Dharma Ink, Buddhist Tattoos

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Re: Dharma Ink, Buddhist Tattoos

Postby Jikan » Tue Sep 24, 2013 2:21 pm

Met a fellow just a few weeks back who had his Dharma name tattooed to his right arm. He said he did this on the occasion he took the bodhisattva vows.
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Re: Dharma Ink, Buddhist Tattoos

Postby Jikan » Tue Sep 24, 2013 2:30 pm

This topic came up in conversation years ago between my teacher, Monshin sensei, and some of my sangha-mates (one of whom was considering getting some of his pre-Dharma tattoos lasered off). Monshin had an interesting perspective on this that, to me, shows just how culture-bound this question of tattooing can be.

In Japan, tattoos are regarded generally as a Yakuza thing, *still.* in North America and Europe, they're everywhere, your stepmom probably has one, but in Japan, it's still an edgy phenomenon with social connotations that Buddhists generally don't want to be associated with. Example: there was a corruption story in the news regarding one Buddhist school. The image on the screen behind the TV news reader was of a pair of tattooed arms holding Buddhist stuff (juzu beads or something). Simple message: if you want to represent corruption of the Dharma, just put some tattoo ink on it. That's one aspect.

There's another. If, say, you turned up at a Japanese temple with a mantra inked to your arm, or an image of a Buddha, what might others in the temple think? Many things, if they bother to think about it. One thought is that the practitioner is likely not serious. Why would a serious practitioner need a reminder like that? What is he or she trying to show?
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Re: Tantric Tattoos

Postby Malcolm » Tue Sep 24, 2013 2:37 pm

Karma Jinpa wrote:
Malcolm wrote:HH Dagchen Rinpoche used to have a Swastika tatooed on the back of his left hand above his thumb. When he arrived here in the US, people freaked out so he had it covered with a bird.


Would this happen to be HH Jigdral Dagchen Rinpoche, the high lama in Sakya who consecrated the Tibet Tech prayer wheels? :mrgreen:



Yes. He still has an eternal knot on the same place on his right hand.
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Re: Dharma Ink, Buddhist Tattoos

Postby Karma Jinpa » Tue Sep 24, 2013 2:40 pm

Jikan wrote:Met a fellow just a few weeks back who had his Dharma name tattooed to his right arm. He said he did this on the occasion he took the bodhisattva vows.


This brings up something I hadn't really considered before, but which is worth asking.

Do practitioners of the Chinese & Japanese forms of Buddhism who get tattoos choose to get their ink in the traditional Hanzi & Kanji scripts? If so, unfortunately they're running the risk of being lumped in with all those who've no idea what their ink means but picked it because "it looked cool."

Personally, I'd never get something done in a script I can't read. And unless I'm behind the times, Tibetan scripts like U-chen aren't suffering from the same misuse by people trying to be trendy. There are a few places online which are actually quite specific in where it is appropriate to place their ink, and give you both the translation and a hi-res copy of the script to be tattooed to ensure that it's inked properly.

This one happens to be run by a calligrapher and former Karma Kagyu monk, Tashi Mannox: https://www.inkessential.com/
"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, it happens that a common corpse is found in the bed of a great scholar." ~ Karma Chagme

དྲིན་ཆེན་རྗེ་བཙུན་བླ་མ་རཱ་ག་ཨ་སྱ་མཁྱེན་ནོ།
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Re: Tantric Tattoos

Postby Karma Jinpa » Tue Sep 24, 2013 2:46 pm

Any idea if he got these pre- or post-Chinese invasion, before or after going into exile? Not that it really matters, simply curious.

By the by, I've heard the eternal knot referred to as the Tibetan form of the swastika. Does anyone know if that is accurate, or is it just a bunch of hokum?
"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, it happens that a common corpse is found in the bed of a great scholar." ~ Karma Chagme

དྲིན་ཆེན་རྗེ་བཙུན་བླ་མ་རཱ་ག་ཨ་སྱ་མཁྱེན་ནོ།
ཀརྨ་པ་མཁྱེན་ནོ།


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Re: Dharma Ink, Buddhist Tattoos

Postby Jikan » Tue Sep 24, 2013 2:49 pm

Karma Jinpa wrote:
Jikan wrote:Met a fellow just a few weeks back who had his Dharma name tattooed to his right arm. He said he did this on the occasion he took the bodhisattva vows.


