“A rabbit aims for the moon.“
– Thai Proverb
Having a Sak Yant Tattoo done was something I had wanted since before I started my journey. It’s one of the things that propped up while researching the endless amount of things I could do, see and taste while travelling and it quickly made its way onto my bucket list. Not because I’m religious (cause I’m not), but because it would be a permanent souvenir I could bring with me as a memory of my trip and the cultural experience I would have getting it done.
I originally wanted to do it in Chiang Rai, but the monk was way too busy for the short amount of time I was there, so I had to postpone it and have it done in Bangkok. I went through WSE (Where Sidewalks End) because I wanted it done by a professional, with hygiene standards and no bullsh*t.
My guide Tammy picked me up from my hotel and we instantly hit it off. (She is the one who told me Bangkok is not named Bangkok in Thailand! I know right?! Its full name is “Krung Thep Mahanakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit“, shortened to Krung Thep. The more you know).
Tammy took me to see Ajarn Too (disciple of the old master Ajarn Neng, and an Ajarn in his own right now) – according to Tammy “he jokes less than the old master, but he’s ok”. I thought he was more than ok. He asked me so many questions about my hopes, dreams and fear and wanted me to explain further why I travelled so much, what I liked about work, my life and people and took along time before he decided what design he thought I should have. I had already decided to accept whatever he wanted to tattoo on my back because that was the whole point of being there. Having the master decide what I needed and then put a mark on me that will provide that. If I just wanted a tattoo I decided on myself I could go to any tattoo shop anywhere. The only thing I requested was to have it centered because balance is important to me. That was no problem to Ajarn Too. after I had given my offering, we talked, he suggested a design, I accepted it and we were ready to start.
Ajarn Too took great care to show me his tools were clean. He took out a sealed needle tip and made extra sure I saw it was sealed and new (at this point I completely trusted him so this was a bit unnecessary, but I appreciated how thorough he was.
I dressed in the shirt they gave me and the tattoo was drawn on me. One last look in the mirror to make sure I agreed this was what I wanted and then we were off. Tammy was on my right and Ajarn Too’s assistant was on my left. They both held my shoulders down like I was about to be waterboarded and Ajarn Too started stabbing my back.
He method is all manual, there’s no mechanical needle doing the work he stabs it himself time and time and time again, until the tattoo is done. This takes a little longer, but is part of the unique experience.
I can’t even remember how long I sat there. They give you a chant you’re meant to repeat while the tattooing is in process and I did this for a while, but then my mind began to wander and it turned more into a moment of reflection to me. That may sound incredibly pretentious, but what I mean is my mind wandered and I started thinking, as I have quite a few other times on my trip, on what my life really is. I mean, I’m sitting here, in Bangkok, in a Thai Ajarn’s studio getting a sacred tattoo done on my back that is meant to protect me and guide me. Even if I’m not a believer, the experience is surreal and awesome. I thought of what I was experiencing through this insane choice I made to sell everything and just go into the unknown, what opportunities I had in front of me and the ones I had already grabbed and taken advantage of. What I was happy about, what I felt was missing, how I feel about myself… It was a pretty profound experience, even if it was very internal. I think this whole thing just really brought home to me, yet again, how much is out there.
Anyway, the tattoo was done, the Ajarn said a blessing over me and attached one of those golden leaf blessings as well before covering the tattoo in cling film and telling me to take good care of it and be happy in my life. I don’t think the tattoo itself will make that happen, but it will remind me to try and make that happen so maybe it’s all the same…