Muay Thai has also played a major role in taking Sak Yant to the eyes of the world as many Muay Thai fighters bear protective Yants on their bodies. There are Muay Thai boxing camps in every major city in mainland Europe as well as the U.S.A. Sak Yant is embedded in Muay Thai culture and they are both a real part of Thainess.
Bangkok Ink has been involved in the sacred art of Sak Yant for more than five years now. Beginning with one man’s fascination with this ancient art of tattooing, Bangkok Ink was born and as it grew, so did our involvement in Sak Yant. Martin Kendall, the founder of Bangkok Ink, spent many years learning the ways of Sak Yant and more importantly, the Ruesi. It was not easy to gain the trust of the Sak Yant masters that we work with so Martin spent time with them and learned a lot about the history and origins of this spiritual practice. Now we have been working with Ajarn Noo Ganpai, Ajarn Ohr and Ajarn Bhom for two years and we are honored to be a part of this Thai tradition and proud to facilitate the dreams of many foreigners who have researched Sak Yant. Once they found us online, Bangkok Ink took over from that point. After the appointment is confirmed by email, the experience starts with a smooth car ride from your hotel, to the Sam Nak of the Master you have selected. Once there, we translate for you as you discuss with him about various Yants and he answers any questions you might have. When the Tattoo is finished and the blessing and offering ceremony over, we take you back to your hotel. We take pictures of the entire process and mail them to you the next day. To our knowledge, we are the only people who offer this service. This year alone we have helped more than 200 foreign people who had one common goal, they all wanted a Sak Yant experience with a genuine Ruesi (Sak Yant Master).
The Ruesi is a very special person. It is important to understand what a Ruesi is / does if you really wish to know and understand Sak Yant. This manuscript will explain the things you need to know, what a Ruesi is, the origins and different roles and levels of the Ruesi as well as the detailed explanations for the Yants we have selected. Initially we will focus on the culture of Sak Yant and its place within the Thai community. We will talk about the Yant itself and then move on to individual Yants and their application.
Selecting a suitable Yant is important. There are literally thousands of Yants, with all kinds of uses from making the baby sleep at nights to keeping unwanted spirits at bay. Here are some examples of what Yants are used for:
Protection against danger / illness / unwanted spirits / physical harm / spells.
Protection against weapons
Charm and attraction
Compassion and kindness
Power of believability, improve oratory skills / communication skills
Protection against bad fortune
Specific goals / desires
Yants can broadly be split into the following groups:
Kong Krapan: Invincibility
Klaew Klaad: Evasion / avoidance
Choke Laap: Good fortune or luck
Maha Saneh: Attraction and charm
Medta Mah Niyom: likeability / preferential treatment / influence others
Maha Amnat: Power / authority
Maha Jong Ngan: To stun others into defeat or submission.
What exactly is a Yant? Well according to research, a Yant is a sacred geometric design which includes ancient scriptures that are said to invoke spiritual and magical powers. Yants were in existence long before being tattooed on the skin, often they would be scribed onto a piece of cloth (Pha Yant) and displayed in the home, or rolled up in a small glass tube (Takrut) and worn around the neck. Another popular method of bearing a Yant was to wear a shirt with the Yant inscribed, soldiers favoured this and went into battle wearing Yant vests (Seu Yant). Yant is the Thai word for Yantra, a Sanskrit word meaning instrument. A Yantra can be many things and one is a geometrical shape that possesses magical powers. The word “Sak” in Thai, means “to tap”, so Sak Yant, in Thai, means to tap out a Yant or hand poked tattoo as it is often referred to. There are literally thousands of Yants, Ajarn Noo Ganpai published a book entitled, “Ten thousand Yants” that illustrates the diversity that has taken place over the years. Each Sak Yant Master has created or adapted his own version of a particular Yant and thus created a new one. It should be noted that some Yants are not suitable to be tattooed on the bearer. It may be that the desired outcome is one specific thing and not something you would want to wear for all your life. Many Yants are inscribed onto thin copper strips then rolled up and slipped into a small glass tube which can be worn around the neck. This is called a Takrut.
There are many various shapes of Yants. A circular or round Yant indicates the face of Lord Buddha. This originates from Brahmism. A four sided or square Yant signifies the four elements, earth, wind, fire and water. A three sided or triangular Yant means Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. Some Yants are of pictures and they represent various mythical figures and animal types.
The Ong Phra (Buddha’s body) (องค์พระ) is a symbol of Lord Buddha and is seen frequently in Yants. This is usually a series of oval shapes arranged on top of one another, ranging from large to small. It forms the basis of many sacred Yants. A crescent or half-moon shape indicates the illumination of darkness as we make our way through this life. A small round shape symbolizes the Sun that lights up our way ahead. If the circle is above the main Yant then this means the stars in the sky and indeed all celestial beings. This is common in many pictorial Yants.
