Sak Yant, Buddhist tattoo, definiton and rules


Sak Yant is the Thai name for the Tattooing of Sacred geometrical designs on the skin. Yant (or Yantra, as we call them in the west), are normally tattooed by Buddhist monks, or Brahmin Holy men . The Yant tattoos have developed over the centuries under the influence of several different things

The Yantra designs that already existed in Hindu India were adapted by the Thais as Buddhism arrived from neighbouring India.

Sak Yant tattoo, buddhist tattoo
Legend has it, that the Father of Yant magic were the ‘Ruesii’; a kind of hermit/sorceror, living in the depths of the forest,Studying spells and practising their magic. These Ruesii existed a long time before Buddhism existed. They are often mentioned in the Thai Ramakiarn (a version of the Hindu Ramayana Epic Myth), and are usually depicted holding a black slate and chalk, with a Yant design inscribed on the slate. The Ruesii wore long hats; and normally had long wispy beards.There are so many Ruesii stories, such as the ones told in the ‘Hnang Thalung’ shadow puppet theatre in Southern Thailand.Kings, Emperors and Political leaders normally had a Ruesii as their advisor, rather like the Court magician in Mediaeval times here in the Western world The Ruesii was also responsible for creating the Magic Book of power so treasured by the Hindu Gods, known as Thrai Paet, or Thrai Waet; meaning Three Sciences, or Three Magics. This book was the theme for several stories in the Ramakiarn Epic.

Local belief in Nature Spirits, Animism and other sub-belief systems have been also incorporated into the Pantheon of yant designs that exist in the Thai Tradition to date.

The Tradition in Ancient Thailand that Warriors be tattooed in order to make their bodies slippery and hard to grab in battle has caused many Yant tattoo designs to be developed that are intended to protect against penetrative weapons (such as guns, knives etc). Thais believed that if you are covered with yant tattoos, it will make your skin slippery and hard to penetrate with a sharp weapon.
Sak Yant tattoo, buddhist tattoo

Yant Paed Tidt being applied by Watb Bang Pra Master Hlwong Pi Phaew.

The Yant tattoos are worn by people from all levels of Thai society, from Thieves, Asassins and highwaymen, right up to the level of Important Politicians, Police commissioners, Judges and Civil servants.

Sak Yant tattoo, buddhist tattoo, Sak Yant tattoo, buddhist tattoo

Yant Paed Tidt being applied by Watb Bang Pra Master Hlwong Pi Phaew.

Currently the Ancient Art of Sak Yant is in danger of disappearing, despite a revival in the Youth Culture, due to a Yant related film released a couple of years ago (“Maha Ud”), which caused a whole class of schoolboys to travel to a Temple, where they received the Yant tattoo called Maha Ud (renowned to be able to stop a bullet),from a Monk there.
This caused an outrage from the parents of the schoolboys in mention, and has resulted in the Thai Government putting pressure on the Buddhist organisms responsible to try to do away with this Ancient Art. It seems that one crazy monk has caused a big problem for all Temples in Thailand that perform the service of Sak Yant.

:: Pictures and text from Sank-Yant.com

:: Also, I recommend you to read our post about Buddhist Script and Buddhist tattoo design by Tashi Manox