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175 Buddha Tattoo Designs: Taking Buddhism To The Next Level!

Buddha is widely known in a lot of cultures. In fact, he is no longer just famous in Asian countries but also in the west especially now that meditation is fast becoming a form of mindfulness and exercise. Although not a lot of Western people have Buddhist tattoos or images of Buddha in their households, a great number of people in Asian cultures are devout to the lessons of Buddha.

Who is Buddha?

In the introduction alone, Buddha’s name has been mentioned a lot of times. But who is he? Is he a god?

The short answer is no, Buddha is not a god. Buddha isn’t God either. Buddha is a spiritual leader who was born in Nepal in the 6th century B.C. He was born with the name Siddhartha Gautama among tribesmen with his mother dying seven days after he was born. In spite of the unfortunate event that dawned his birth, a prophecy was built around Siddhartha. According to this prophecy, the young boy would either become a great ruler or a spiritual leader. You probably know that it was the latter.

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Buddha And Suffering

The young Siddhartha’s father was a tribe leader and his tribe was very economically challenged. Because of that, his father resolved to lock up his son in order to shield him away from suffering. However, when Siddhartha turned 20 years old, he ventured out of his chamber and this was when he was met face-to-face with human suffering.

When he turned 29, Siddhartha left his wife, family, and tribe in order to learn more about human suffering and to find a way to end it. This was the start of living an ascetic life.

How Siddhartha Became Buddha

During his ascetic life, Siddhartha ventured to learn more about the world – love, hope, faith, and religion. He learned the ways of meditation and prayer and he has met a lot of spiritual leaders along the way. He was strict about discipline and he lived his life with just the bare minimum.

Until one day, a young girl offered him a bowl of rice. With this act, Siddhartha realized that living an ascetic life was not the way to free himself of human suffering. Human life was also filled with beauty and enjoyment and living among these was not necessarily bad. This was when the concept of “balance” started.

Not long after, Siddharta started his meditations. These meditations are different from the others because this was when he thought about his life and what has transpired. He was also purifying his mind in the process while overcoming the demon Mara who tempted to break his meditation. However, Siddhartha was able to combat him and with that, he learned the answer to why humans suffer. Siddhartha then became Buddha which means “he who is awake” or in common words, “the enlightened one”.

       

The Teachings of Buddha

The Teachings of Buddha are famous among people who follow him. What’s great about his teachings is that they are grounded on what is realistic. Other religions will argue that Buddhist teachings are cynical, but it is not, and that’s what makes it a great reminder for people who want to understand human suffering even more. The Four Noble Truths, the pillars of Buddha’s teachings are enumerated below.

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The Four Noble Truths

  1. The truth of suffering

The truth of suffering goes deeper than meets the eye. Yes, there is death, illness, and old age, but apart from those things, there is also the human reality called dissatisfaction. Humans are rarely satisfied and even when they live a joyful life, the joy is only temporary or even shallow.

  1. The truth of the cause of suffering

Buddha identified the main cause of human suffering and it is desire. However, desire comes in many forms and it is not always bad. But among the negative forms of desire, there are three that cause human suffering. These are greed, ignorance, and hatred.

  1. The truth of the end of suffering

Fortunately, Buddha was able to come up with an answer to suffering. He calls it “estrangement” which refers to detachment from those three forms of desire. When humans are detached from negative forms of desire, they will not be harmed by temptation.

  1. The truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering

So how do you achieve estrangement? Buddha describes an Eightfold Path that will help you avoid desire and at the same time, help you from falling into the other extreme which is asceticism. There are eight ways that will help you achieve enlightenment and these ways are supposed to help and balance each other out.

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Buddhism and Tattoos

Even in the old civilizations, tattoos have been considered to be a form of protection for tribes and kings. Different tattoos meant different kinds of protection and prayers to the deity. This belief is often found in Southeast Asian regions.

