Getting a Buddhist Tattoo in Thailand | What to Know
For travelers looking to display their inner Zen, Thailand has become the world's premier destination for Buddhist tattoos.
It makes sense too. In addition to being a dream destination to visit, Thailand has a rich, intertwined history of Buddhism, mysticism and tattoos.
Keep on reading to learn more about Buddhist tattoos, where to get one in Thailand and to learn about what's culturally appropriate.
About Buddhism in Thailand
Buddhism has a 2,000 year history in Thailand. Today toughly 95% of the country practices the Theravada school of Buddhism. But over the centuries Thai Buddhism became fused with mystical beliefs and tantric practices. Magic found its way into Thai Buddhism.
Sak Yant - The Magic Buddhist Tattoo
When people talk about Buddhist tattoos what they are actually talking about are sak yants. Sak yant Buddhist tattoos regularly contain sacred geometry, animals and deities accompanied by sacred mantras.
Made internationally famous by Muay Thai fighters and Angelina Jolie, the sak yant is a representation of mystical Thai Buddhism, also known as Tantric Theravada, in the form of a tattoo. So to understand sak yants, you must first understand this form of mysticism that connects the body, cosmos and a higher power together.
Mystical Thai BuddhismA form of Buddhism that links magical, ritualistic practices to a systematic path to Buddhist enlightenment. Tantric Theravada makes use of:
- Number symbolism
- Mantras and sacred language
- Magic for protection, healing, good luck, long life and more
- Worship of Devas, Buddhas and Spirits
Where to Get a Buddhist Tattoo in Thailand
In Thailand you can get a Buddhist tattoo with a monk/ajarn or with a tattoo artist.What is an ajarn?
An ajarn is a master who has studied with sak yants and the spiritualism and mysticism that surrounds them. They are not monks, but they have previously been one.
Tradition or Quality?
Monks and ajarns will be able to give you a traditional, personalized experience. They will give you a hand-poked bamboo tattoo. And they will give you a personalized design and blessing.
While tattoo studios differ in quality and cleanliness, top notch shops like Panumart Tattoo in Chiang Mai will give you better looking, longer lasting tattoos. Tattoo shops should/may also be cleaner and more comfortable.Do you prefer tradition and experience or is the quality of your tattoo more important to you?
🔹 If you prefer tradition, go for a monk/ajarn.
🔹 If you prefer a great tattoo, go for a tattoo artist.
Top Places to Get a Buddhist Tattoo in Thailand
- Panumart TattooAt Panumart Tattoo we have an extensive collection of Buddhist tattoo designs and a team of highly skilled artists (machine and bamboo tattoos). Our hygiene and experience are second to none.
- Ajarn Noo
- Wat Bang Phra
- Thai Tattoo Café
- Bangkok Ink Tattoo
- Patong Tattoo
- Koh Tao Bamboo Tattoo
Culturally Appropriate Buddhist TattoosIs it Okay to Tattoo a Picture of Buddha?
Thailand is a country with both modern and conservative values. More modern Thais wouldn't take any offense to a tattoo of the Buddha (or at least not enough offense to show any irritation). But more conservative-leaning Buddhists would object to someone tattooing Buddha on their body. Imagery of the Buddha's head as artwork is especially blasphemous to Thai-Buddhist conservatives.
Most tattoo shops will happily tattoo Buddha on your body, so it's up to you whether you decide it is ethical or not.What Parts of The Body Are NOT Okay For Buddhist Tattoos?
Traidtion says that most sak yants and Buddhist tattoos are forbidden to be tattooed below the wait. Men are allowed some animal yants and some sexually-related yants to be placed on their thighs, however. Although women are not given this same privilege.
Additionally, the feet are a no-go for both men and woman.
With that said, tattoo shops and individual tattoo artists may not care about these rules.Can Women Get Buddhist Tattoos?
Absolutely and kinda.
Tattoo shops will tattoo you without any question. Whereas if you're looking to get an authentic sak yant experience you may have to jump thru a few hoops to make it happen. Also worth mentioning is that monks and ajarns will not place any Buddhist tattoo near your breasts.