What Are Buddhist’s Views on Tattoos?

  • Written By Dan Hunter on October 1, 2021
    Last Updated: October 12, 2021

Tattoos are a popular way to express yourself and these are growing in popularity with more people having them than ever before. There are lots of things to consider before getting a tattoo and this goes beyond the design and placement for many people. 

There are religious and cultural reasons why people hold off getting a tattoo. Especially if you or your family are religious as this can affect their thoughts on tattoos.

Many wonder what a Buddhist’s views on tattoos are. There are conflicting answers to this question but we will share with you what most Buddhists actually think of tattoos.


Are Tattoos Allowed in Buddhism?

There is a difference in opinion with regard to tattoos in Buddhism, with some people saying that they’re a good thing and a sign of devotion to the religion. Others see them as a bad thing and a sign of blasphemy.

There are no rules or laws in Buddhism against having tattoos. Many people do believe that it’s the heart’s intentions that matter the most when looking to get a tattoo as a Buddhist.

Buddhism has evolved over the years, however, the four noble truths remain the pillars of Buddhism around the world today.

  1. The truth of suffering (Dukkha)
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering (Samudāya)
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering (Nirodha)
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering (Magga)

No tattoos should be misrepresentative of any Buddha or enlightened being and the Buddhist teachings. 

What are Buddhist’s Views on Tattoos?

All religions have different views and opinions on tattoos and whether you should have them or not. Tattoos are not forbidden in Buddhism, however, your tattoos should not go against the teachings of the Buddhist religion.

Buddhism as a religion is beautifully inclusive, and this is one of the reasons why so many people around the world have been inspired to follow the path. This also makes Buddhist practitioners want to express their commitment on the skin in the form of a tattoo. It gives them a way to show their love and devotion to their faith.

Some Buddhist cultures have been practicing the art of tattooing since the 9th century. This is known as Yantra tattooing or Sak Yant. The Buddhist monk, ruesi and wicha practitioner will use a sharpened metal rod to inscribe Indian yantra designs on the skin. 

The designs are generally of deities, animals or sacred phrases and symbols and they are believed to offer the practitioner protection, power and wealth. 

Can a Buddhist Monk Get a Tattoo?

Yes, a Buddhist monk is able to get a tattoo and it’s the Sak Yant that is given by monks to monks. This is the only believed right way to get the Yantra tattoos and reinforces the belief that tattoos are seen as a good thing in the Buddhist faith.

You will find that practicing Buddhists travel from all over the world to Thailand every year to get their Sak Yant done by trained monks.

Is It Bad To Get Buddhist Tattoos if Not Practicing?

As tattoos become more popular the designs of tattoos are becoming more varied. You will find many non practicing Buddhists getting Buddhist tattoos

It’s easy to see why this would be thought of as a negative reflection on the religion. It would look to practicing Buddhists as they aren’t properly communicated and are less meaningful than if on a person of the Buddhist faith.

It’s not wrong to get a Buddhist tattoo if you’re not a practicing Buddhist. However, it can be seen as culturally wrong and disrespectful to the religious values and beliefs of Buddhists. In Thailand and Sri Lanka, it’s seriously frowned upon by the natives to see any foreigner with a Buddhist tattoo. 

If you have a Buddhist tattoo and are not practicing, it may be a good idea to cover this up as a sign of respect when visiting these countries.

Does It Matter Where the Tattoo Is Located on the Body?

Buddhist tattoos, especially those of Buddha and Tibetan mantras are seen as sacred and should be respected as such. Therefore, they should be placed at the highest point. 

Therefore, it’s important to not get a Buddhist tattoo on the lower part of your body as this is believed to be disrespectful. 

Conclusion

While there are no rules on getting tattoos in the Buddhist religion, people’s beliefs differ. Some believe that it’s a good thing to show your devotion and others that it’s disrespectful.

As long as the tattoo is high on the body and is completed by a professional who understands the religion, there should be no issues. 

We hope that we’ve answered your question and you now understand the Buddhists views on tattoos.