Is there much said about tattoos?


You could indeed!

I think some people partake in tattooing for reasons that are beyond explanation or rationalization. As for this self constructed spirituality you mention, I am not sure I understand.

I think the sak yant style of tattoo most closely associated with Buddhism or spirituality is influenced in part by those things but is also somewhat a novelty. The “unalome” is probably more likely to be tattooed on a NYC hipster than a Thai monk.

I do believe that tattoos representing the Buddha himself are considered somewhat in poor taste in that region of the world as well.


The “unalome” is probably more likely to be tattooed on a NYC hipster than a Thai monk.

Rubs unalome tattoo on throat Damn, hipster status achieved. I do also have a bunch of pali caligraphy on my left arm that I will likely add to later on.

So, to summarize, it seems like major motivations for not having tattoos upon ordination is how lay-people view you. That the suttas don’t have specific prohibitions on tattoos (when they’re done consensually). Opinions on removal of tattoos vary, with it being particularly worth considering if there’s a tattoo which strongly disagrees with the monastic lifestyle.


One could possibly add to this prohibitions on entering communal onsen baths in Japan. I am planning a trip to Japan this summer and information I have gathered suggests that some onsen don’t allow people with tattoos entry to communal baths because of the association of tattoos with organized crime syndicates in Japan. I do have one tattoo that I can cover with adhesive bandages if necessary. Also, lucky for me, my tattoo reads “Temporary.” So it’s a “temporary” tattoo. For real. Like everything in life, my tattoo is impermanent.


There are some other prerequisites so don’t tell yourself that just yet!


I think they would be looking mostly for Irezumi which is traditional Japanese style, or heavily tattooed individuals. I think you would be alright. But I have never been to Japan.


In the vinaya quote near the top, one of the ones who should not go forth should not go forth on account of his webbed fingers.

That’s one of the 32 marks of the supermen. Is this ironic? Does anyone remember the lyrics to the song?


Not necessarily. Different words are used for the two things and though phaṇahatthaka in the Vinaya almost certainly means “one with webbed hands”, it’s much less certain whether jālahatthapāda in the Suttas means “one with webbed hands and feet”. Much scholarly ink has been expended on alternative proposals for the latter term.

See, for example, the two articles by Bannerjea and Coomaraswamy in the 1931 edition of the Indian Historical Quarterly.

Jitendra Banerjea, ‘Webbed Fingers’ of Buddha p. 654
Ananda Coomaraswamy, ‘Webbed Finger’ [sic] of Buddha p. 365


Dassana pahatabba…abandon through seeing


I too will be in Japan this summer and have been considering my very visible and un-coverable tattoos (except with long sleeves). Maybe we will meet face-to-face when we are both rejected at an onsen :wink:
My most obvious tattoo is Katagiri Roshi’s calligraphy of the Bodhisattva Vow in kanji, so maybe they’ll cut me some slack since they’ll be able to read it better than I can :wink: