Saturday, 17 October 2009
Sak Yant Tattoo, Isaan Thailand. Round 2.
I made my way out to see my Khruu or Ajarn Sak (teacher) today. This is Ajarn. He is an interesting man I have learnt over the small amount of time I have spent at his place. Ajarn left school in Matayom 2 which relates to year 8 or around 14 years of age.
He then joined the police force, back then it was apparently easy to join. He stayed in the police force for ten years and then left to follow his love, tattooing. Ajarn is now 57 and has been actually tattooing for around 40 years he said, full time for 30 years.
Ajarn does Sak Yant tattoos, or Yantra tattoos that are applied by using a stick with a metal spike or needle if you like. The needle is dipped into the ink and then tapped to break the skin and the ink then settles under the skin. This is my other tattoo and you can see pictures about this tattoo here.
Ajarns house is only just over 20klms from my house, but it is like it is a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of Ubon Ratchathani city. His house isn’t too far away from a main road, but rural Thailand changes fast from concrete and roads to flush green pastures and trees with sounds of wildlife replacing city sounds.
Ajarn’s house has chickens and roosters scooting about the place everywhere. This is nothing amazing, I know. A man thankfully about 400 metres from my house keeps chickens, Cock fighting roosters and other birds in his city house. Everyday he unloads his carport area of all the animals across the road to the vacant block of land he uses to house the animals. I am thankful I am not his neighbour, as I am sure he is thankful I am not his.
Rice paddy lush and green.
There are five or six ponds about the place that house fish, this is the most elaborate, others are like concrete tubes or parts of old drains that have been converted into ponds. One that was filthy dirty looking had huge catfish in it. I could only tell this when the surfaced occasionally and also the bubbles rising to the surface.
Of course there are dogs; I think there are five or more. They are not overly friendly as they don’t come up to you and want to be petted, but offer low growls, letting you know this is their territory. There is one white dog that has been chained the times I have been there, so he or she must not be too friendly.
Ajarn also has squirrels; there are three in a cage that bounce all over the place. The first time I seen a squirrel in Thailand was near my house at Nong Bua Temple. The squirrel ran across a power line, I had to do a double take and when I enquired Miss Noot said there used to be a lot but people hunt them and now there aren’t so many.
I arrived home from Ajarn’s and our house looked like a bomb had gone off. I had repainted the house and moved all the furniture back into place, but Miss Noot decided it was time for a change, just like our bedroom the other day. So cabinets had been moved, pictures swapped around and so forth.
But why did I go to Ajarn’s house. The above tattoo should explain this. I had the dragon applied. I had contacted Ajarn the day before and then said I would be at his house around 9am. I arrived a little late, 9.30am and Ajarn had some ladies in for a reading.
I eventually went under the bamboo needle around 10.30am. I don’t have any pictures of this tattoo being done as I went alone. Ajarn resized the dragon as he said the smaller version wouldn’t be any good on my big body; don’t know how I should take that.
So the dragon was resized and covers virtually my whole back, the first tattoo was meant to take an hour at the most. The new resized tattoo was estimated to take maybe two hours. I was starting to think if I could take two hours of having a Sak Yant tattoo applied.
Anyway, I swallowed and just got on with it. I paid respect to Ajarn first and then sat while Ajarn readied himself. He bound the metal needle to his Mai Sak and arranged his pot of ink.
I sat in a position you see at any temple, or even Buddhist sits when at a temple. Anjali Mudra (Diamond World) in very simple terms is when you have your palms/fingers placed together at the level of your heart.
The gesture formed by the union of the two hands, recalls the co-existence of the two inseparable worlds, which are really one: the Diamond World, or vajradhatu and the Matrix World, or gharbhadhatu. These two worlds are the expression of two aspects of one cosmic life and represent the reciprocal action of the spiritual and the materials, the static and the dynamic.
Sitting for a long time with legs folded is not easy, if you Google Sak Yant tattoos and watch people being tattooed and what some of the people do during the tattooing looks a little comical. Bouncing, deep heavy breathing, some people have there hands shaking uncontrollably and others offer not a lot of expression.
I have seen some videos of people laying down, clutching a pillow having Sak Yant tattoos done but I am sure this is not very respectful.
So I was set and with my controlled breathing the tattoo started, the needle was tapped and pierced my skin. This continued for just over three hours. Yes, three hours. In that time there were changes in my leg position and also times when I questioned if what I had done or undertaken was in fact a good idea.
There were many times when I too breathed deep and exhaled hard, I will not lie. Some parts of this tattoo hurt, hurt a lot. But the pain is all worth it.
I will explain more about the tattoo later and the meaning it represents. If you are thining of having a Sak Yant tattoo done and your pain threshold isn’t great, choose something small if you get a choice that is.
It hasn’t put me off having the other tattoos done as they are much smaller but I know now they will hurt as the places they are going are sensitive. The longest one should take about 20 minutes.
So if I could take three hours of being Sak Yanted, the 20 minutes will be a walk in the park, so I hope anyway.