I’ve been going with my mother to the Thai Buddhist Temple of Hawaii off and on since I was a child. It’s a space where my mother found community and I vaguely learned about the culture of Mommy’s homeland. I’ve helped them fundraise by being a contestant in their beauty pageants, and have served food and smiles at some of their annual cultural events.
In 2012, sometime after I’d returned from living in Japan, my mother took Kekoa and me to the Thai Buddhist Temple of Hawaii. I remember that she was really insistent on our joining her, although I don’t think she told us why. While there, we spoke with a monk whom I had never met; Mommy had me show him my tattoos. I had four at the time, all of which had spiritual meaning to me and one of which was Thai. The monk said that while the tattoos were spiritual to me, they didn’t have the same “breath” in it that Thai Sak Yan (sacred tattoos) have. He drew for me some symbols, told me to get it tattooed at the nape of my neck and to come back to him to have it blessed while it was still fresh.
For the last five years, I have been looking for a tattoo artist to put his drawing to my skin. And for five years, I’ve been met with responses along the lines of “I don’t think I’m the right person.” Thinking back to the artist who did my first Thai tattoo (a Thai prayer), and how excited he was to ink it for me, I came to understand that finding the right artist wouldn’t be about their skill so much as the right time, the right place, the right person.
Fast forward to Saturday, August 5, 2017. I was sitting in the “communal space” with Lahi and Titus, talking about spirituality and life, and Titus mentioned that he had plans to go to the Pacific Ink & Art Expo (also called the Hawaii Tattoo Expo) and that Lahi and I should join him. We had purposely not made any plans for that evening because we’d been out late the night before, but something was telling the both of us that we had to go.
We met up with Titus and his friend, Jason, later that evening. Jason, who has been a Facebook friend, but whom I’d never met in person, asked if either of us planned to get new ink at the event. I told him my story of the monk’s design that no one wanted to do — and he said he knew of a guy who he thinks would be excited about the opportunity.
Jason introduced me to Adam and I see that both of Adam’s hands, as well as his neck, are covered in Thai sacred prayers that he clearly had done in Thailand. A tingle runs through my body. And as I explain to him what I want to get and how no one wanted to do it, he smiles and says, “I would be honored to do this tattoo for you.”
I chant throughout the tattoo process, but otherwise, the tattooing itself is not significant.
I text Mommy a picture of the tattoo and then follow up with a call saying that I need to go see the monk in the next few days so that he can bless it. To my surprise, she says that now is not a good time.
The next day, Sunday, I call and insist that I go see the monk at the temple that day. After some passionately raised voices on both sides and a few phone calls from Mommy to the Temple, she calls me back and says that the monk can see me immediately. You might be wondering why I couldn’t just go by myself or with a friend (and friends were offering to go because they also felt it was important that I go immediately!), but I felt it was really important for my mother to be there — not just because she’s the only person who can speak Thai and translate for me — but also because I felt like there was something that she had to accomplish there as well.
The monk blessed my tattoo; praying over me with holy water and adhering gold leaf to it as a great shrine of Buddha watched, providing their own blessings. After I made an offering of incense, I had the opportunity to talk with the monk via my mother — as well as talk with a few others who were still at the temple. Here are the various messages I received:
- Timing: The monk was more shocked than anything about the timing of my receiving the tattoo. He asked, “how did you know to get the tattoo done on Saturday, August 5, 2017?” I explained that I had been compelled to go — for whatever reason — and was excited to find someone who was finally willing to tattoo me. He explained that people all over the world were waiting for that specific date to receive their tattoos — that there were special circumstances in the alignment of stars, planets, beings, energies, numbers — that made Saturday, August 5, 2017, the optimal and most powerful date to receive this type of tattoo. I had no idea, but the Universe knew and guided me.
- History: The tattoo the monk gave to me is a sacred gift, passed for thousands of years from master to student, down a very strict lineage. When I asked why he had decided to give it to me, he said that we had shared a past life and we had been reincarnated into this life. He said when he met me five years ago, he knew that the tattoo belonged to me.
- Meaning: The monk was a little vague here, in part because it’s not important the specific meaning of each symbol. More that the general meaning is that the five most powerful beings’ hearts live within me. And I am protected.
- Wording: I received two sets of messages surrounding words. The first was not from the monk but from my mother’s friend who happened to be there. She told me that while my mother’s spiritual practice is powerful and focused on chanting, that what I need to know is that my words in themselves are power. I don’t need to chant or know a specific prayer — I can use my own words to accomplish what needs to be done. Now, to me, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t value in the chants and prayers I’m taught. Quite the contrary, I think there’s a different kind of power in words that for centuries, have been used with the same meanings and intent behind them. Completely in line with that, the second message was from the monk in direct response to my asking for guidance or advice for my spiritual journey. He wrote a chant for me and said that I should learn it and make it a part of my practice to close each meditation session with these words. He said that, as I know, beings of all strengths come to me to “receive blessings” so that they can transition to their next stage. And because there are so many spirits vying for my attention with regards to this, the chant will help me to help them transition in mass.
- Companions: For whatever reason, my mother felt compelled to have the monk inspect a number of the things I carry with me — a tiger’s eye bracelet, the Hanuman amulet and other companion items that are often with me. The monk said that all the beings and items that I keep with me are my companions who are meant to be at my side and keep me safe.
- Gifts: This one was the weirdest one to me — one of Mommy’s friends, the one who I mentioned earlier who delivered a message to me about my own words having power, also gave me a gift. Nothing big. Just a banana — that she asked me to take. Or really, she said, “please take this banana.” She also offered one to Mommy. And I knew in my heart that “offer” is the right word for this. She was making us an offering — with the same heart and intent with which she makes offering to Buddha. And I thought back to the messages I received during my Light and Sound Alchemy Meditation and I accepted — because I need to learn… remember… how to properly accept offerings. And so, days later, when I finally ate that banana, I remembered the woman who gave it to me and sent positive energy and blessings her way as thanks.
As I continue down this spiritual path, I am starting to better understand the concept of my body being a temple. And with this tattoo, blessed and sealed, my temple has become even holier.
Originally written on August 8, 2017.