Dharma tattoos have, over time, become a favorite amongst those who focus their lives around finding both internal and external enlightenment. This is not surprising as the Dharma – which is almost exclusively presented in the form of an eight-spoked wheel – represents both the teachings of Buddha, and the composition of nature – both of which may lead to a higher state of mind.
The Dharma Wheel is also said to represent the cyclical nature of existence – one point being birth, another rebirth, all of which turns continuously throughout time. Although these images frequently use the traditional eight spokes – which embody the Eightfold Path, a guideline to reaching true enlightenment – more modern version only show four, which represent the Four Jinas – or the four pivotal moments in the development of Buddha.
Most Dharma tattoos are made up of the simple eight or four-spoked wheel alone; these generally appear as unadorned, wood-like designs; however, many people like to create more intricate pieces. This type of art may display a wheel that is either wooden, golden or silver; it may be encrusted with jewels, or etched with other important symbols, such as the Bodhi Tree, or Buddha’s footprint. You may see an image of Buddha setting the wheel into motion, thus changing the course of destiny, or you may see the instructions for the Eightfold Path labeled over each spoke. Other Buddhist symbols are occasionally mingled with the Dharma Wheel. For example, you might see it placed over a lotus flower, upon the chest of a lion, or at the bottom of a begging bowl.
More simplistic approaches for Dharma tattoos consist of bare outlines, gentle scroll-work patterns, or even Celtic-type designs; this type is generally done in either black or red ink, but may occasionally be seen in other symbolic shades.
One interesting idea for a simple design would be to separate the Dharma into three segments. As each segment represents something different – discipline, wisdom, and concentration – you may find it useful to use the individual pieces alone, or have each piece of the tattoo done as every goal is completed.
Dharma tattoos have taken an important spot in body art. As these pieces tend to represent similar things to that of body art itself – self-awareness, enlightenment, and a communion with both body and spirit. In addition to that, they tend to show a dogmatic interest, and an interest in improving not only one’s self, but the world around us.