Buddhist tattoos generally refers to any tattoo design that contains elements and symbols of the Buddhist religion.
It may contain the image of the Buddha himself as well as other traditional elements such as the Dharma wheel, the Indian lotus, the three jewels or the Bodhi tree.
People who choose to wear a Buddhist tattoo have affinities with either the Buddhist religion and culture or its values.
Buddhist Tattoo Symbols and their Meanings
Dharma wheel – dating back to ancient India, is one of the earliest symbols in Buddhism and also a royal symbol.
It represents the Buddha’s teaching, the ultimate truth of the Person who turned the wheel.
Bodhi tree – in Buddhism it represents the place of awakening, with referring to the fichus tree, the spot where Buddha reached the Enlightenment, awakened intellect, wisdom, knowledge (bodhi).
Buddhist animal symbols – Some of these include lions, nāgas (divine and semi-divine race of half-human half-snake beings), horses, elephants, and deer. Most of them represent either the Buddha himself or his various states.
For example: the role of the teacher: the roar of the lion; prophet, king: the white elephant, divinity: nāgas; king, leader: the lion. The deer are his disciples, while the horse without a rider is the royal horse of the Buddha.
Lotus – One of the most common symbols in Buddhism and also in the art of tattoo, the lotus, is an ancient Indian symbol of purity, detachment and fertility. It is also a symbol of Buddha and his awakening.
Triratna – or the three jewels, also knowns as trident (trishula) is an ancient pre-Buddhist symbol representing the weapon against Evil. It became only later a Buddhist symbol, representing the Dharma (teaching, eternal law), the sangha (Buddhist monastic community) and even the Buddha himself.
Buddha Footprints – It represents Buddha and its identity.
Chhatra – A symbol of royalty, protection, honor and respect, a chhatra is a Buddhist symbol represented by a royal umbrella.
Endless knot – In Buddhism, it can represent the concept of Pratītyasamutpāda (translated as dependent origination or dependent arising) beings also is a symbol of good luck.
Pair of fishes – This symbol has different meanings so it can represent happiness, spontaneity but also fertility and abundance. In Tantric Buddhism, the pair of fish is a symbol for nadis, the left and right subtle body channels. In China, this symbol represents fidelity and marital unity.
108 number – In Buddhism 108 is a sacred number and refers to the 108 kleshas (temptations) of humankind to overcome in order to achieve enlightenment. In Buddhist temples in Japan, a bell is chimed 108 times at the end of each year as a ritual to enter the new year.
Ensō – the term means circular form and the symbol is represented by a hand-drawn circle, realized in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes. In Zen Buddhism this the expression a moment when the mind is free to let the body create. Ensō is a common symbol for some traditional Buddhist concepts and values like absolute enlightenment, strength, elegance, the universe, and mu (the void).
Mudras – In Buddhist art and Buddhist tattoo Mudras are set of couple of hand gestures symbols. They have different meanings, representing specific moments in the life of Buddha.