Since my last few trips to Thailand, I was yearning to get a Sak Yant tattoo in Bangkok. Sadly, my plans never firmed up but two days ago, I finally got my sacred ink via Where Sidewalks End; and it was one of the best experiences I have had in Thailand.
I can’t wait to share it with all of you all so its the first post I am writing from my time in #AmazingThailand.
Table of Content
- Why Opt for a Sak Yant Tattoo?
- Meaning and Significance of Sak Yant Tattoos
- Sak Yant Rules – To follow or Not to Follow
- Sak Yant Designs – Can You Choose them?
- How this Magical Sak Yant Tattoo can be a Life Changing Experience
- Sak Yant Tattoo Safety Tips
- Sak Yant Ink Experience – What does it Entail and Where to Get one?
Why Opt for a Sak Yant Tattoo?
Well, apart from the fact that Sak Yant became a fashion fad since Angelina Jolie got one, you should get one purely for the spiritual significance it holds… Try to think beyond the style quotient of it – which is hard as they look stunning.
So for me, my reasons to get a Sak Yant were plenty – starting from the whole experiential factor to the idea of bamboo tattooing and getting inked by a shaman (locally known as an Ajarn). Spiritual factors followed slowly and overcame all of my other reasons to get a Sak Yant.
Meaning and Significance of Sak Yant Tattoos
Sak Yant tattoos hold deep meanings for you as an individual. Sak yant origins have a colorful history with centuries of mixing of cultures and regional beliefs. From its animistic roots in the former Lanna Kingdom, to the Buddhism and Hinduism influence that came during the Khmer Empire of Angkor Wat, and centuries of superstitions and evolution since then too. However, Thailand is now the only place they exist in their current traditional form.
Sak means to tap, which refers to the age old hand held bamboo tattooing technique and Yant stands for Yantra.
So basically Sak Yant is a holy inscription on your body by a phra ajarn monk or ajarn, which signifies your life’s purpose, values and each design is custom created for you based on your ideals. How amazing is this?
Sak Yant Rules – To follow or Not to Follow
Now one of the major deterrent in my quest for getting holy ink were the rules that come with it. I have never been the kind of person to follow a set of ground rules so I instantly assumed a Sak Yant wasn’t for me! They say the “magic” wears off if you break any of the rules so why bother, right?
As I learnt more and more about the Sak Yant prior to getting inked, I realized there are many factors to it and being nice, kind and having basic etiquette is pretty much all the gods expect. Easy?
Well here are the 5 major rules of Sak Yant
No Killing – This stands for well literally not killing any human or animal. I am not sure if insects count? I have a hard time with the annoying roaches and even though I don’t have the balls to kill them directly, I sometimes cause a massacre when I freak out after seeing one. Hopefully, next time I encounter this black insect with wings, I will try to avoid bloodshed.
No Stealing – That’s easy. I also go way further and believe in no borrowing even, so I think I am golden on this point.
No Lying – I am sure those little white lies don’t count 😉
No Adultery – Self explanatory!
No Alcohol consumption – This one was debatable for a beer drinker like yours truly. I had to stop my guide mid-sentence and ask “How important is this rule?” Khun Gob, my guide, explained patiently that all it means is don’t be an alcoholic. Drinking occasionally for pleasure with friends or in parties is very much acceptable. It all comes down to being mindful – if you are not doing so to hurt yourself or others, it’s ok to have some social drinks.
Thank god, coz this girl lovers her beer *Burp*.
Some temples have a longish list of far fetched rules to abide by to keep your Sak Yants magic intact. I would say, skip trying to go to the temples altogether and book your traditional, awesome, Sak Yant tattoo in Bangkok with WSE travel, the way I did.
Ian Ord of Where Sidewalks End, wisely answered my query about adhering to the rules and if just being a good person was enough (In short, yes!) –
That depends on you – how seriously do you believe in the magic? And if you believe it to be serious, then shouldn’t the rules be equally as serious as they are part of it?
I personally follow them as guidelines, as rules sounds quite harsh or punishing. 99% of the guidelines are there for you to be a good person – don’t harm others, don’t harm yourself. That’s what pretty much all 100+ guidelines can boil down into one of those two categories. Now looking at what you just said about ‘as long as you are a good person’ – and these guidelines are for you to be a good person… then it sounds like you are already trying to accomplish the same as what the guidelines lay out. Mindfulness.
Think of it this way – a yantra is to help improve your life in one capacity or another. You want to enchant or protect something of value to you. Now if you are doing harm to yourself or to others (mentally, physically or emotionally) – how can you expect to improve your own life. Karma plays a big role in this logic.
So in essence – yes, the magic ‘wears off’ if you are being a bad person, as there is no fuel for the karmic flame. If you want good things in life, you have to do good things. These yantras, in a way, are a representation of our own goals and passions that mean something to us and that we are trying to accomplish, and a reminder to give first (positive energy to yourself and others) before expecting to receive any towards your own goals.
Any time you are feeling like you aren’t getting closer to your goals, your yantra will remind you how much it means to you (enough to brand it on to your body) – so you can go out and be a better version of yourself.. only then will your goals be realized. 🙂
Hope that helps clarify a bit. It really boils down to how much do YOU believe in the magic, in karma, and in yourself 🙂”
In the end to follow the Sak Yant rules or not – it all boils down to you and your beliefs and reasons for getting inked in the first place!
Sak Yant Designs – Can You Choose them?
Well, yes and no! Basically, after you explain your life and Sak Yant’s purpose to your ajarn, he will choose a design that represents your beliefs.
