Sak Yant is an old Southeast Asian tradition of placing Yantra on the skin by means of tattoo. Yantra are symbols or diagrams to balance the mind or focus on spiritual concepts. In practice, many Southeast Asians wear them for protection against both physical and spiritual threats. They’re common in the military and in some places, among gangs, which leads to the Western misunderstanding that everyone who has a sak-yant is in one of the two. In fact, particularly in Thailand which has a rich tattoo culture and history of sak yant.
The origin of Yantra is in India, but the tradition of tattoo was not, therefore in India the diagrams were primarily on printed or drawn items, like cloth. When the custom spread to SE Asia, Sak Yant, or the tattooing of the yant as an art developed. Started first by the Khmer, it later took root in Thailand, where I discovered it.
Yants were discovered by Ruesi (forest hermit monks), who later passed on the secrets, which were in turn passed on to the monks and ajarns (teachers) who administer the yants today. Many yants used in Sak Yant reflect not only a Buddhist history, but also the Animism and Brahmanism that is a part of the Thai religious culture.
They are typically administered via the Mae Sak. At one time the mae sak was a bamboo needle, but more commonly these days a metal rod with needles on the end is used.
Pictured here is a Mae Sak that I bought in Chiang Mai. I am told it is Burmese in origin. You can see Ajarn Anek’s mae sak in the video. It is a bit different. It’s longer and has needles affixed to the bottom.
For more information, please see Spencer Littlewood’s excellent site: Sak-Yant.com
1) This was my first yant. All my work that’s done by hand (videos 1, 3, and 4) is done by Ajarn Anek in Banglamung, Chonburi (about 1/2 hour from Jomtien & Pattaya). He is the nephew of Buddha Poodum.
I’ve often been asked the Katha, or prayer that goes with this. I have asked Ajarn Anek to recite it for me to share with you.
Katha Yant Koo Poo Tong (mp3 link)
2) This one was done in Cambodia near Siam Reap. It breaks with tradition in that I was given a choice of hand or machine, but our time didn’t allow for hand, so I opted for machine. The experience was different. I ‘like’ it by hand, I have found. I made a mistake in sharing my back with more than one master and should have reserved the entire back for Ajarn Anek. Still, I value the experience, and although some commentators on the youtube site have expressed that it’s not “real” because of the machine, even some monks have stated that it’s not the medium that makes it “real” or not. Still, I find between the two experiences, the old school hand method was a deeper spiritual experience for me. (It’s hard to meditate with buzzzzzzzzzzzz going on in your ear, lol).
3) My second trip to Ajarn Anek and it was like I was family. This was a marathon session. I was under the needle for over seven hours.
4) This is the third session with Ajarn Anek and takes place the day after the the second trip (video #3 in this article) on the same trip. This was a pretty short session, total time being between four to five hours. Here I finally receive my animals. Although you can go in and demand certain animals or yants, and eventually find some one to do them, traditionally, the yants are chosen FOR you. Ajarn did ask me some questions and took my input and helped to decide. Originally I had mistakenly thought the Tigers were only for fighting or the martial arts, so I did not want them, wanting Dragons, which signify wisdom instead. However, Ajarn said that since I am born in the year of the Tiger and I ‘am’ Tiger, why not Tigers. Thus, I went with it. Dragons actually don’t get along with Tigers much 😛 . All of my tattoos, other than the all encompassing, all purpose ones are geared towards business, not fighting (since I’m a lover, not a fighter haha).
The katha for the tiger yant is here: Katha (mp3 link)
Important note: If you want to save either katha mp3 for your own personal listening, then that’s fine. If you want use either of the katha on the web or in any other manner (than personal use), please send me a request by e-mail. I would like to respect Ajarn by letting him know where his recordings are going and how they are going to be used. Thank you.
There is a “plan” for my entire back (which I messed up a little bit by getting the Cambodian tattoo on the right shoulder instead of somewhere else). Originally there was to be a square frame similar to what you see here from Ajarn’s website.
There is an adapted plan now, taking into account the visual break up of the right shoulder I did (and the adapted design he did on my left shoulder to match the right shoulder).
I’m currently on a weight loss program (already dropped 30 pounds!), so any more work is going to wait until I either reach desired weight or hit a wall.
Final thought is if I have anyone else work on me, as far as sak-yant goes, I am going to choose old style, with the mae sak.
Here is where I am at so far. This is my back.
In November 2011 I returned from another trip to see Ajarn Anek where he had continued work on my back. The frame is now finished as well as Erawan (Chang Sam Sien). I think it Thai it’s ช้างสามหัว, but I’m not sure. The script around the base of Erawan is also finished. I’m very happy with the results and have room for a little more on each side within the border. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to follow up more on that.
Contact for the Ajarns are here:
Pickup Service: (Limited English)
089-7581436 Jaan (Pronounced Jarn)
(Thai Language Only)
089-8226515 : 086-8286617
Pooluesri Thafai And Poodum; Archarn Anek
Kindness Tattoo Services (by Hand) ; Na Nha Thong and Other
58/2 Moo 14 Soi 29 Tungglom-Tarnmun, Nongprue District,Banglamung. Chonburi. Thailand
Phum Tropeng Sesh, Khum Kokchok
Siem Reap Angkor
“The way at South of Wat Tmey about 250m”
e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org (Note: I’ve been told that this e-mail is no longer working. If anyone has updated contact, please share them with me so that I may pass it on to others. Thanks!)
I used this for my second and third sets of Sak Yant and I am very pleased with the performance.
It travels well, goes on with no mess, even in hot and humid climates, and I had no problems with oozing, bleeding or infection.
It is stiffer than vaseline, more like a hard waxy consistency, so a small jar lasts a very long time.
I always use this aftercare product and have never had a tattoo get infected: http://amzn.to/inkfixx