This brings up something I hadn't really considered before, but which is worth asking.

Do practitioners of the Chinese & Japanese forms of Buddhism who get tattoos choose to get their ink in the traditional Hanzi & Kanji scripts? If so, unfortunately they're running the risk of being lumped in with all those who've no idea what their ink means but picked it because "it looked cool."

Personally, I'd never get something done in a script I can't read. And unless I'm behind the times, Tibetan scripts like U-chen aren't suffering from the same misuse by people trying to be trendy. There are a few places online which are actually quite specific in where it is appropriate to place their ink, and give you both the translation and a hi-res copy of the script to be tattooed to ensure that it's inked properly.

This one happens to be run by a calligrapher and former Karma Kagyu monk, Tashi Mannox: https://www.inkessential.com/


I don't know, because I've seen very, very few such tattoos. I've seen one person with this image tattooed to his leg (he had a big leg):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gohonzon

Meanwhile, here's what the author of the Visible Mantra page (primarily about Siddham calligraphy) has to say on the topic of tattoos... much of it entertaining (scroll down for more substantive stuff)

http://www.visiblemantra.org/labels/Tattoo.html
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Re: Tantric Tattoos

Postby Malcolm » Tue Sep 24, 2013 4:47 pm

Karma Jinpa wrote:Any idea if he got these pre- or post-Chinese invasion, before or after going into exile? Not that it really matters, simply curious.

By the by, I've heard the eternal knot referred to as the Tibetan form of the swastika. Does anyone know if that is accurate, or is it just a bunch of hokum?


In the fifties, I assume, when he was mainly in Derge studying with Jamyang Khentse Chokyi Lodo.

Hokum.

Swastikas are called gyung drung in Tibetan, as in gyung drung bon. Eternal knots are called dpal be'u. dPal be'u is a translation of śrivatsa.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Dharma Ink, Buddhist Tattoos

Postby Boris » Fri Aug 15, 2014 7:23 pm

Could the Liberaton upon seeing script be used by anyone and produce its function, or does it need empowering/some level of realization in order for it to create a cause for getting on the path? Or has the treasure discoverer instructed that it is blessed for free dissemination by anyone?

Also, should it be seen in detail, or for example a smaller version that is not so clear can also produce the function, i.e. the blessing is simply stumbling upon the image?
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Re: Dharma Ink, Buddhist Tattoos

Postby asunthatneversets » Fri Aug 15, 2014 9:42 pm

I did a short lived tattoo apprenticeship for awhile (right around the time I became interested in the buddhadharma) and I remember a man came in for an appointment with my teacher one day, and the piece they were working on was Dza Rahula. I distinctly recall the bow and arrow, the nine heads, four arms and the eyes all over Rahula's body. It was a beautiful tattoo. About a month later I learned of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu's teachings.
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Re: Dharma Ink, Buddhist Tattoos

Postby Jikan » Sat Aug 16, 2014 7:13 pm

Boris wrote:Could the Liberaton upon seeing script be used by anyone and produce its function, or does it need empowering/some level of realization in order for it to create a cause for getting on the path? Or has the treasure discoverer instructed that it is blessed for free dissemination by anyone?

Also, should it be seen in detail, or for example a smaller version that is not so clear can also produce the function, i.e. the blessing is simply stumbling upon the image?


This could be relevant to you:

http://danzanravjaa.typepad.com/my_webl ... t_two.html
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Re: Dharma Ink, Buddhist Tattoos

Postby Gyurme Kundrol » Wed Aug 20, 2014 7:01 pm

I think you could get a tattoo and make it all about Dharma, but few people are willing to put in that level of effort. This is just my own opinion of course, Im no authority on anything but this is what I would do if I got a Dharma tattoo. Im considering getting one which is why Ive thought this all through.

