Fashion statement or spiritual the last year or so it’s become hip to be seen wearing mystical tattoos from Thailand. And this has been further glamorised by their endorsement by Hollywood superstars,such as Aagelina jolie who now has two sacred tattoos on her back. Body art is one thing .A souvenir of your gap-year backpack-trip is also fine. But a sacred tattoo is just one part of a spiritual way of life that’s been followed from before the time of Buddha. And to regard one of its symbols as if it were some kind of jewellery is shallow at best.And there are some traditionalists who would regard this as disrespectful. if not actually ignorant. Fortunately, there are many Westerners who do take this seriously and who have the time and the inclination to learn more about the philosophy that underlies sacred tattoos. Known as’sak yant’, from the thai words’sak’,meaning a tattoo,and’yant’, a sacred design,they have their origins in the pictograms of religious Hindu texts which originated in lndia some three thousand years ago.Over time, their use spread into Cambodia and Thailand,but with no alterations to the mystical scripts which accompanied them.This writing is a variation of ancient Sanskrit that’s known today as’aghara khom’or,simply,’khom’.Originally they were drawn onto cloth or fabric (pha yant) either as scrolls or, as became usual with warriors seeking protection, inscribed’ upon clothing(seuayant)But as Buddhism began to take hold in Thailand,so body tattoos gradually came to replace the designs on fabric. You’ll find that all of the larger temples have their own’ tattoo master’(ajarn sak) and his role is multi-layered.’Ajarn’ is the Thai word for teacher and, indeed, a part of his obligation is to pass on his knowledge and skill to others. But a great many of the local people also see him as a kind of holy’ magician’ with the ability to know the future, see into people’s hearts and minds, ward off evil, keep ghosts away and grant good fortune.And all of this for only a’ contribution’ to his temple. monks are not permitted to receive actual payment for their services. With sacred tattoos being advertised on every street-corner of the backpacker area of Bangkok’s Khao San Road, and reports that Ajarn Noo Kamphai (who did Ms.jolie’s tattoos) is now charging$30,000 for similar work (by appointment only) you might wonder how the humbler day-to-day role of the temple-based tattooist-teacher monk relates to this. But our little island is full fo surprises.And one fo these will be discovered if you poy a visit to Ajarn Panthep Pruekthara. over (YOU SHOULD BE TAUGHT HOW TO MEDITATE AND TO REFLECT ON YOUR WEAKNESSES, AND TO LINK THIS TO THE SACRED TATTOO THAT’S BEEN DIVINED FOR YOU.) Ajarn Panthep-more-usually known by his nickname of Ajarn Sam-was an ajarn sak and spiritual advisor in temples around Thailand right up until three years ago when he set out on his own. Although he was born in the nearby mainland city of Surat Thani, he then went on to spend many years studying with teachers in Ayudhya and korat before coming to Samui in 2004.his training was demanding he had to learn the ancient script of khom and to memorise the divination texts from antique wooden books, but without written notes to aid him. And he was trained to look inwards as well as around himself, self-knowledge needs to exist alongside a perceptive awareness of the world. together with a keen insight into the people it contains. Up until three years ago, Ajarn Sam was unknown to the majority of Westerners on Samui But to the Thai folk here he’d already become something of a legend.there was a steady stream of petitioners to the Lamai temple, seeking a blessing from him and advice on financial matters or affairs of the heart.And of course, also a sak yan to guide and protect them. But in2008 two things happened.the first was that he realised that there were thousands of people on Samui with whom he had no contact. the westerners who were either living here or were on holiday.and the second was that he was now involved with his partner.khun Lek. Ajarn Panthep speaks little English but with khun Lek’s interpretation he was able to reach a much greater audience.As a result of this he withdrew from the Lamai Temple. You’ll find his house in Lamai. just a few metres south of the signposted road to Samui Yacht Club resort on the ring-road (just after the mountain section coming from Chaweng to Lamai) a short way down a small track that’s alongside a bright pink’s a shrine to his life and accomplishmants. There are photos of all his previous teachers on the walls.scripts and scrolls hanging everywhere. and mementos and memorabilia on every surface.Plus of course. the cabinet containing his tattooing pens and equipment. he uses steel pens,not the ones made of bamboo. And then the process begins.Ajarn Panthep is light-hearted and smiling and will often chuckle at your reaction to his ins ights. He’ll determine your dominant element (earth,fire,air or water) based on your birth date before consulting his scrolls.and then,with a bisturbing accuracy,he’ll begin to outline your personality with all its strengths, failings and needs.the outcome of this dictates the nature of the tattoo that you’ll require to restore your spiritual balance and also where it has to be situated on your body.’Panthep can just make a sakyan on your shoulder or arm,if you insist.explained Khun lek, but that’s really not the idea.You need to believe in the social teachings of Buddha and to understand that everyone in the world is connected.You should be taught how to meditate and to reflect on your weaknesses, and to link this to the sacred tattoo that’s been divined for you. That’s why Sam’s here, to teach you how to get everything to work together. And happily,we’re gettiing quite well-known now,she added with a smile.”Last December we had two of the Jordanian Royal Family come here.just for a sakyan.Khun lek went on to explain that Buddha has no fewer than 84,000 teachings, of which monks are required to abide by just 227! But ordinary foik like you and l only need to follow five commandments as a way of life that knits-in with the sakyan, don’t kill and living thing,don’t steal, don’t lie, and stay away from drink and drugs.And also follow your sexual inclinations with thoughtfulness and consideration for all involved! And then if you’re in any way serious about all of this everything should begin to work together as a whole.The quality of your life will improve and perhaps even your health and fortune,too.The more you believe,the more effective it will all be, including your sakyan.Because this is one tattoo that is much,much more than just skin-deep. (for further information telephone Khun Lek:0 869 437 464 >0 811 739232 samuisakyan

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