I have been interested in the art of tattooing for many years and had always wanted to get one, a couple of weeks ago I finally took the plunge and got myself inked!
About a year ago while I was doing some research into Buddhism I came across a very old and sacred mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum” – the mantra of compassion and loving kindness. The symbols form an overall statement but also contain many meanings individually, Here is a brief break down of the meaning which can be explored in more depth here.
It represents the path of 6 perfections – Generosity, Ethics, Patience, Diligence, Concentration and Wisdom. The path of these six perfections is the path walked by all the Buddhas of the three times and it is said to contain the entire teaching of Buddhism. Roughly translated into English it says “Hail the jewel in the lotus”.
Historically it was common to find the Mantra carved into rocks and written on paper that would be placed in a prayer wheel. It was often used for protection or purification.
“The first syllable Om it is blessed to help you achieve perfection in the practice of generosity, Ma helps perfect the practice of pure ethics, and Ni helps achieve perfection in the practice of tolerance and patience. Pä, the fourth syllable, helps to achieve perfection of perseverance, Me helps achieve perfection in the practice of concentration, and the final sixth syllable Hum helps achieve perfection in the practice of wisdom.” – Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
I had been reading a lot about Zen at the time and had started to integrate some zen practices into my life, the Mani Mantra became a reminder of some of the things I had learnt and had to face about myself. The more I thought about getting a tattoo the more this Mantra seemed like the obvious subject matter, a constant reminder to be mindful and keep any bad emotions in check, not always an easy task.
I am a huge fan of Pepa at Bohemian Tattoo Arts, he is a true artist which is very evident in his work. Pepa has been a tattoo artist for over 10 years and established Bohemian in 2002, he has also travelled internationally as a guest artist and hosts artists at his studio here
Although my tattoo is very simple compared to a lot of his work I really wanted him to do it as his line work is really sharp, and on a plain black tattoo this is very important. Pepa is a great guy and he knew all about the Mani Mantra when I showed him the picture, he has a full sleeve of Buddhist art so when I saw this I knew I had come to the right place!
“With all classic Tibetan and Sanskrit scripts, the proportion and construction of the characters themselves are sacred, originating from enlightened minds. This gives the mantra power, not only from it’s form, but also its sound quality: this is called liberation by sight and sound.” – Tashi Mannox
When I started looking around for a decent image of the Mani Mantra I noticed a lot of different versions, some characters were slightly different, some had additional elements that appeared to be punctuation (to an untrained eye), there were a lot of discrepancies between the designs.
The last thing anyone want’s is a mistranslation or terribly designed script on their skin! So I was really happy when I found Ink Essential. Tashi is an expert in Tibetan Calligraphy and iconography which he studied extensively during his tenure as a Monk. He is currently an artist and specializes in traditional script design for tattooing, his goal is to ensure that a high standard in the written Tibetan language is maintained.
I contacted Tashi with my concerns about the variation in scripts and he was very helpful and gave me all the information I needed, he has a great page on his website that shows the script I used (Tibetan Uchen script) and also talks a little about giving the sacred design proper respect.
The question most people ask when they find out you have a tattoo is “Did it hurt?” – of course it hurts! But it is definitely not as bad as you expect it to be, it feels exactly like what it is, a needle dragging across your skin.
Mine is on my inside forearm which I’d say is a pretty sensitive spot, the pain was definitely easy to deal with until he got close to the inner elbow area, particularly when he was filling it in. Because the lines are fairly short it’s not like the needle is constantly on your skin, I think this probably helped too as there were plenty of pauses. I can see how people say that it is addictive, I started planning my next one while this one was being worked on!