Yantra tattooing, also known as sak yant in Thailand is a form of tattooing that originated in Southeast Asia. Sak translates to “tattoo” in Thai while yant is what Thai say to refer to mystical diagrams. These mystical diagrams often have images of animals and deities accompanied by a phrase that calls on protection, prosperity, or power.

Yantra tattooing is not like your normal tattooing session. Unlike normal tattoo sessions wherein you think of a design and then go to your most trusted tattoo artist, Yantra tattooing requires you to go to practitioners of Yantra tattoos or Buddhist monks. Since Buddha tattoos are considered sacred, going to a monk is a sign of respect for the image of Buddha.

The Sak Yant Wai Kru Festival

Held in Thailand every year, the Sak Yant Wai Kru Festival is one of the largest and most known events that celebrate Buddha in terms of tattoos. In this annual event, people from around the world go to Wat Bang Phra, a huge Buddhist temple to get tattoos that are done by Buddhist monks.

Sak Yants are done in order to have power against bad luck, accidents, or bad health. For some who already have Buddhist tattoos, they only go to the event to “recharge” their tattoos because the power of the tattoo is said to weaken over time.

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Things To Consider When Getting a Buddhist Tattoo

If you are starting to or are already a follower of Buddha and his teachings, then you might consider getting inked. Some devout followers put Buddhist tattoos on them to signify their love and devotion for the Buddha and his teachings. However, there are certain things you should consider before getting a Buddhist or Buddha tattoo.

Respect for Buddha

If you will notice, the start of this piece talked about Buddha and his teachings. This is because before you decide on getting a tattoo of Buddha, then you have to be sure you know him and his teachings. Buddha is a spiritual leader revered by a lot of cultures. Getting a tattoo of him without a spiritual context can be considered as disrespectful.

Knowledge and Belief in Buddhist Teachings 

Apart from the respect you should be paying to Buddha, it is just right to consider your knowledge of his teachings. If you are getting a tattoo of him, isn’t it fitting to know what he stands for?

Although in Western cultures, not a lot of people will bother asking you why you have a Buddha tattoo as they will often dismiss it as you being a follower of Buddhist teachings, it is just right to be aware of these teachings in order to respect Buddha more. You don’t have to be an extreme Buddhist follower. In fact, being in extremes isn’t something Buddha lobbies for. Instead, know the basics of Buddhism and ask yourself if you believe in them enough for you to have a tattoo of it.

Design 

There are different types of Buddha images depending on what country you are talking about. Take, for example, Japanese buddhas look different from Chinese ones. You’ll see these kinds of Buddhas later on in this article.

Anyway, knowing the kind of Buddha you want to have is important because each Buddha represents a certain belief. Once you’ve chosen the type of Buddha you want, you can now play with colors or other objects like adding a lotus or an elephant.

Placement of the Tattoo

If you already know the design and size you want, the next thing you have to consider is the placement. Unlike other tattoo designs where you can put them wherever you want, you can’t do this with a Buddha tattoo.

Buddha is a spiritual leader and it is disrespectful if you place his face on your butt or on your ankle. The rule of thumb is this – do not put any Buddha tattoos below the waist. Just think about it this way, it’s rude to have Buddha’s face near parts that you sit on and walk on.

Traveling to Asian Countries

This might sound weird, but you have to think about whether or not you will be visiting an Asian country in the near future. This is because Westerners who have tattoos of Buddha in the lower parts of their bodies will be banned or will be fined. Although tattoos are permanent and you won’t be able to remove it so you can go to Buddhist-populated countries, you don’t want to get attention the wrong way. As much as possible, have a tattoo made in an Asian country instead so they can give you guidelines on how to respect the Buddha even in tattoo form.

Where Can You Put Buddha Tattoos?

So you’ve read about Buddha tattoos not allowed on lower parts of the body. The reason behind this is that in Buddhism, the lower part of the body, specifically the parts that are below the waist, are considered unclean because these are the parts that are closest to the ground. Going back to Buddha’s teachings, Buddha encourages detachment from worldly things because these things feed on negative desire. If you put Buddha on the lower part of the body, the parts that you use to sit on and walk on in dirty areas, it is already considered disrespectful.

