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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wearing Your Heart on Your Sleeve.

They say that the body is a temple and I agree, which might seem odd to some spiritualists because in several religious traditions to mark the skin is considered desecration. I feel that the body is one of the most beautiful works of art known to the human eye and that it only seems natural to honor it by adorning it with meaningful and inspirational designs. Just like monks might adorn a temple with mantras, spires, statues, sculpted trim and other accents that express the sacredness of the Dharma practice unfolding within its walls.

And, so it is that I received my latest mark (seen above) to remind me of letting go of feeling separate from others and all forms of life expressing itself in this time and place that I find myself. It is the Heart Sutra mantra that speaks to that oneness. I'm not going to get into the specifics of the sutra and mantra in this post, but if you want to dig deeper then click on that link above "Heart Sutra mantra." Anyway, the tattoo is a constant, visual reminder to help me transcend the compartmentalization of life, which prevents us from being present and one with the inspiring potential of each moment. If seen with a mind anchored in pure, direct awareness there is no event incapable of being seen as beneficial to our practice.

I am mostly a visual learner and my Dharma tattoos serve (in part) as visual, symbolic teachers constantly reminding me of how to live with less suffering--Regardless of wherever the winds might carry me. It is like having my teacher with me on my arm at all times. It's very powerful as a reminder. However, more importantly they help remind me how to bring less suffering into the lives of those I know, love and meet. The tattoos allow me to bring the temple and the Dharma with me where ever I go. The fact that they are so visual and prominent makes them hard to ignore and forget their lessons like can happen to me with memorized lines that can easily drift off into the gray areas of my memory while caught up and absorbed in life's daily chaos.

Tattoos aren't for everyone and I would never hastily recommend marking your body with permanent ink. If you think you would like a tattoo, it's important to research ahead of time, understand the implications and make sure you get a design that you can live with for the rest of your life. As with any big decision it should be made with full awareness (mindfulness) of the process. Remember, these are the symbols and messages that will represent YOU as a person.

The script used for the tattoo is Siddham--a form of Sanskrit, which is an Indian language used heavily in Hindu and Buddhist literature. The design is by my Dharma brother, Jayavara. Thanks Brother Jayavara!!

ADDENDUM: The title of this post, "Wearing your heart on your sleeve" is a play on words. It is an American idiom that means someone who freely and openly express their feelings. In America at least the heart has been traditionally seen as the center of feelings, and being that it's located where my "sleeve" would be I thought it would be an witty title for this post.

~Peace to all beings~

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Adam said...

Very cool James. I'm going to be getting some dharma ink done as well. Trying to decide on a few things. It will be a little while...

Anonymous said...

Thats as uncool as your Ego.

Just Another Person said...

did it hurt?

They call him James Ure said...

@Adam. Thanks...let me know when you get it done. :)

@Anonymous. I'm not going for cool. I did this tattoo (as with all my tattoos) to help guide me through my life. Whether others like them, disapprove of them or think their "cool or "uncool" is frankly not something I worry about.

@Just Another Person. Not too bad. The one I got near my inner-arm was the most painful.

Jayarava said...

Hi James

Rather you than me :-) Glad you're happy with it though.

And just because I'm a pedant... Siddhaṃ is a script, Sanskrit is a language. So Siddhaṃ isn't "a form of Sanskrit", it is a North Indian script which was used to write Sanskrit during the period of the composition of the Tantras (ca. 6th - 12th centuries) in India, and up to the present day (for mantras) in China, Korea, Vietnam and Japan.

Best Wishes

L.B. said...

Nice job. I may get a tattoo someday. Not something that big, though. Does it matter where one puts their tattoo?
Peace upon your path James.

Tnattam said...

Thanks for this post. I have been thinking for quite some time of getting a dharma wheel on my forearm, for similar reasons that you state. Most of my reservation is for professional reasons... I would not want it to interfere or prevent any future work I might do. I'm curious- what kind of reactions do you get to your tattoos?

They call him James Ure said...

@Jayarava. You're not a pedant. That's an important distinction to make and I'm glad you added a clarification. I want to make sure I get the definitions right. I appreciate your insight.

@L.B. Is your question in regards to whether a Buddhist should get a tattoo on a particular spot? If so, some are sticklers for keeping it away from places that might be near your crotch and butt (seriously). But I don't think it matters. Still, I belong to a more loose Buddhist tradition where it doesn't really matter.

@Tnattam. The Dharma wheel is a very wonderful symbol with sooo many lessons within tha one image. Images are so powerful and helpful, which is what I was alluding to in this post. They can be great tools.

Mostly I get positive remarks about my tattoos. Those who seem to disapprove or at least give me disapproving looks are the older generations.

As for professionalism, I understand. I can get tattoos in such open places because I work for myself.

Charmaine said...

That is a very neatly done tattoo James. I have been thinking of getting one myself but don't have the nerve to stand the pain.Hopefully one day I will..
And that is a very nice post. It's important to still be who you really are no matter which religion you follow.

Linda-Sama said...

love it....I have more than a few dharma tats.

and to the people who think the tats are uncool....blech. guess what? my karma ran over your dogma, as they say.

They call him James Ure said...

@Charmaine. Thanks. Depending on where on your body you get the tattoo is doesn't hurt as much as it looks. Getting them on more muscular areas helps reduce the pain. Anytime you get one on bone it's going to hurt A LOT more. Agreed that we can only be ourselves because to do otherwise would be to be dishonest.

@Linda. Thank-you!! Yeah, I like the look of tattoos and don't see any problem with getting them because anything can be seen as an "adornment" of the impermanent body: Clothes, necklaces, robes, etc.

G said...

I too have a Buddhist tattoo, James, which is a ('Wheel of Truth'). Although it isn't aired on public too often, when people do see it it can lead into a discussion of the Dharma, which is a kind of skillful means.

One point,Justin: you wrote that 'to wear one's heart on one's sleeve' is an American idiom.Shakespeare uses this phrase in 'Othello,' and some etymologists trace it back to medieval knights. So, really, it is an English saying, either in the cultural or linguistic sense of the word.

Perhaps pedantic, but I am an English teacher!

G ;-)

They call him James Ure said...

@G...Ha!! No problem about the idiom. I didn't realize it was from Shakespeare. My high school and college theatre teachers would be horrified that I didn't know it. :)

I understand about being a stickler for such things.

As for the tattoos...I have had so many opportunities to talk about the Dharma with people as well. It's a great way to discuss Dharma with those interested.

I don't push it and talk too much about it though unless people press for additional conversation.

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Anna Fern said...

I recently got a tattoo of a heart on my inner wrist after hurting someone that I love very much. The heart is my visual reminder to do all things through love instead of fear - something I battle with daily - and I believe it is something that will serve as a lifelong symbol of growth, courage, and most importantly - unconditional love.

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