does anyone have experience of getting sak yant (temple tattoos)? And if so could they recommend a practitioner? Thanks
#1 joe000 has been a member since 9/5/2009. Posts: 9
I don't have experience with sak yant directly, but I do have a fairly good amount of experience in the Buddhist Sangha in Thailand. First, you have to ask yourself why you want a tatoo like that. If it's because you like the way they look or because you want to gain some sort of mystical power for some sort of personal gain, then you need to know that it's wrong intention.
When I first became involved in the Thai community 8 years ago I thought that sak yant was the coolest thing, and I wanted to get some sort of tatoo. But talking to Thai people and monks I learned that real sak yant is taken very seriously and actually most monks believe that it's just a detour on the true Buddhist path.
What I was told is that if I really want a genuine tatoo like this that I should tred with caution. I would need to become involved with the mystic community and prove myself over time. Even then, I may not be able to get a tatoo. What I've been told is that what tatoo you get and when you get it is based on what a higher figure in the community thinks of you, or what supranatural abilities you are able to posess. Thus, if you "want" a guardian tatoo, but they don't feel that you hold the virtues that warrant it, they won't give it to you. They may decide that you have some other sort of gift and your tatoo would reflect that.
When I asked about picking some sak yant design at random and going into a tatoo parlor and just "getting it", I was told that this would be very bad and that the true Thai mystics would get upset if they saw it. I was told that they may even put some spell on me or something. Now, this is just what I have been told by Thai people... I'm sure there is someone out there who will give you a sak yant tatoo, in the traditional method, and it would be somewhat genuine. But you should know that if you really want this, you need to be genuine in your beliefs in order for the tatoo to be genuine. According to some Thais, if you're not genuine and you get it anyway, you could pay for it with some "otherwordly" punishment.
Thanks so much for your informative and insightful response. I realise that it is an important decision not to be taken lightly and that the motivation for receiving Sak Yant has to be pure, and understand that you have to accept certain precepts (similar to christian 10 commandments). I will do more research. Thanks again. Joe
#3 joe000 has been a member since 9/5/2009. Posts: 9
Here in Australia, recently there was a 'debate' amongst late teens and eraly twenties on the subject of tattoo's.
Most said that they are SO UNCOOL, that they are the 'trade mark' of WANNABE's.
As 'DLuek' observes, there is also the associated health risk.
Damn!!! I am now an uncool wannabe (I have several tattoos)... sigh... thanks for the bad news, bruce.
#5 joe000 has been a member since 9/5/2009. Posts: 9
I know that what DLuek posted above is the "correct" way of doing things, and Sak Yant should be given a lot of respect for what it represents amongst its followers --- However, it is simply not true that it is this difficult to receive a Sak Yant.
Last week I went to Wat Bang Phra, the most famous temple for Sak Yant in Thailand, which is about 1 hour outside of Bangkok. I went with the intention to learn about Sak Yant, take some photos, and gain some insight into this part of Thai culture.
When I went over to an area where one of the master monks was giving Sak Yants (with a line of people that had been waiting for hours) he immediately asked me (in English) if I would like one, and invited me to the front of the line. I did not get one, but that didn't stop him from asking me 2-3 more times while I was there.
So if you really have your heart set on getting a Sak Yant, you will be able to do so here. There is also a temple in On Nut that performs Sak Yant and I'm lead to believe the master here is one of the few in Thailand to use sterilized needles, so you may want to consider going here instead as this could be a big concern (getting hepititius, or worse).
#6 jet_bkk has been a member since 11/5/2009. Posts: 6
Thanks, jet_bkk. Do you have any details about temple in On Nut? I have read that most masters do not use autoclave/ sterilise though Ajahn Thoy in BKK apparently does.
#7 joe000 has been a member since 9/5/2009. Posts: 9
It is called Wat Tong Tai on On Nut Soi 25. That is where Ajarn Thoy is...
I haven't been there yet so can't tell you much more than that. I hope to go over there sometime soon and if so I'll let you know.
#8 jet_bkk has been a member since 11/5/2009. Posts: 6
Sorry, I meant Wat Tong Nai..
#9 jet_bkk has been a member since 11/5/2009. Posts: 6
If you do get this done -- I'd be very interested in a story (with pics...) on this for Travelfish. Let me know if you're interested.
#10 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,764
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Just wanted to say that I wasn't trying to discourage you from getting the tattoo by what I wrote. Some Thai people discouraged me from getting involved in it several years ago; not sure why. I certainly didn't think it was as easy as jet_bkk has confirmed. I ended up getting involved in more traditional Buddhism, and that has become a big part of my life.
But, I still find the whole Buddhist-animist-supernatural-superstitious-magical sak yant/amulet cults to be very intriguing. I do know one monk who practices somewhere in between sak yant and traditional Buddhism, and he has the ability to communicate with spirits. I once witnessed a 12 year old girl become possessed by the spirit of an infant who had died at birth while in the monk's presence. Pretty wild stuff, but after seeing it I am a believer. I've also seen some home video footage from the sak yant festival at Wat Bang Phra held every March - insane (in a good way)/fascinating to say the least.
It's incredible how much this stuff pervades the whole culture, and actually it really represents the spiritual elements of Thailand that were around before Buddhism arrived. If you're interested in it (and not just the tattoo), I encourage you to take some time to get involved in the whole thing.
About the precept thing, I highly doubt that a majority of people with sak yant tattoos strictly observe the 5 Precepts. Tattoo or not, live the way that's right for you.
By the way, in response to Bruce's post, I think whether or not a tattoo is "uncool" or makes someone a "wannabe" totally depends on what the specific tattoo is about. Genuine sak yant is way beyond either of those words.