The ever decreasing spirals as in Gao Yod (nine spirals) (เก้ายอด) signify the wavering that this earthly life bestows upon us. At the top, when the line goes straight up signifies that the person has attained control over these earthly desires and attachments and is ready to enter Nirvana or true enlightenment. This symbol is called an Unnalome and the central spire represents Buddha himself.
Khata or Akara
The Khata comes from the Pali word Ghata which means “speech” and it is what the west would call a Mantra or prayer. This is written in Khom script which is older than Khmer language and the characters are abbreviations for Khata or Mantra. These are recited (silently) by the Master as he works on the Yant.
In order to understand Sak Yant, one must understand the Ruesi and his role. The Ruesi was originally an ancient soothsayer or medicine man. They date back to pre-Buddha in the Brahmist times and were said to possess the ability to talk to the gods. They were said to have many other abilities such as leaving their body, foreseeing the future, healing with forest plants, talking with animals and practiced some forms of alchemy. There are some mentions in ancient Buddhist scriptures that the Lord Buddha was in fact a Ruesi, of the highest level, before he realized that it would not take him to Nirvana.
The Ruesi were mostly secluded from the general population, living deep in the forests, spending their time in deep meditation or making potions to cure.
ailments. In order to develop themselves spiritually, they punished themselves both physically and mentally, to the point where they developed higher spiritual powers. It is believed that the Ruesi compiled the Sacred Vedas of the Hindu religion and it is these Vedas which the Brahmist (In Thai Brahm) religion holds as the basis of all knowledge. At that time, Brahmism was the main religion of an area that included India and Nepal. The knowledge within the Sacred Vedas was exclusive to the Ruesi and they transformed that knowledge and power by inscribing Yantras, sacred designs that could tap into hidden powers. At this time Yantras came in the form of a piece of cloth or even a shirt, to be worn to give protection. They were kept at home to ward off unwanted spirits. These Yants (sacred geometrical designs) were incorporated into the Khmer culture and subsequent cultures as Siam was formed and then what is now known as Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.
There are four main types of Ruesi:
The lowest level, they conform to the laws of nature and do not really possess any supernatural powers however they have embarked on a journey to the highest level. It is at this level the Ruesi’s mind is opened and he sees something for the first time.
This type of Ruesi is much more developed than the Racha Ruesi and is able to meditate for hours on end. He is competent in natural healing powers.
He possesses strong spiritual powers and sticks religiously to his vows. This Ruesi can leave his body and is able to do many things.
This level is the highest. Apart from having all of the above, he is incredibly intelligent and has managed to detach himself from all forms of attachment. His magic spells are very potent.
These four types can be subdivided into eight, they are:
This Ruesi is morally sound with a high level of kindness and compassion. A person deeply connected with the earthly elements and he likes to live in caves in the mountains or other equally remote areas.
This Ruesi will wander in the forest, developing himself by enduring many hardships. He attains a very high level of psychic development in his constant search for higher spiritual guidance.
This Ruesi has magical abilities, attaining a high level of intellect and wisdom through serious study and practice.
This Ruesi is one who constantly strives to rid himself of the attachments and the self. He will torture himself in many ways to rise above the physical level of existence, aiming to reach the level of enlightenment by purging himself from the earthly desires.
Phra Cha Din
This Ruesi is a wanderer, often with matted hair tied up in a bun, unshaven and dirty. He will wander the forest making potions and pastes to heal the sick.
This variety of Ruesi is very strict to follow his code of righteousness. He is very intelligent and filled with goodness, his compassion for others shining through. Their aim is to help those poor and underprivileged people he meets. He will always be trying to help someone rid themselves of suffering and he likes to live in wide open areas like the plains or perhaps a desert.
This Ruesi is very secretive, he follows a rigid code of living, staying mainly in mountain areas. He makes potions to cure ailments.
This Ruesi is a Brahman that sees his role as a helper to all who need it. They used to be called upon to perform many ceremonies and would come and stay for the duration, refusing any offer of payment. They followed a code of physical and mental practices to enable them to stay at the high spiritual level thy have attained during their long journey.
A Ruesi must pass through all of these stages if he is to become truly enlightened. This may take hundreds of lives or reincarnations. It is at this point I must talk about Buddhist monks and Sak Yant as there is much confusion over this. Many people mistakenly believe that only a Buddhist monk can perform Sak Yant. In fact there are three groups of people who can perform Sak Yant.
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