How Do Buddhists Feel About Tattoos?

How Do Buddhists Feel About Tattoos?

How Do Buddhists Feel About Tattoos?

Considered the pacifist’s religion, Buddhism has been around as far back as the 6th century and for good reason.

Even though the religion has greatly evolved and branched out into different sub-beliefs, the four noble truths remain the pillars to all forms of Buddhism.

Tattoos in Buddhism  have been a subject of controversy for as long as the question has been asked.

Some believers view it as a sign of devotion while some others see it as blasphemy.

There is also a school of thought that believes the heart’s intentions are the most relevant factor when considering the morality of getting tattoos in Buddhism.

We would explore all the views including the legal status and cultural relevance and also attempt to lay to rest the controversies surrounding this topic.


We’re going forward into this article with the following assumptions about you, the reader. One of more of these may apply to you, including:

  • You are new to the practice of Buddhism and want to know if getting a tattoo is acceptable.
  • You have a pre-existing tattoo of Buddha and are planning to venture into the Buddhist religion.
  • You are not a Buddhist and are wondering if it is culturally insensitive/acceptable to get a tattoo of Buddha.
  • You are planning a trip to a Buddhist majority country and you already have a tattoo or are planning to get one on arrival, and you’re wondering if there are consequences or if it is just straight-up offensive.
  • You are just one inquisitive fella.

Buddha Sculpture FAQs

What Is The Buddhist Holy Book?

The teachings of Buddhism, the words of the Buddha and the basis for the teachings of the monks, can be found in the sacred texts which are known collectively as the Tripitaka.

What Does The Buddha Necklace Mean?

For example, Buddha pendants are considered to be symbols of good luck, peace and longevity. Wearing a Buddha pendant will attract the positive energy of the supreme. It can help us fight the negative energy, bring more positive energy, and help us overcome the troubles in life.

What Does The Buddha Head Represent?

The Buddha head holds the secrets of enlightenment within it representing the wisdom, and knowledge of the Buddha. The Buddha head resembles a young and charming Buddha that radiates calmness, and composure in a meditative stillness. One can go into meditation with the Buddha by gazing into his face.

Can A Buddhist Read The Bible?

Buddhism has a vast number of scriptures, but few texts are accepted as authentic and authoritative by every school of Buddhism. There is one other reason that there is no Buddhist Bible. Many religions consider their scriptures to be the revealed word of God or gods.

Is It Offensive To Get A Lotus Flower Tattoo?

Is a lotus flower tattoo offensive? No! Although, a wearer can better tell that for which purpose he is having a lotus flower tattoo, yet most of the reasons are of course religious. As a whole, lotuses have been considered sacred flowers, and different colors depict different meanings.

Are Tattoos Allowed In Buddhism?

Buddhist teachings have disseminated way farther than their Indian origins, not only because of the accessibility of materials and ease to get started, but also because the life led and the lessons taught by Buddha, the founding father, is highly relatable to the average man.

The tenets of Buddhism are beautiful and inclusive, making practitioners move to express a permanent gesture of commitment on the skins in the form of a Buddhist tattoo. 

The Buddha tattoo is just one of the many ways to show your love and devotion to the religion. It can be roughly equated to devout christian getting a tattoo of a cross because they feel it shows how serious they are about their faith.

The short answer to the question, “Are tattoos allowed in Buddhism?” would be YES, tattoos are allowed in Buddhism, but specific cultures, heart’s intent and use would greatly affect the acceptability of the tattoos, permanent or not.

In some Buddhist cultures, from mainland Southeast Asia to as far as Indonesia and the Phillipines the practice of Yantra tattooing or Sak Yant has been popular since the 9th century.

It involves the use of a sharpened metal rod by a Buddhist monk, ruesi and wicha (magic) practitioner to inscribe Indian yantra designs on the skin. The designs usually consist of animal, deity or sacred symbols and phrases. These are said to offer benefits like power, wealth, protection, and others to the practitioner.

As long as the Sak Yant are carried out by professionals, it is totally acceptable and even encouraged.

Even in countries where Sak Yant is practiced, tattoos of “Buddha” are rare to non-existent because they consider Buddha too sacred and respect him too much to make him into an ornament just for the aesthetics. 

This is where intent plays a role even in culturally acceptable environments because getting a Buddhist tattoo or any religion in that matter just for the purpose of showing off subverts the nature and fundamental foundations of Buddhism.

In general, as long as you understand the concept of impermanence (the Buddhist teachings that “asserts that all of conditioned existence without exception, is transient, evanescent and inconstant”) which is one of the essential doctrines of Buddhism, there is no reason not to correctly brand yourself with a symbol of Buddhism if it means something to you personally.

Is It Bad To Get Buddhist Tattoos?