First you should do it out of Bodhicitta, that you sincerely wish to attain supreme enlightenment in order to bring ultimate benefit to others.

Second you should find an artist who is a Dharma practitioner and will give you the tattoo out of Bodhicitta as well.

Thirdly the tattoo should be done on an auspicious day. If its going to take multiple sessions then they should all be done on these days only.

Fourthly the cost should be divided among these auspicious days so that each payment is an auspicious number. For example, $108 per session done over three (for the triple gem) or four (noble truths) sessions. Whatever the cost or number of sessions, it should all happen on auspicious days and be of auspicious numbers.

Fifth there is the money itself. A portion of it should be donated by the artist to a Dharma cause, or the artist should be willing to give a discount (like %10) or to forego their tip, and that this money will go towards a Dharma cause. Another possibility is a commitment to donate an amount equal to the cost of the tattoo for example, even if only a bit at a time as you are able. So if you spend $500 on a tattoo, you commit to give $500 to Dharma causes in the future.

Sixth you should begin each session with opening prayers and conclude with the dedication of merit, the artist should be willing to at least sit in on this if not participate.

Seventh you should recite a mantra or do a visualization or contemplation associated with Dharma while getting the tattoo. A tattoo of Manjushri for example is an obvious one, reciting OM A RA PA TSA NA DHIH while getting the tattoo done. If possible the artist should do this too, but if its distracting then there is no need since you dont want mistakes to be made! Furthermore if music is playing in the shop it should be Dharma songs/mantras/instruments and not just ordinary music like hip hop or heavy metal.

Eighth in regards to pain and blood, there are easily contemplations you can do for these. If you cannot maintain the view of equality and emptiness while getting tattooed, then you should think that since you can barely stand this pain now, so how will you stand the pain of the hell realms if you don't achieve enlightenment? Since that pain is much worse and lasts many times longer, you should contemplate in this way and consider the four thoughts that turn the mind from Samsara. As for blood there are two approaches you can take. One is that you can imagine that the loss of blood is the loss of negativity, and the receiving of ink is receiving the nectar of purification. At this time you could do Vajrasattva for example. Another method would be to see the blood as an offering to the beings of the lower realm, and the pain as self sacrifice for the benefit of these same beings who otherwise could not receive sustenance without your sacrifice, willingly offered out of love and compassion for them and the wish for them to attain liberation from their miserable state.

Ninth you should wish that every being who sees this tattoo will be inspired to practice Dharma and be liberated thereby.

And finally you should think that whatever the theme of the tattoo is, that you perfectly and completely receive its blessings and realize its ultimate meaning. That the accomplishment which it represents, whatever it might be, enters your mindstream fully and purifies all your negativities.

However most people wont go to this extent. Yet this is one example of how something ordinary and worldly can be turned into practice.

Most will get a tattoo because they think its cool, out of attachment to the idea. Possibly they will have a little faith that the tattoo will bring some blessing but because they put in so little effort, the result will also be little. Rather than doing mantra they will think ordinary things, rather than using the pain as practice they will just wish it would end. Rather than seeing it with pure view, its just very ordinary most of the time. Literally every time I see someone with Tibetan tattoos I find out they have little to no interest in Dharma, know next to nothing about Vajrayana, and barely understand the meaning of what they have. Some of them even have forgot what the meaning was or have no idea how to pronounce the word or what it says.

If on the other hand someone puts forth this much effort and really cares about the result, I see no reason why getting a Tattoo could not only be the cause for receiving blessings, but even possibly liberation itself. Its really on the practitioner to transform their actions and life into Dharma or not. Individual actions are neither good nor bad in themselves, its our intention and skillful means when performing them that will determine if it brings benefit to ourselves and others or not. The methods and ways of Vajrayana are inconceivably vast, being as numberless as there are phenomenal appearances in all of existence. Nothing is beyond its scope, but whether or not we transform our ordinary actions into practice depends upon us.
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