There are many different mantras that have different meaning and significance, not only in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition but also of other traditions and languages such as Chinese, Japanese and Thai.
Before considering a mantra for a tattoo it is best to have an understanding of what the mantra represents and to know something of its origin and deeper meaning. There are many resources on the Internet that explain mantras.
Because mantras and sacred words are worthy of respect, there needs to be careful consideration where a mantra is placed on the body as a tattoo.
As ones body is ones own temple, the advice given is to place mantras and sacred words high up on the body and not below the waist line, not to place back-to-front or up-side-down.
There is some confusion if a mantra is the right way up when placed on the arms, which is of course relative to which position one is holding the arm and from which direction yourself or other is viewing the arm. But generally if it appears the right-way-up when looking at ones own forearms it is correct, however on the upper arm should be in relation to the rest of your body and should appear the right-way-up to others who see the tattoo.
Turning a mantra or sacred words on their side to align vertically on the torso or upper arms is also acceptable. There are examples shown on the Bespoke Design page.
“The ‘written’ script represents a language, and a language represents thought. Therefore, one must be able to write a script that is understandable to all, that the sacred meaning of the word is best honored as a beautiful art form called calligraphy. This is the sacred integrity of the written language and the preservation of the wisdom it upholds.“
- Tashi Mannox
Sanskrit is the original sacred language of India, it was the written language used to document the 108 volumes of the Buddha’s teachings and the 225 commentary volumes that include the Sutra’s and Tantra’s.
The Tibetan written language was very much developed to accommodate the transmigration of the vast Buddha’s teachings from India into Tibet, which began during the 7th century A.D. during the reign of King Songtsen Gampo.
With the historical development of the four main Buddhist lineages and the establishment of the great monasteries in the land of saints and yogis, Tibet evolved many different script forms that are based in divine proportion and used to serve the various different devotional representations.
For Centuries, calligraphy was an important dimension of traditional Tibetan education. Monastic and non-monastic institutions, where the students had to undergo rigorous training in calligraphy for 10 to 15 years, spending at least a couple of years on each of the several different script styles.
The upmost sacred of the written word is ‘mantra’ representing the ultimate or divine, not only in the quality of sound that the mantra resonates, but also emanates in the sacred proportion of the syllable form. This can be described as liberation through hearing and liberation through seeing the mantra.
Because of the sacred significance of mantras and other more spiritual based words, a code of respect is important to up-hold the integrity and longevity of what the mantra represents.
In Tibet and other Buddhist countries, the representation of mantras and sacred manuscripts are considered an object of veneration because their metaphysical wisdom, representing the ultimate and means to become spiritually awakened. Apart from hidden away in illuminated manuscripts, mantras are more openly displayed over the head; high up and gilt in gold leaf on temple beams, if not carved in stone as a practice of veneration and piled up off the ground as a wall of Mani mantras, around which devotees circumambulate.