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Do you think that getting a buddhist tattoo is a disrespect?

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  • Do you think that getting a buddhist tattoo is a disrespect?

    Greetings to everybody.

    A few days ago, a friend told me that she wants to get a tattoo ( a buddhist figure or a lotus....).
    I've seen that in Thailand some people think that buy or sell figures or do tattoo about buddhism is a disrespect. I've seen very big advertisements near the roads or highways that say Please stop disrespecting buddha do not tattoo, buy or sell as furniture or merchandise. In the other hand i know that even some monks in Thailand have tattoos.

    What do you think?
    If any venerable monk can say their opinion

    Here you have the photo of the advertisement.


    With a lot of metta to all.


  • #2
    in some (sub)cultures a tattoo can also be an expression of great respect. eventually both 'sides' are just interpreting and it's hard to say whether one viewpoint is more valid or wiser than the other one.


    • #3

      I don't think getting a lotus or Buddha tattoo is disrespectful unless the art is done in such a way as to purposefully denigrate the Buddha or Buddhism. Like anything else, it comes down to intent. If your friend gets a tattoo of these things because she likes a tasteful artwork or because she respects the content of the image, then what harm is there so far as respect goes? Some people may find it disrespectful no matter what, don't worry about them. The Buddha is not a sacred God to be worshipped anyway. Revered, yes. If your friend is a Buddhist herself, I would advise reflection on the intention behind getting the tattoo and then reflecting on the Noble Eightfold Path first. Just my opinion. Ciao.


      • #4
        Hi Elias,

        Hope you're well.

        I completely agree with Jerrod. What's most important is the intention behind getting the tattoo in the first place and, secondly, the meaning that tattoo will have to the individual from that point onwards. I got a tattoo of the Buddha on my arm two years ago, it really means a lot to me for a variety of reasons and it just felt right in every way after 20 years of deliberation! I had hesitated for so long purely because I thought it would cause offence to others. After careful consideration I went ahead with it because of the special meaning it has to me and the role it will play in my life.

        In terms of how a Buddha tattoo is interpreted by others depends on the cultural context and the individual. Thailand has a tattoo tradition called 'sak yant' that has long been carried out in monasteries: It seems that it's quite acceptable for locals to have these tattoos done as they are viewed as empowering for a variety of reasons and depending on the particular yantra you get. However, there has been a backlash recently in Thailand when tourists have gone to temples and tattoo parlours to get the same tattoos done ( which I think is directly connected to the fact that the Buddha rupa is considered particularly sacred in that country and consequently they are much more sensitive to different interpretations or manifestations of the image. Similarly, there was an interesting case in Sri Lanka where a man with a Buddha tattoo was deported despite the fact that he personally saw it as a tribute to Buddhism:

        Like Jerrod said, if your friend is personally happy with the reasons for getting it and it is done respectfully to the Buddha/Buddhism then I can't see how anybody can criticise her for that. However, as the stories above demonstrate, her motives for getting the tattoo could be misinterpreted by others depending on their own beliefs, cultures and practices so it may be helpful to have in this in mind so she can make an informed decision. We obviously get judged everyday for the way we look, and this is no different, but if we are happy within ourselves we can accept the views of others and continue down the path that we believe in. Luckily, I haven't encountered any difficult situations yet in England but I would be particularly mindful of the impact the tattoo could have if I were to go back to South-East Asia.

        With metta,



        • #5
          Hello to all.

          Thank you to all for your opinion and the information/links.
          I agree that the most important is the reason and the meaning, not what the other people think about it.

          thank you very much and metta to all.


          • #6
            I think that monks with tattoos got them before they became a monk. I wonder how having a tattoo relates to the eight precept (out of ten) = not wearing perfume, cosmetics or garland.


            • #7

              I see and feel where this idea is coming from, what really bothers me is when I see a Buddha label on a statue of Ho Tai.
              But on the same note, if one wanted a Buddha statue for home worship, where would they go about getting one? There aren't Buddhist kiosks handing out free packages, you have to buy the image. I feel the term 'merchandise' is incredibly broad, perhaps not including my example but again where you may buy your statue may be considered a merchandise store.

              As for tattooing, I can't really condone tattooing as a whole regardless of the image. I'm glad I got through my teen years without tattoos and piercings, if I had gotten them I believe I would have viewed them as a sort of 'chain to the past'. As if I had to uphold whatever that tattoo meant to me then for the rest of my life. I'm not the same person I was 5 years ago, and I won't be the same person in a week. Until I feel that (to put it metaphorically) my Lotus (spirituality) is opened fully and I've become what I was meant to be then I won't get anything on my body permanently. Although if I did get anything at all it probably would be related to Buddhism, perhaps not the Buddha's head in all its glory covering my entire back, but a lotus or a dharma wheel or something that would be incredibly meaningful, that would draw my mind back into a memory or state e.g. calm, contentment, etc.

              With Metta,


              • #8
                hm just as a side note while reading about the 'chain to the past' part from Daniel because i'm reminded about something i learned in cell biology: some of the cells in the lower layer of epidermis renew every 10 years and this results in tattoos becoming noticeable blurry with time so that's something to keep in mind for anyone who decides to get a tattoo.


                • #9
                  Just had time to properly write down my two cents:

                  1. Tattoo

                  Tattooing doesn't have a positive connotation nowadays. In the old days, men tattooed to empower themselves with supernatural powers. Thus, tattooing of such kinds is regarded as superstition and not so intelligent. However, I myself have never seen a Thai tattooed with a Buddha image. In the old days, some monks did tattoo. Nowadays, not so many for the reason I cited above.

                  Another kind of tattoo is for fashion. Some look fashionable as intended, but many don't look so classy.

                  Thai people have also seen westerners with tattoos of national flags or even cross on their ankles and we find it hard to understand how they are tolerated by their countrymen.

                  A gentle suggestion on a decision to tattoo for Buddha recollections: honestly considering why (as many people here have already pointed out), considering where on the body that might not be offensive, and lastly bearing in mind that when you travel to Asian countries, you might be frowned upon. When that happens, don't get angry with the locals.

                  2. Buddhist images as merchandise

                  We have Buddhist image shops in Thailand, but we buy Buddhist images and statues for our shrines, not to decorate the house.

                  What has happened is that many foreigners, especially westerners, for one reason or another, places Buddha statues and images around their house as decorations, even in the bathroom! That is considered very disrespectful.

                  On the other hand, an non-Buddhist Australian friend of mine collects smiling Buddha statues as they make him happy. Being culturally sensitive, he places the statues in (literally) high places. To me, this is acceptable.

                  With metta,

                  From a Thai


                  • #10
                    I read this today, and it seemed relevant.





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