Dharma Ink, Buddhist Tattoos

General forum on the teachings of all schools of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. Topics specific to one school are best posted in the appropriate sub-forum.
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Palzang Jangchub
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Tantric Tattoos

Postby Palzang Jangchub » Tue Sep 24, 2013 2:09 am

Wondering what various people have heard or experienced regarding Vajrayana subject matter as body art.

I've had different responses depending on the lama I asked... Most Karma Kagyu I'm in contact with have seemed to be ok with the idea as long as my motivation is pure. One Drikungpa said it was ok, but not necessary. Another Drikungpa said it is never ok to purposely harm one's body, and that I should do 1 million Tara mantras instead.

A translator friend warned that getting such tattoos opens one up for harm by demons, specifically those very hostile to the Dharma. Basically it puts a bullseye on ya.

What have you folks heard?
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"The Sutras, Tantras, and Philosophical Scriptures are great in number. However life is short, and intelligence is limited, so it's hard to cover them completely. You may know a lot, but if you don't put it into practice, it's like dying of thirst on the shore of a great lake. Likewise, a common corpse is found in the bed of a great scholar." ~ Karma Chagme


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Johnny Dangerous
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Re: Dharma Ink, Buddhist Tattoos

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Sep 24, 2013 3:12 am

I keep wondering the same, I have some old ones I want to convert.
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Re: Tantric Tattoos

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Sep 24, 2013 3:29 am

Your skin is temporary. But if you give the money that you would spend on a tattoo to a worthy cause, or a dharma-supporting project, the mark will go much deeper, the imprint will last much longer, you will never get tired of it or wish to have it removed, and you will bring more benefit yourself and others.
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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.

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Re: Tantric Tattoos

Postby Palzang Jangchub » Tue Sep 24, 2013 3:36 am

Image

"The Sutras, Tantras, and Philosophical Scriptures are great in number. However life is short, and intelligence is limited, so it's hard to cover them completely. You may know a lot, but if you don't put it into practice, it's like dying of thirst on the shore of a great lake. Likewise, a common corpse is found in the bed of a great scholar." ~ Karma Chagme


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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Dharma Ink, Buddhist Tattoos

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Sep 24, 2013 3:36 am

I posted a response to this question you posted elsewhere.
In addition to that reply, there is something to consider:
It is either an expression attachment to the body, or of non attachment .
So, you should give that some thought.
If it is an expression of non attachment
then why do it?
If it is an expression of attachment
then is it conducive to dharma practice?
:shrug:
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Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.

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Re: Dharma Ink, Buddhist Tattoos

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Sep 24, 2013 3:39 am

"it must be coming from the mouthy mastermind of raunchy rapper, Johnny Dangerous”

-Jeff H.

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Re: Tantric Tattoos

Postby Palzang Jangchub » Tue Sep 24, 2013 3:48 am

Image

"The Sutras, Tantras, and Philosophical Scriptures are great in number. However life is short, and intelligence is limited, so it's hard to cover them completely. You may know a lot, but if you don't put it into practice, it's like dying of thirst on the shore of a great lake. Likewise, a common corpse is found in the bed of a great scholar." ~ Karma Chagme


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Re: Dharma Ink, Buddhist Tattoos

Postby Palzang Jangchub » Tue Sep 24, 2013 3:57 am

Both of you raise good points. Should we look at this question from the ultimate level and strive to get as close as possible to the ideal of non-attachment?

Or should we deal with this on a more relative level, seeing it as skillful means to an end? After all, we do discard this body after this life, so it's not like tattoos are any more permanent than the body itself.

Don't have the answer. Wish I did.
Image

"The Sutras, Tantras, and Philosophical Scriptures are great in number. However life is short, and intelligence is limited, so it's hard to cover them completely. You may know a lot, but if you don't put it into practice, it's like dying of thirst on the shore of a great lake. Likewise, a common corpse is found in the bed of a great scholar." ~ Karma Chagme


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Re: Dharma Ink, Buddhist Tattoos

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Sep 24, 2013 3:59 am

Personally I have no issues with using my crass desires for cool looking stuff to better ends, it's really not much different than spending a ton of time putting together my altar. Still, this has prompted me to ask my teachers and see what they say.

The money argument could be made about any Dharma trapping really.
Last edited by Johnny Dangerous on Tue Sep 24, 2013 4:11 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Dharma Ink, Buddhist Tattoos

Postby Palzang Jangchub » Tue Sep 24, 2013 4:02 am

Image

"The Sutras, Tantras, and Philosophical Scriptures are great in number. However life is short, and intelligence is limited, so it's hard to cover them completely. You may know a lot, but if you don't put it into practice, it's like dying of thirst on the shore of a great lake. Likewise, a common corpse is found in the bed of a great scholar." ~ Karma Chagme


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Re: Tantric Tattoos

Postby ngodrup » Tue Sep 24, 2013 4:18 am

My precious Root Lama, who was born, raised and completed
his training and practice in Old Tibet-- was also very traditional,
to say the least. This very old school Nyingma yogi had a very
small tattoo, clearly visible to anybody who looked close enough--
a swastika. So we cannot say that it was not done.

