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Buddhists/Mandala Tattoo



This is pretty off topic and I'm not sure if you can help.  I'm planning on getting a tattoo in the next few months.  I would like to get a mandala tattoo but would like one designed for me personally.  I want one with meaning that describes me and my past, not just one that looks "cool".  Do you know any monks who design authentic mandalas that I could commission for this?

Thanks so much for your help!

Hi Brittney,

I don't see why it is off-topic, and I can give you a definite answer, though it's probably not the one you want.

The thing is that mandalas just don't work that way. A mandala represents a "deity" in a kind of palace. I used inverted commas there because of course in a Buddhist context the question of the meaning of deity is a bit subtle. But not to worry. They are held to originate in the mind of the border or in the visions of a highly enlightened person, and are used as part of a practice involving visualisation of the deity, recitation of his or her mantra, offerings, praises, meditation on the nature of reality and possibly more than that.

It sounds as if the tattoo that you want could be rather interesting, but what it cannot be is a mandala designed for you personally. There just aren't any such things. If you do find somebody who claims that they will do that and that it will be an "authentic mandala" you might want to ask if they also will sell you any snake oil, if you catch my drift. They would be trying to con you.

I think that what you need is simply a good creative artist/tattooist. Tell them, by all means, to make it round, to have four directions with something important in the centre and other things arranged around it, so that its appearance might be reminiscent of a mandala. If you find the right artist, that could be great. It's just that it won't be an "authentic mandala".

Like I said, probably not what you hope to hear, but I hope it will help you look in the right direction.


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Alex Wilding


I have practiced and studied Tibetan Buddhism in the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions since the early 1970s, and have a good knowledge of theory, history and of the struggles of trying to practice the teachings, including meditation, while leading a normal, modern life. I am also available to provide background information for journalists.


I have been a practitioner since the early 1970s; have run a small Buddhist centre in the English Midlands and was vice-president of Kagyu Benchen Ling e.V. in Germany, for whom I managed three large Buddhist summer-camps. More importantly, I maintain a habit of personal practice. I am the "owner" of the Kagyu list at Yahoo.

My first degree was an M.A. from Oxford. I later obtained a Master of Philosophy degree for a research thesis in "Initiation in Tibetan Buddhism" from Leicester University. I also have engineering and educational qualifications.

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