and an elephant. The parade is passing the two men and approaching the nearby house, where people are waving in welcome. The two men look puzzled.

    Fourth frame: The elephant passes close by carrying two royal figures who look very much like the Sakyong and the Sakyong Wangmo, with the latter scattering flowers. People who look like kasung are marching on either side, along with a bagpiper.

    Fifth frame: The parade passes by the father and son, leaving them in a cloud of dust, covering their noses.

    Sixth frame: Background returns to frames one and two. The father is seen crouched down, covering his head. The son gestures in the direction from which the parade came, looking toward his father with an empty dialog balloon containing just a question mark.

    If this cartoon is really from someone at Shambhala International, then I would suggest that the father is an old Trungpa Rinpoche student who has devoted his life to meditation but really doesn't understand what he is doing. The son is a young practitioner who has been taught by the father and so also does not understand. I say this because of the way their mantra disappears with a pop in the second frame. The parade is the current activity of Shambhala, full of color and sound and activity, being welcomed into a home full of happy people. It passes by the father and son and leaves them in the dust. This causes the old Trungpa Rinpoche student to to collapse in a fetal position and leave the student/son with nothing.

    Any questions? There should not be–this view of the situation is very, very old news. Who drew this cartoon?

    -

    Hello,
    This appears to be a page from one of the books of the Tintin series. I thought it was probably from "Tintin in Tibet", but I just looked at my son's copy and it is not from that one. I do not recall seeing this page. My son has every single Tintin book ever printed. There are about 25 as I recall. I am not inclined to scan every page of every book right now. If it is NOT from a Tintin book, it is a very good imitation!

    -
    To clear up and exacerbate mystery, you might want to look at Wikipedia's entry on Tintin in Tibet to reference the characters of Tin Tin and Capt. Haddock:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tintin_in_Tibet

    From that entry (under "awards" near the bottom): "On June 1, 2006, Tintin became the first fictional character to be awarded the Dalai Lama's Truth of Light award. “For many people around the world Tintin in Tibet was their first introduction to Tibet, the beauty of its landscape and its culture…"

    peace,

    • John Pappas John says:

      cont…

      Panel #1 – Stilness, single-pointed focus
      Panel #2 – The first rising of perception of phenomenon.
      Panel #3 – Observation of the scale of phenonmenon.
      Panel #4 – Observation of cause of phenonmenon.
      Panel #5 – Aversion reaction or judgement of phenomenon.
      Panel #6 – Observation of the effect of the passing phenomenon. The last panel should probably read, "Why did that event disturb our stillness?"

      Cheers,
      John
      http://www.zendirtzendust.com

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