In recent years, there has been an uprise in the occurrence of Buddhist tattoos amongst non-practitioners particularly the Western population. It is therefore easy for members of the cultures behind the images to see this use by outsiders as harmful cultural appropriation.

And that these designs, when used by other societies wouldn’t properly communicate Buddhist ideas and hence, wouldn’t be as meaningful as they are meant to be.

This surge in popularity of Buddhist tattoos received both positive and negative feedback. Particularly relevant instances of negative feedback were seen in 2011 when the Thai Culture Ministry made a move to ban tourists from getting religious tattoos.

More recently, in 2015, state authorities arrested Jason Polley, a tourist from Canada, and his girlfriend, Margaret Lam, at their hostel in Myanmar after photos of Polley’s Buddhist tattoos went viral.

In these situations, there were underlying beliefs that the foreigners were committing blasphemy.

But these were actually a direct result of an adaptation of symbols without regard for the cultural context in which they are used.

There is also a growing sensitivity surrounding the drawings in some Buddhist nations which reflects a reaction to this ever rising surge in appropriation.

That being said, it IS technically NOT legally wrong to get a Buddha tattoo, but it can be disrespectful and is seriously frowned upon by the natives in Thailand and even Sri Lanka.

They see Buddha tattoos on foreigners not only as cultural appropriation, but also as highly disrespectful to their religious values, icons and history.

Also, these designs, lines of script, geometric patterns and animal shapes are deeply intertwined with Buddhist and animist imagery that some Thais fear Westerners would fail to appreciate.

So, getting a Buddha tattoo may be seen as both bad and good depending on the school of thought you belong to. Bad in the sense if it is not done in a manner that is respectful and pure hearted.

A certain school of thought argues that, given Buddhism is a universal belief system and majorly embraces a system of nonattachment, impermanence and transience of all things, that the imagery really doesn’t matter.

Regardless of your school of thought, if getting a tattoo causes any sort of emotional pain to others, then it may go against the tenets of Buddhism.

Simply put, if your choice to get a Buddha tattoo is ego-based or you are conscious that it may hurt others, you can invert a piece that you meant as something beautiful.

Are Buddha Tattoos Illegal In Thailand And Other Buddhist Countries?

Technically no. Buddha tattoos are not illegal in Thailand nor in Sri Lanka. But they are seriously frowned upon, and both Thailand, as well as Sri Lanka, have called for bans.

Myanmar, also known as Burma, is another country where these tattoos are not acceptable. They not only see Buddha tattoos as cultural appropriation, but also as highly disrespectful to their religious values, icons, and history.

Can You Be A Buddhist Monk With Tattoos?

Yes, you can be a Buddhist monk with tattoos. This is reinforced by the fact that the Sak Yant are not only drawn by monks and on monks, but also because this is seen as the only right way to get the Yantra tattoos.

Hundreds to thousands of foreign devotees flock to Thailand every year to get their Sak Yant by trained monks.

These monks are found all over Southeast Asia, particularly in Thailand which has the highest numbers of devout practitioners. The Wat Bang Phra in Nakhon Chai Si District, Nakhon Pathom Province Thailand is the most popular temple for Sak Yant in the modern era. Ajaan Noo Kanpai, one of the most famous Sak Yant practitioners in all of Thailand, trained at the Wat Band Phra.

Does The Body Part Bearing The Tattoo Affect Its Acceptability?

A Tibetan art tattoo specialist, “images of Budha and Tibetan mantras are very sacred and should be respected. It is customary to hang pictures of Budha at the highest place in your house and treat it with respect. If you put it on your body, especially on the lower part, it can be extremely disrespectful.

You sit on the toilet with this part of the body and lay it on the sand at the beach. The Buddha is not supposed to end up in such inappropriate places”.

In Southeastern Asian culture, the head is seen as the most sacred body part and in general, the farther down the body, the less sacred.

Foreigners with these designs and geometric patterns on their legs have caused upset amongst devout religious practitioners.

Should You Cover A Buddha Tattoo When Traveling To A Buddhist Country?


As much as there is nothing wrong with getting a Buddha tattoo, you should consider covering it up whenever you’re out in public.

Public exposure is disrespectful and may be seen as a way of watering down Buddha and deities to mere ornamentation. Also, you avoid unnecessary issues from sensitive practitioners during your stay.

Are Buddha Tattoos Offensive?

A Buddha tattoo can be offensive to some people in varying cultures, especially those that keep Buddhism at the core of its religious or value system.

The teachings of Buddha, and depictions of him, are considered deeply sacred and holy. They deserve respect especially because they are not meant to be merely decorative or ornamental.

Is It Disrespectful To Get A Tattoo Of Buddha?

Buddhism teaches that everything is impermanent… except tattoos. As long as you don’t use the toilet or have sex after you get the image tattooed on your body then you’re fine.