My Sak Yant was truly unique as it wasn’t the usual 5 lines on the back which is so common with backpackers who don’t have a translated consultation (it’s a generic protection from harm, making it safe for ajarns to give if they don’t know anything else about you). I already have a wiccan protection symbol on my back and I didn’t want another spiritual ink sharing the same canvas so I asked my ajarn if its possible on the arm. He agreed and finally we zeroed in on the exact placement after discussing parts which would be least painful (Never been inked by hand so my apprehensions were valid).
You can get a blessed geometric inscription (yantra) or even gods or animals (like Sak Yant tiger, lizard, snake, frog etc). It is advisable to get inked as high up on your body as possible but then it depends on your available canvas and which yantra is being suggested to you, as many have specific locations they are intended to go. You can discuss everything freely with your ajarn and they are more than glad to talk you through the details. Personally, I felt my ajarn (Ajarn Neng) was truly amazing and very modern and open to ideas, whilst ensuring the true essence of Sak Yant was maintained.
How this Magical Sak Yant Tattoo can be a Life Changing Experience
Okay its just been a day so I cannot comment on how it changed my life yet but I can already feel it will have a positive impact on me. Just few hours after my ink, I felt something changed inside me. I noticed small changes in my behavior. For example I totally stopped the mindless cursing. Like if someone bumps into me on the street or gets in front of a queue, I automatically inwardly cringe and curse – it’s human nature, come on – admit it, we all do it!
That stopped! Totally!
Surprisingly, whenever I wanted to or did cringe, I realized the other person might have a reason , and even if not, its perfectly okay.
I felt enlightened , free of negativity and just plain spiritually high, if that’s even a thing? It’s a weird feeling and maybe it will wear off but for now – I feel like a million bucks and I hope it sticks!
Just for this amazing feeling, I would say – Go get a Sak Yant NOW!
Sak Yant Tattoo Safety Tips
Well, your Sak Yant tattoo is just like any other ink and all the basic post-ink tips apply. For example – stay away from direct sunlight for first week, No salted water or soap on your ink, apply Vaseline if needed – the works!
This is no rocket science and I would say a Sak Yant is way more hygienic and heals faster than a normal tattoo. It also uses natural ink so you don’t necessarily need to apply any gels unless it starts itching (When it heals).
Your number one safety concern should be clean needles and fresh ink which, if booked from the right place won’t be a issue at all.
Sak Yant Ink Experience – What does it Entail and Where to Get one?
Sak Yant tattoo price point would vary a lot based on if you get it in a temple versus a clean hygienic samnak (a traditional Sak Yant studio). Safety always comes first for me, so getting inked in a samnak was a no brainer.
Honestly, many people still believe that the authentic Sak Yant experience is ONLY done by monks in a temple!
Thats a wrong notion!
In fact, before e-meeting Ian of WSE, I was under same impression.
However, if you are looking for a positive , hygienic inking experience, opt for an ajarn in their samnak, like I did with help of WSE. An ajarn just means a master of something – in this case of Sak Yant (but can also be of things like Muay Thai or other practices). An ajarn for Sak Yant is someone who has trained in one of the main lineages by a master. All ajarns should enter the Sangha (brotherhood of monks) though are not obligated to stay there for the rest of their lives. This is why some ajarns are monks (or a Phra Ajarn), while others are layman (no longer monks). The most important part is that they have been properly trained, which can take decades of learning and teachings.
This will obviously make for a better person for your amazing new magic body art. I was so impressed by the level of detailing and cleanliness, I felt it was even better than getting inked in a tattoo studio. Seriously!
Another interesting aspect of my experience was when Ajarn Neng asked me to repeat this mantra in my head as I was getting inked “Sooo Thai Ya” and also provided a short mantra to repeat everyday.
“Si Na Ta Si Ma Ni No Ye,
Na Ye No Thit Sit,
Wa Pha Thit Sit.”
This surely adds to your whole divine experience.
My ajarn even had an assistant who was holding my arm tightly all through the inking process and constantly cleaning the excess ink and blood. That was the best part. Who has even seen an assistant in a tattoo studio? I know, I haven’t! What a brilliant idea to have one. He was extremely helpful and the constant cleaning and holding skin tight helped with a further detailed, stunning art piece I now have on my arm.
The day starts with your travel guide picking you up from your hotel, taking you to buy offerings (its covered in cost of the experience), going with you to ajarn, translating everything so you can communicate effortlessly (the majority of ajarns don’t speak English), taking pictures while you get inked (hey its important for a blogger – don’t judge me) and finally having a nice local meal with you (Also paid for by the company) and bringing you back. All transport, meal, offerings are included in your package. This is the BEST deal you will ever get with a smooth experience throughout.
I was also surprised that Ajarn Neng’s samnak had Wifi and air conditioning – perfecto! 10 on 10 for my inking experience with WSE Travel!
The end product was this magnificent, intricate piece of meaningful art –
Click here to book my exact same experience from the same ajarn who blessed me with this sacred ink! Of course the ink and needle will NOT be the same 😉 I can guarantee they keep hygiene as their prime concern and use fresh new needles and ink pots for each person.
You can also opt for a hygienic, spiritual Sak Yant tattoo Chiang Mai experience from WSE if you are headed in that neck of the woods instead.
Alternatively, Click here if you are in any other part of Thailand and want to check the nearest samnak for an authentic, hygienic Sak Yant ink experience.
Now, what are you waiting for? Go get your sacred Sak Yant tattoo in Bangkok and get spirited away.