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Re: Dharma Ink, Buddhist Tattoos

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Sep 24, 2013 4:19 am

Just look up tatoos of the six syllable mantra, there are a ton on Google images alone..i'm almost surprised i've never seen one in person since I live in alterna-hippy land.

Last time I looked I saw a mani wheel tramp stamp lol. I wonder what our Lamas would think about that.
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Re: Dharma Ink, Buddhist Tattoos

Postby shaunc » Tue Sep 24, 2013 5:07 am

I believe it's fairly common in the Theravada traditions. I once met a boxer from Burma, he told me that it's no different than jewellery, essentially a lucky charm ( for want of a better word ). As a boxer he couldn't wear jewellery when he was fighting & he felt that when he was fighting was when he'd need the most luck. He boasted to me that it worked because he'd never been seriously hurt & never seriously hurt one of his opponents either.

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Palzang Jangchub
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Re: Tantric Tattoos

Postby Palzang Jangchub » Tue Sep 24, 2013 6:57 am

Image

"The Sutras, Tantras, and Philosophical Scriptures are great in number. However life is short, and intelligence is limited, so it's hard to cover them completely. You may know a lot, but if you don't put it into practice, it's like dying of thirst on the shore of a great lake. Likewise, a common corpse is found in the bed of a great scholar." ~ Karma Chagme


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Re: Dharma Ink, Buddhist Tattoos

Postby Konchog1 » Tue Sep 24, 2013 7:01 am

Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats

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Re: Dharma Ink, Buddhist Tattoos

Postby plwk » Tue Sep 24, 2013 8:08 am

Image

That image of as above comes from an old story compilation, an anthology of Japanese ghost lore, where it featured a practice of the two Zen priests tattooing the entire Heart Sutra in Kanji with the siddham syllable 'A' with ink as protection for the young & blind Hoichi who gets spellbound and escorted on a nightly basis by a preta samurai to perform his excellent musical recital of past war tales for a group of dead royalty and war heroes pretas in a nearby charnel ground but one of the Zen priests forgot to include his ears and when the preta samurai came by that night as usual, he did not see Hoichi as the young lad was rendered invisible by the Sutra tattoo save for 2 ears sticking out and decidedly would not return back empty handed and ripped off the visible ears as 'evidence' to report on the disappearance of the beloved talented performer to his dead superiors.

I was totally fascinated by this story and even entertained the idea of tattooing my entire body save for the head and certain visible parts with the Shorter Amitabha Sutra in traditional Chinese characters and the siddham syllable of 'HRIH' but I am such a coward when in comes to pain...
:tongue:

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Re: Dharma Ink, Buddhist Tattoos

Postby namoh » Tue Sep 24, 2013 8:32 am

Jinpa la,
Like you, I have heard the entire spectrum of responses from 'not a big deal' to 'end of the world'. As far as I can tell, most of the reasoning against tattoos stems from either one interpretation of the samaya to not harm the body, or from Tibetan cultural ideas. A Tibetan doctor once told me that it is believed that your lama will not be able to perform phowa for you if you have tattoos, upon your death.

All that having been said, I asked Mingyur Rinpoche about this years ago, and he told me that if indeed tattoos did create some kind of obscuration, it would be minor. Specifically he said if we were serious in our practice, that said obscurations would dissolve like tiny clouds being burned off by the sun.

That was good enough for me. I'm hesitant to believe there's any virtue in getting tattooed, but I suspect it's far from the end of the world.
Hopefully something in there was helpful to you.

(speaking as someone somewhat covered in Dharma tattoos)

namoh

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Malcolm
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Re: Tantric Tattoos

Postby Malcolm » Tue Sep 24, 2013 1:49 pm





འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


Free of hope and fear, relax.
Human life spent in
a state of great spaciousness is enjoyable.


— Kunzang Dechen Lingpa

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Malcolm
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Re: Tantric Tattoos

Postby Malcolm » Tue Sep 24, 2013 1:50 pm





འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


Free of hope and fear, relax.
Human life spent in
a state of great spaciousness is enjoyable.


— Kunzang Dechen Lingpa

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Palzang Jangchub
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Re: Tantric Tattoos

Postby Palzang Jangchub » Tue Sep 24, 2013 2:06 pm

Image

"The Sutras, Tantras, and Philosophical Scriptures are great in number. However life is short, and intelligence is limited, so it's hard to cover them completely. You may know a lot, but if you don't put it into practice, it's like dying of thirst on the shore of a great lake. Likewise, a common corpse is found in the bed of a great scholar." ~ Karma Chagme



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