Buddhism is one of the biggest religions in the world. In fact, it’s the fourth one and continues to gain more followers. However, they may not be gaining as much people as Christianity and Islam. Still, the teachings of Buddha and of the religion remains popular – even for non-Buddhists. Even getting a Buddha tattoo is quite a thing even if you’re not actively following the religion. This may be because many do not really adhere to the religion and its gods, but more on the teachings.
Buddha tattoos can be linked to the origins of the religion itself. Although Buddha discouraged any forms of symbolism in the religion, there still came a few ones that Buddhists hold dear. These symbols are the main elements of Buddha designs.
Meaning of the Buddha Tattoo
Why do people get these kinds of tattoos? What’s the significance?
Most of the time, Buddhism tattoos provide this sense of serenity and calm. They represent you as a person, which is pretty much like almost every tattoo in history. That’s why it has become a popular tattoo not only in Buddhism but also in the world of body art.
Then again, just like most tattoos, a Buddhist tattoo could also mean differently. This could be based on the wearer’s belief and the reason he got the tattoo.
Some symbols often found in Buddha tattoos also have hidden meanings – just like how a bird could mean freedom. That’s why you should be extremely careful when it comes to choosing your design. If you have found an inspiring design on the internet, you’ll want to verify the symbols on it.
For example, the lotus flower is a big symbol in the religion. It means strength, resilience, rebirth and purity. But it can also have varying meanings depending on how it was depicted and its color.
But if you really want a tattoo that is deeply connected to the religion, you’ll want to choose the Golden Buddha. This is the design is that linked to the religion itself.
There are so many designs you can make with a Buddha tattoo. Some even portray Buddha himself differently. Again, this could all depend on the wearer and his own belief.
Brief History of the Buddha Tattoo
According to archeological evidence, the first Buddhist symbols were dated back to 250 BC. These can be attributed to Ashoka, a Hindu King from Sarnath, India. His belief to Buddha is said to have given birth to the symbols of Buddhism that we see today. Most of these symbolism are also found on various Buddha tattoo designs.
Nonetheless, it wasn’t until 100 BC that the first Buddha tattoo was ever recorded. At first, his followers were skeptic of the image that was brought to life by the tattoo. But it soon became widely accepted and used.
Today, many artists continue to give Buddha a slightly different look. However, each of these images still have that one unique look to them.
But where did Buddhism start?
Buddha was born as a prince. He was known by the name Siddharta Gautama. One day, he decided to renounce all his comfort and princely ways and to find the real truth behind human existence. With severe penance and deep meditation, he was able to find enlightenment. Then, he taught his followers how they can do this on their own.
Even after centuries after, many of his followers continue their own search of enlightenment. They also revere him and his teachings and one of many Buddhists ways of showing it was through tattoos.
Popular Buddha Tattoo Designs
Both Buddha’s followers and tattoo enthusiasts always look for designs that could symbolize their faith and a tattoo that links to spirituality and divinity. However, there are some of the most basic themes that are often the common denominator of each of these tattoos.
Here are some of the most popular Buddha tattoo designs you can find and can inspire your next ink:
A portrait of Buddha
Buddha stands for the enlightenment that everyone looks for, whether we are believers of him or not. We’re always on the look for the reason behind our existence. A portrait of Buddha could mean different things, but one is an inspiration to keep pursuing enlightenment by following his ways.
His portrait also gives the ultimate sense of calm and serenity. If you need to meditate, having a picture of Buddha or even a tattoo of him could help. Of course, it depends on each person’s ways of achieving mindfulness.
These tattoos are often large. They can be done in a classic way, in a more minimalist approach, or in 3D. Either way, they are most likely to be eye-catching. You can have this kind of tattoo on your back, chest, sleeve, shoulder, or legs.
Meditating Buddha tattoo
A big part of the religion of Buddhism is meditation. It is said that Buddha himself has reached enlightenment through deep meditation. That’s why most images of Buddha you’ll see is meditating – whether on paintings, sculpture, and on tattoos.
This is perhaps one of the most common Buddha tattoo designs you’ll see. Most of the time, artists or the wearer themselves would add certain other elements. There are often birds and a calm and beautiful scenery as the background and more. These elements add to the appeal and the overall sense of calm and meditation.
In line with the story of Buddha’s enlightenment, a tree would be the usual combination of this tattoo design. Buddha was said to have reached enlightenment under the tree, which is now known as the Bodhi tree.
While many others make the Bodhi tree more of an added element, some others actually make it the main focus of their tattoo.
The meditating Buddha tattoo can be done in a classic black and grey ink. However, many enthusiasts nowadays opt for vividly colored tattoos to bring the picture to life.
Lotus tattoo design
As said, the lotus flower is one of the biggest symbols in the religion. While most people acquire the classic lotus which is generally a symbol of purity, rebirth, and strength, the pink lotus is actually the one more attributed to Buddha himself. That’s because the pink lotus is believed to represent him.
Some tattoo designs depict a lotus in full bloom and Buddha floating above it. Some others put it on the hands of a meditating Buddha. Others just opt for a simpler pink lotus and let its meaning do its work.
Another interpretation of Buddha is the one that is famous in Chinese folklore. He’s the laughing and jovial pot-bellied Buddha that you’ll likely see as good luck figurines being sold in Chinese stores.
This design is more linked to a happier and light-hearted version of Buddha rather than the spiritual one. Others think of it as the happiness you’ll feel when you have finally reached enlightenment and no problems come to mind.
There are various ways to do a laughing Buddha tattoo, with some incorporating their own bodies in the design. For example, you can have it on your stomach, with its belly button corresponding with the wearer. It’s definitely one delightful tattoo that’s in tune with the happy Buddha.
Others also depict him with his hands up, in joy. Some others like his portrait more and they often have it on their backs, chest, arms, sleeves, legs, and even the wrist.
Dharma Wheel tattoo design
The Dharma wheel is another major symbol in the religion. This is actually a rather popular choice for a Buddha tattoo, often seen on the background as an added element to a Buddha image. But of course, it can be a great centerpiece on its own. It’s usually placed at the back or the chest.
The Dharma wheel is the symbol of the teachings of Buddha and the religion itself. According to legend, Buddha set the wheel in motion when he gave his first sermon after reaching Nirvana.
This kind of tattoo design can be simple or intricate. Again, the choice is yours.
Buddha Footprints tattoo
If you want a more unique design, creating one with Buddha’s footprint would be great. Many choose to make it as simple as possible – creating the outline of the footprint and adding the symbols of Buddhism – with one as the Dharma Wheel.
This designs could denote your devotion to following the footsteps of Buddha. It helps others be reminded that they should take the path to righteousness and virtue.
The Mandala wheel is a lot like Dharma wheel in the sense that it symbolizes the teachings of Buddhism. These two symbols also represent wisdom and enlightenment.
Many attributes the mandala wheel with the common mandala tattoo. In a way, they actually look rather similar to each other. Mandalas are a great addition to a Buddha tattoo, seeing that it can also be done for aesthetic purposes. You can create them in a classic black and grey tattoo and focus on the patterns and the symbols you add. But you can also make it more glorious with amazing colors.