To help you decide where to put a Buddha tattoo, here are some placements  you can consider:

Arms

The arms are the most common placements for Buddha tattoos. If you will notice, a lot of Buddha’s images include him sitting with his legs crossed or just his face in meditation. Since most of his pictures are often lengthwise, it is nice to have Buddha tattoos inked on your arms.

Other people prefer having Buddha in their upper arm near the shoulder because it allows them to have more space especially when their design has flowers and temples.

Back

The back is another canvas that is wide enough to accommodate a Buddha tattoo. Although it was mentioned earlier that Buddha’s images are often longitudinal, there are designs that make it look nice on your back. If you have a design that has a lot of Lotus flowers at the foot of Buddha, then your back is a great place to get that tattoo.

If you want to use your back, make sure that you utilize the space in order to create a good background of Buddha. You can get meditating Buddha images so that it does not look too slim for your back.

Chest

Like your back, the chest is a big area to put your Buddha tattoo on. But if you don’t want to use your whole chest, you can have a Buddha tattoo on one side of your chest, just near your shoulder. Some people who do not want big images of Buddha, choose a smaller size of a Buddha meditating or in a cross-legged position so that it will look cute and compact on one side of the chest.

The chest is a great place for tattoos that you don’t feel comfortable showing. However, if you plan on showing off your Buddha tattoo, then you might want to have it placed on your arms instead.

Hands

Amazingly, the hand is a good option for those who want to have Buddha tattoos. Buddha tattoos look beautiful on the back of your hand because the area is wide enough for you to fit a Buddha that is sitting down. It is also a great area if you want to show off your tattoo. More feminine designs also make it look like the Buddha tattoo is an accessory.

Shoulders 

Unlike the hands that are always exposed, shoulders are more hidden places to have your Buddha tattoo unless you always wear a sleeveless top. Other people who have Buddha tattoos on their arms also tend to have these tattoos extend to the shoulders. You can also have smaller Buddha images on your shoulder. Smaller Buddha tattoos are more feminine as compared to large tattoos on the forearm.

Nape

Lastly, you can also put a Buddha tattoo on your nape. This area is usually a good place because it is not always seen. At the same time, a lot of people prefer having flower-inspired Buddha tattoos in the area because it looks more mysterious and unique. As compared to Buddhas seen on the arms, a Buddha on your nape gives off a more curious appearance.

 

Types of Buddha Tattoos

There are a lot of Buddha tattoos that you can choose from and these tattoos can vary depending on the other things that you put in the design.

Meditating Buddha

A meditating Buddha is one of the most common designs because meditation has always been associated with Buddha and Buddhism. A meditating Buddha is often done in just black ink for simplicity.

Walking Buddha

Unlike a meditating Buddha, a walking Buddha is a more uncommon design. The walking pose referred to is the pose wherein the right foot of Buddha is behind (as if he was caught walking) and his right hand raised. This image symbolizes grace and beauty.

Teaching Buddha

Another pose of Buddha is one where he is teaching. In this design, Buddha is also sitting cross-legged but his mouth is in a shape of an “O”. His right hand is often raised just near his shoulders to depict that he is teaching the pillars of Buddhism. This pose symbolizes understanding and wisdom.

Buddha with a Lotus

Although Buddha has never been seen holding a lotus flower, the lotus is always a good addition to a Buddha tattoo. The lotus flower is a symbol for enlightenment and wisdom. For some people, the lotus flower is often placed just below the Buddha image.

Dharma Wheel

Although this tattoo design no longer shows Buddha, it is a known object in Buddhism because a Dharma Wheel is a symbol for the teachings of Buddha. This comes from the word dharma which describes Buddha’s teachings when he reached enlightenment.

Apart from these tattoo designs, there are many more images of Buddha that you can take inspiration from. Most of the time, Buddha tattoos depict Buddha in a certain pose and it is up to the wearer if he or she wants to add other objects for symbolism.

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