I have two tribal tats, one on each arm.
My left arm features a crow holding a samurai sword. It is inspired by Japanese art, but is also a nod to tribal art and indigenous cultures collectively. I designed it when I was 23 years old, and at the time I was devouring material on higher consciousness. I was intrigued by Adi Shankara, an 8th century Hindu philosopher and theologian credited for clarifying and establishing the fundamental tenets of Hinduism. In particular, Shankara’s Crest Jewel of Discrimination.
The entire philosophy of Sankara can be summed up in the following statement: Brahma satyam, jaganmithya, jivobrahmaivanaparah: Brahman alone is real; the world is non-real; and the individual Self is essentially not different from Brahman. This is the quintessence of Sankara’s metaphysics.
Brahman alone is real; the world is non-real; and the individual Self is essentially not different from Brahman.
And so this figure represents the somber seeker-spirit, whose “sword of discernment” is a challenge for any and all material objects which would present themselves as absolute truth. Essentially: if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. And since it’s all the Buddha….. kill everything. Not literally, of course, but conceptually. Recognize them as illusory, and also your Self. What’s left is Buddha. Or more simply: YOU.
The tat on my right arm is the ancient Sanskrit symbol for the sound “aum” or “om”. While I am no authority on the academic complexities of the symbol, I do of course “get it” in a deeper sense. The OM as I interpret it represents the entirety of beingness. Period. It is the epitome of understanding, which we achieve when we meditate. As an artist, I have learned why we meditate. So this symbol, very simply, is a reminder to meditate always….. not just when it is convenient.
Together, these images translate to a simplistic model for how I live my life. On the RIGHT arm, a global appreciation for all of creation through deep meditation. On the LEFT arm, a local appreciation for the slippery nature of illusions, and the intense focus it takes to deny them absolute facticity.