Having sex or using the toilet in front of an image of the Buddha is considered disrespectful.

Is Tattooing A Sin In Buddhism?

So yes, tattoos are definitely allowed in Buddhism. However, it is important to respect the symbols, and in general, it is not advisable to ink images of the Buddha in the lower half of the body.

Sak Yant tattoos are traditionally applied by hand. Specially trailed monks in Thailand do this in Buddhist monasteries.

What Are The Most Acceptable Body Parts To Get A Buddha Tattoo?

The most acceptable body part to get a Buddha tattoo is anywhere above the waist.

Should I Cover My Buddha Tattoo While Traveling In Buddhist Countries?

Yes, you should definitely cover your Buddha tattoo while traveling in Buddhist countries. It is a sign of respect, and will ensure that you don't incur any unnecessary trouble during your stay.

Can A Buddhist Smoke?

When asked what they thought the teachings of Buddha have to say about smoking, 91% of respondents said the teachings of Buddha do not say anything; but when asked if there should be a Buddhist law that recommends monks do not smoke, 71% replied “yes”.

What Are The 3 Beliefs Of Buddhism?

The teachings of the Buddha are aimed solely at liberating sentient beings from suffering. The Basic Teachings of Buddha which are core to Buddhism are: The Three Universal Truths; The Four Noble Truths; and • The Noble Eightfold Path.

Can You Be A Buddhist And Still Believe In God?

Buddhists seek to reach a state of nirvana, following the path of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, who went on a quest for Enlightenment around the sixth century BC. There is no belief in a personal god. Buddhists believe that nothing is fixed or permanent and that change is always possible.

What Is The Law Of Impermanence?

The Law of Impermanence states that all relationships will end via death or separation. Thus the law of impermanence can also ease us through times of transition, and pain.

What emotion drives suffering as taught by the Buddha?

The basis of Buddhism is a doctrine known as the Four Noble Truths. The First Truth is that suffering, pain, and misery exist in life.

The Second Truth is that this suffering is caused by selfish craving and personal desire. The Third Truth is that this selfish craving can be overcome.

What Are The Three Types Of Karma?

The 3 Types Of Karma Explained

  • Sanchitta. This is accumulated past actions or karmas waiting to come to fruition.
  • Parabda. This is the present action: what you are doing now, in this lifetime and its result.
  • Agami. Future actions that result from your present actions are called agami karma.

What Did Buddha See During His Enlightenment?

He saw that he had died many times before and that he had been reborn each time. He saw all his past lives.

He saw all the things he had done in his lives—the good as well as the bad.

What Four Things Did The Buddha See That Troubled Him?

When he was 29 years old, legend dictates, he was jolted out of his idleness by the “Four Signs”: he saw in succession an old man, a sick person, a corpse being carried to cremation, and a monk in meditation beneath a tree.

He began to think about old age, disease, and death and decided to follow the way of the monk.

What Are The 3 Jewels In Buddhism?

Triratna, (Sanskrit: “Three Jewels”) Pali Ti-ratana, also called Threefold Refuge, in Buddhism the Triratna comprises the Buddha, the dharma (doctrine, or teaching), and the sangha (the monastic order, or community).

Properly Placed Buddha Tattoo Design Ideas

Buddha Tattoo Sleeve

A Buddha tattoo sleeve involves the whole arm and is a great way to show people that you are truly devoted to your path. This is also a great chance to include many different symbols from Buddhism as well.

Buddha Back Tattoo

Though you may not be able to see it yourself, think of a Buddha back tattoo as a way to carry him with you always in a very special place!

Buddha Tattoo Forearm

Similar to a Buddha tattoo sleeve, a Buddha tattoo forearm placement is great because if you want this piece as a permanent reminder to keep to the Buddhist way, he’ll always be there to guide you.

Buddha Tattoo Arm

The torso is the best place to put a Buddha tattoo in general, especially because it means that you can easily cover them if you're in the company of someone you don't want to upset! Upper arm is best but truly anywhere on your torso is a good spot.

Buddha Chest Tattoo

Many people choose to get a Buddha chest tattoo because this placement is the closest to the heart. You’ll see him everyday, as will others you choose to show your piece to.


The consensus on the acceptability of tattoos in Buddhism is not a hard and fast or unified one.

Some people view it as a right given the universal nature of the mother religion, while others see it as an attempt by the foreigners particularly those in the West to appropriate a culture they know little to nothing about.

So, as a rule, as long as the tattoos of Buddha are worn on the right parts of the body, drawn by trained professionals and carried in a respectful and solemn manner, there is nothing wrong with getting one.

And in a case where you cannot heed all these criteria, you should reconsider the decision and consider getting an alternative.

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