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
What is a Yant
A Yant is a Sacred Geometrical design.Sacred
has existed in countles forms, and is to be found to have been used in
most Advanced Ancient Cultures of Human History.
tattoo is the
general way that a "Farang"
(westerners are referred to as such in Thailand), uses when referring
to one of these Sacred Buddhist
Yantra tattoos: this is actually wrong,
because the tattoo simply called a "Yant (ÂÑ¹µì)"
So, when going for Sak Yant
from one's master, one should not say
"I'm going to get another sakyan
One should say; "I am going to recieve another Yant.
Inspired by the Great Master Hlwong Por Phern and the Tattooist Monks of Wat bang Pra temple in Thailand.
Sak-Yant is designed to be viewed using FIREFOX - click on banner above to download!
How did the Yant come to exist?
Who wears Yant tattoos?
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
It seems that one crazy monk has caused a big problem for all Temples in Thailand that perform the service of Sak Yant.
There are many “Samnak Ajarn Sak Yant” ÊÓ¹Ñ¡ÊÑ¡ÂÑ¹µì
(Yant Tattooist/Masters offices) in Thailand still, but the most famous
of these as far as Foreigners are concerned, is the Tample of Wat Bang
Pra in Thambon Bang Gaew Fa on the outskirts of Nakorn Chaysri town,
Nakorn Phatom Province, near Bangkok.
This is where Spencer approached the monk Hlwong Pi Pant, tattooist Monk, apprenticed to the most famous Yantmaster of all time (deceased 2004), Hlwong Por Phern Tittakunoe (Officially known as Pra Udom Prachaanaat.
Spencer is a Buddhist and Tattooist who has made Thailand his home, and has been visiting Wat Bang Pra Temple as a disciple of Buddhism , but also with extreme interest from the Tattooists point of view.”I stumbled upon this Temple in a time of great sadness in my life, I approached my teacher Hlwong Pi Pant at first as a disciple of Buddhism, but was surprised to see that this monk was applying a tattoo to another monk as I arrived there!” “What were these strange designs, and the strange script that was tattooed around the main designs, that were so harmoniously arranged in a strictly defined composition…all elements of these extremely simple, but overwhelmingly powerful symbols flowing together with Supreme harmony?”
“I received one of the Yant tattoos from my Master ;
This first tattoo I recieved was Yant Gao Yord (see foto).
Before the Yant was applied I paid my respects (Hwai Kru gaeji Ajarn) by bowing to the floor 3 times, palms placed before my forehead between each bow. Then all present grab each other around the waist and I offer the silver tray with all our offerings of ; Orchids, Incense, cigarettes, money in envelopes, and anything else you may wish to offer.” “Hlwong Pi Pant proceeded to chant a “Kataa” (Mantra) in Pali Sanskrit (the language the Buddha used to teach his Dharma).
After this, he prepares to take one of the many “Mai Sak”(tattooing sticks), from a bottle of alcohol which served as disinfection for the 20 or so instruments in bottles at his side. I have counted an average of between 30 and 70 tattoos in one day done by the Master!!!, so this would mean maybe an hour at the most for an instrument to be in the alcohol bottle.
Then I was told to sit in front of the Hlwong Pi Pant, with my back to him. The Master takes his “Mai Sak” and places a color cap between his little finger and ring finger. He then proceeds to draw a grid on my neck, with squares inside it, and nine buddhas on top of each box. Each box contains a letter in Ancient “Khom”. Khom is the alphabet used to write the Holy Buddhist Prayers in the skin as a tattoo. The language is not Thai, it is Pali Sanskrit; But the Lettering is Ancient Khmer, or Khom, as the Thais call it. The Yant I received is called Gao Yord, and means Nine Peaks (gipfel) meaning the peaks of Mount Meru (sacred mountain in the centre of Buddha Realm).”
“On completion of the Tattoo, Hlwong Pi Pant chants a Kataa, and blows it into my Yant, the room is silent, and a feeling of well-being and peace rises inside me.” “The mantra says Gu Ti Gu Ya Tha Saa Wae Taa Saa Gu, and is not a phrase as such, rather use of syllables to represent certain elements involved with Buddha magic.” “I became so involved with this Topic, that I finally asked Hlwong Pi Pant if I could learn about this,” “being a Buddhist and also Tattooist had given me the idea that this may be something I could learn about.”
“Hlwong Pi Pant was ok on this, but seemed sceptical that I could do it, my Thai was not so good back then, and so he said I should ask again when my Thai was better.” “In the meantime, I managed to find an extremely rare book, called Yant 108, written by a former Head of the Thailand Brahmin Order; Pra Ratchakru Taepawamuni.”
“Whilst studying Thai reading and writing, and learning about how to draw, and invoke the 108 Yant designs from this gem of a Literary work, I was introduced into the methods for reading Khom letters too, as the Yant 108 book teaches it as the first necessary step to be able to make yant designs according to the traditional methods.”
“Each yant has it’s own particular Mantra Prayer, and there are strict rules about ?the way you draw each Yant. For example, when inscribing a Yant on Parchment, or Cloth, you may not lift the writing instrument from the surface whilst drawing the outline..it must all be done with a continuous line!”
“How is this possible? Well most of the yant make this possible through the use of knot work like loops for directional changes in the outline.So it is possible to draw the whole design in one throw, ending where you began, without having lifted your pen from the paper.”
“As for the Hand Tattooing of Yant in Thai Temples ; The Tattooing method does not permit the continuous tattooing without lifting the instrument of course, so this rule is obviously not applied as far as Tattooing of Yant is concerned.”
“After long months locked in the back of my tattoo studio on the island of Koh Lanta studying the Khom script and practising drawing the Yant, I returned to the Temple to let Hlwong Pi Pant check up on me, I was afraid of getting something important wrong, so I needed his he"He was extremely pleased with my studies, and said I should go ahead and practise Sak Yant ..So I did!..Both with machine, and with the Hand Instrument he gave me (put through the autoclave of course). After trying a few with the hand instrument, I returned quickly to the Temple, to pay even greater respect to Hlwong Pi Pant. I say even greater respect, because , although it is common knowledge that Thais like to take the difficult approach to doing something, well I never knew their choice of method for hand tattooing is the HARDEST I have ever encountered.!!!"
I really had to take my hat off to the Master when I think of writing Pali Sanskrit in tiny letters that wind round in circles upside down, backwards , every direction! And you have this pole with two spike filed off the split end . The pole is nearly a meter long, and you are supposed to hold it between ?the thumb and forefinger of your outstretched, palm upwards hand.!”
Till now I have managed to decipher the secrets of many many Yant designs, and can design most of them myself. As far as the hand tattooing methods of Yant Tattoo, I must say I am still progressing, you don’t get a tattoo like this every day” Before I ever made a Yant, I went to The Abbot of Wat bang Pra, to ask permission to do this; He was kind enough to say yes, if not I should not have considered doing it.
Basic info About Yant Designs.
The lines drawn in the Yant represent the Umbilical Cord
of the Buddha, and are traditionally known as the
There are many varied forms of Yantra, it appears, such as; Round Yant, Triangular Yant, Four - Sided Yant, and even Pictorial ones.
Each Yant Variety has it's own particular meaning; Round Yant - represents the Face of the Buddha (Pra Pakt Khong Pra Putta Jao) in Brahmin Tradition Brahma is applied as the meaning
Triangular Yant - represents theTriple Gem of the Buddha Dharma and Sangha (Pra Put, Pra Tamma, Pra Songk) in Brahmin Tradition the three Lords of Heaven are applied as the meaning (Shiva Brahma, Vishnu)
Four sided Yant - represents the Four Elements /
Continents (Earth, Water, Air and Fire) Pictorial Yant (Animalistic) -
represents various Angels, People, and Mythical Animals (Sathw Himapant)
The Himapant Animals, and the Phenomenon of “Khong Khuen”
Himapant animals are Mythical animals from the Himapant forest of India (an ancient Legend). The Animals consist of a whole Pantheon of amazing creatures, such as the 'Kinnari' and 'Kinnorn' (Half man, half bird - those of you who have visited a Thai Temple may have seen some of these figures guarding the Temple grounds, along with the 'Yak' (Green and red Giants with big teeth).
There are so many different Himapant animals, most of them are mixed together from 2 or 3 different animal types, such as 'Macchaanu'; Hanuman's son, born of hanuman the monkey General, and 'Nang Suwanna Macchaa', a kind of mermaid. Macchaanu has a monkeys body and face, but posesses the tail of a fish! The Himapant animals represent elemental powers and Boddhisattwas (Compassionate protectors), and thus are considered very powerful as tattoo Magic.
One phenomenon that is apparently unexplainable about Yant tattoo is 'Khong Khuen', a kind of posession, where the tattooee recieves the tattoo of the Himapant animal and upon receiving the 'Kataa' (Mantra) blown into his tattoo from the Monk, he then becomes taken over by the spirit of the Himapant animal he recieved as a tattoo.
I have seen this phenomenon many times, and find it to be unexplainable.Some people may fake it i am sure, but some of the cases i have seen are undoubtably authentic. The subject is completely innocent to what happened when he was in trance.
Thais believe that the Himapant animals can rise to protect you in times of danger..but i also believ that they can rise up if you behave wrongly and do not respect the rules of wearing a Yant tattoo.
Anyone wishing to see this phenomenon should visit the Temple on 'Master Day' where thousands of disciples throng to pay respects to the deceased Master, Hlwong Por Phern. As to the rules of wearing a yant tattoo, there are many. A few of the more common ones are listed below;
Rules of Abstention
Yant Tattoo Design Composition
On Master day, you can observe this phenomenon occur in great numbers of people. When the Master chants the heart Mantra of Crocodile, for example.. many people will start writhing around on the floor like a crocodile does, and making growling noises.
The Leaping Tiger Mantra will cause people to rear up on their hind legs, hands outstretched before them, clawing at the air and roaring like a tiger! Each animal has it's own way of appearing, and if you are familiar with the different actions a person in trance performs when posessed by an animal, it is possible to recognize which animal he is posessed with. What makes this phenomenon hard to explain, is the fact that when the master chants the heart mantra of each animal Yant, it is not in Thai language, rather Pali Sanskrit! This means that the disciples in the crowd have no way of knowing which Mantra of which animal the Master is chanting. Nevertheless when 10 people hear the heart mantra and turn into a Tiger , you will be able to see afterwards that all ten of them have the tiger tattooed on them. A devotee with a crocodile will not turn into a tiger, and vice versa.
The different tattoing instruments used in Sak Yant are ;
Yant are not only applied as tattoos, but also on many other kinds of medium, such as cloth, inscribed on the back of metal templates to be used as protective amulets in the home, temple, car etc. Another popular form of wearing Yant Magic, is to use 'Thagrud', meaning the Yant is applied onto a parchment, rolled up into a scroll, and then fed into a metal tube, or sometimes wrapped in the skin taken from the forehead of a Tiger. The Thagrud is then ties to a cord and wrapped around the waist.
Visitors to Thai Temples may have seen men wearing a whole chain of these Thagrud wrapped around the waist. Some people wear a whole chain of Phallic (Penis) images tied around them too _ this is similar to the 'Shiva Lingam' representing the Phallic masculine force.There is also a Yant tattoo that includes a Penis and testicles, with drops of semen ejecting; this design is not particularly Buddhist, but as i said already, the Yant Tattoo tradition is an amalgamation of many beliefs and superstitions.
Also the Yant are maybe to be seen most often on the back of Thai Monk amulets, something which many of us who have been to Thailand have either bought as a memento, or recieved as a gift. I recieve much mail from visitors to my website and forum; www.sakyant.com, asking me to translate and explain the yant on their monk coins..also to analyze their Yant tattoos.
At first i did this eagerly, but as the website grew, i started recieving too many requests, and it became a full time job. I still design Yant tattoos for people who want a special yant making for them for a small donation.
All Yant have their own particular design methods and meanings; Each yant has a Prayer (Kataa) which should accompany it, and a 'Heart Mantra'. Yant Tattoos have a strict application method, which must be learned, it is not enough to just tattoo the design on AND THAT'S IT'!
The tattooist must concentrate extremely to make the tattoo, due to the fact he must write in Khom (ancient Khmer sanskrit) whilst he is silently saying a mantra, which changes whith each new element of the design (Bones, Knots, Letters, Buddhas etc).
The Following Sutras are Kataa to be intoned whilst applying the Yant;
Rules of behaviour when going to recieve a Yant tattoo from a Buddhist Monk/Brahmin shaman;
When one approaches the shrine where the Yant are tattooed, one must leave one's shoes on the steps leading up to the room. You should obtain offerings for the Master before entering the salon; Incense sticks, Flower garlands, money in an envelope, and maybe a packet of krong tip cigarettes if you whish (plus a can of birdy ice coffee! - it gets hot in the room, and the monks like to drink this stuff).
Upon entering, you should go to your knees, place your hands in a praying position in front of your forehead and then bow forward , placing the palms of your hands on the floor. This you should repeat three times.
After this you can sit around in the queue, and watch the devotees recieve their Yant tattoos, while you wait to be called your turn (if you are lucky, you may get to see Khong Khuen occur!). When you are called for your tattoo, you should present the offerings outstretched on a silver tray before you, and the Monk will take hold of the tray, and say a Kataa to bless you and the offerings before the tattoo.
After this he will perform 'Piti Hwai Kru gaeji Ajarn' (Call of respect to the Ruesii), and ask you to get into position for the tattoo. After the tattoo, you should place your hands together again, and the Monk will perform 'Tong kataa Bpuug Saeg' (Invoke a Mantra), and blow it into the Yant tattoo with his breath.
You should then bow 3 times again and the ritual is finished.
About the popular rumor that the Temple is overrun by Criminals seeking Yant tattoos;
It is true, that hired killers like to wear Sacred yant tattoos, but i have to say that all levels of Society has people who wear a Yant. Even if it is 'Sak Nam Man' (using oil instead of ink).
Soldiers, policemen, Politicians, Doctors lawyers etc...and Criminals too. No exceptions are made about who a monk allows to have a Yant, except if you come drunk or in an unacceptable state.
Extra information about Sak Yant tattooing.
The Thais believe that the Yant tattoo will have the power to charm a desired lover, protect one from one's enemy, or even stop a bullet!
Strange phenomenae have occured throughought the ages in connection with the Yant - such as a famous Thai Air Force Pilot being shot repeatedly with an M16 and only having bruises! Or guns being repeatedly shot at someone with a Yant, and the gun not going off. I thought i would explain about 'Master Day' before we take a look at some of the Yant Tattoos and look at their meaning.
Master day is the day where all Disciples attend the Temple to pay respects to the Master of Yant.
On this occasion up to 10,000 believers bestow the temple with their presence, and recieve the blessings and hear the Master of the Wad (Temple) chant the 'Kataa Hua Jai' (Heart Mantra) of each of the 108 Yant. Gur Ru Su Gu Na Ma Pa Ta, Ma A U...the chant of leaping Tiger Yant; made popular by the 'Suea' (Highwaymen/Villians) of the past, and the 'Nak Laeng' (Asassins/Mafia)of the present.
Leaping Tiger yant is one of the Yant that made Bang Pra
famous, supposedly having the power to awaken the spirit of the Tiger
when one is in danger.This is what the Thais call 'Khong Khuen' (thing
rises). Khong Khuen is the strange occurence of the Tattooee losing
awareness and becoming absorbed by the spirit of the animal has been
tattooed with. I have seen this Phenomenon on many occasions at the Wad.