So many of you noticed that I added to the tattoo that I had on my left wrist and have been curious about the meaning. I’d love to share the meaning behind this special tattoo. As does the tattoo on my back, this tattoo has a lot of symbolism built into it. I’ll break it down in three different ways.
1. I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity not only to travel all over the world, but also to live for extended periods of time in different countries. Three, to be exact- not counting the United States.
In 2010 I lived in Malavali, India for about three months.
From 2010-2014 I lived in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
From 2016-2017 I lived in Beijing, China.
In 2012 I had a phrase in Sanscrit tattooed onto my left wrist that I found particularly powerful from my study at the ashram I was staying at. It was only recently (Jan 2017) that I decided to add on more (in Arabic and Mandarin) to represent the other countries I have lived in, and the impact that living in these countries and cultures have had on shaping who I am today.
So the first meaning of the tattoo is to represent the countries that I’ve lived in. If you look carefully at the photos below, you’ll notice that the Sanscrit is the shortest phrase, since I lived in India the shortest amount of time. The Arabic is the longest since I lived in Dubai the longest, and the Mandarin is the somewhere in the middle due to the length of time I lived in China.
2. The second meaning behind the tattoo has to do with what the actual words say:
Sanscrit is read from right to left. The best translation is “Thou Art That”.
It is from a text called the Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7, an ancient Vedic text.
فإذا أدركتني بها ادركت نفسك
لا تطمع ان تدركني بإدراك نفسك
Arabic is also read from right to left. This translates to,
“If then you perceive me, you perceive yourself. But you cannot perceive me through yourself.”
This was written by an Andalusian Sufi poet named Ibn ‘Arabi that can be found in the text Kitab al-Tajalliyat.
Mandarin is read from left to right, as English is. This translates to,
“The name that can be named is not the Eternal name.”
This was written in Chapter 1 of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu.
3. All three phrases come from ancient texts of each culture. The third meaning behind the tattoo is that despite being vastly different cultures, poets and philosophers from each have arrived at nearly the same truth. Each phrase embodies an idea in a slightly different way- that every single one of us (and every single thing for that matter) are much more than we perceive ourselves to be.
“Thou Art That” is a bold statement reminding us that we are not what we perceive ourselves to be. We are not this body and mind but rather the single unifying Spirit or Reality that connects everyone and everything.
“If then you perceive me, you perceive yourself. But you cannot perceive me through yourself” is another profound statement that means if you perceive “ME” meaning Spirit, then you perceive “your true Self”, but you cannot perceive “ME” (Spirit) through “yourself” meaning who you believe yourself to be now.
“The name that can be named is not the Eternal name.” means that anything that you can name, anything your mind can perceive is not the true, eternal, unchanging Spirit. It is something other than that.
I used the word “Spirit” here, but this is interchangeable with any word from any culture… “Brahman, God, Allah, Self, Yahweh, Universe, etc. The tattoo is meant to represent that no matter who we are, or where we come from, we have come to believe the same thing- that we are all one. That despite our different bodies, our different opinions, our different beliefs, and our different cultures, we are all one in Spirit. It’s a reminder to me to remember always.
I was blessed to have this tattoo given to me by my good friend Yanyan Ma who I worked with in China: