As Western cultures continue to adopt religious and spiritual practices from the East, we have seen an increase in tattoos featuring sacred symbols from these religions. If you’re considering such a tattoo, it’s essential to understand the meaning behind the symbols.
In this article, we’ll examine two popular Eastern symbols – Om and unalome – and explore their meanings, history, and connection to each other. By understanding the meaning behind these designs, you can make an informed decision about whether you should get an Om or unalome tattoo.
And if you’re ready to commit to permanent ink, you’ll find many inspiring options to explore in our collection of plastic-free Om and unalome temporary tattoos.
Meaning of an Om Tattoo
Om is a sacred sound and symbol in many religions, notably in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The meaning and use of the symbol vary between cultures, countries, and different schools of thought.
Om may also be referred to by many other names, of which the most commonly used are Onkara/Omkara and Pranav/Pranava. It is widely found in artwork and iconography seen throughout ancient manuscripts, places of worship, monasteries, yoga studios, and retreat centers.
As a highly sacred and culturally important symbol, placing an Om tattoo on your skin is a decision you should take seriously. If you choose to go ahead with an Om tattoo, it’s vital to ensure that you fully understand the meaning and significance of this symbol.
It would be impossible to cover all of the meanings of Om in a single article. Scholars dedicate their lives to understanding the usage of this symbol in their own and other cultures. Here we will cover the most common meanings:
- Hindu scriptures define Om as the primordial sound of creation. It is from this original vibration that all other vibrations exist. The vibrations of Om are ideal for meditation and provide a pathway for understanding our own consciousness within the Ultimate Reality, the universe, and the divine.
- In Buddhism, the sound is typically referred to as Aum and shares a similar meaning due to the ancient influence of Hinduism in this religion. In addition to representing the original sound, it also symbolizes consciousness, wholeness, and perfection.
- In Jainism, Aum refers to the initials (A+A+A+U+M) of the five supreme beings of this religion. It is also used to reference the first five lines of the Navakar mantra, which is the most important daily prayer in this faith.
By choosing to get an Om tattoo, you acknowledge ancient traditions that revere this highly sacred symbol and view it as a vital tool in meditation. You might choose it to represent your own spiritual views or as a tool to guide your meditative practice.
Meaning of an Unalome Tattoo
Like Om tattoos, our unalome temporary tattoos have become increasingly popular in the west as people look to Eastern religions and spiritual practices for guidance and inspiration. The unalome is most commonly associated with the Buddhist religion and the Theravada school.
In Southeast Asia, only those who have reached nirvana or enlightenment receive unalome tattoos. These individuals chose a design that serves as a visual representation of their spiritual journey to spiritual perfection.
In the west, it is commonly chosen by yogis who seek a way to show their commitment to yogic practices and philosophy. The popularity of unalome tattoos can be accredited to their symbolic meaning and the ability to create stunning, unique designs.
Like the symbol itself, an unalome tattoo can be used to represent one's path to enlightenment. The beginning of the symbol represents the day you were born, which is the start of your spiritual journey. The symbol progress through a series of spirals and curves to show your advancement through life as you struggle to understand your spiritual existence.
Finally, the unalome straightens out as you draw closer to enlightenment. In many cases, the symbols end with a series of dots that are thought to represent the achievement of enlightenment and the end of your life's journey.
The Connection between Om and Unalome
Unalome is most commonly associated with Theravada, Buddhism's oldest existing school of thought. It is the predominant religion in many Southeast Asian countries, including Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand.
In this region, Om and unalome are strongly connected and their meanings merge into each other. Unalome was originally designed to represent the Buddha's urna, a spiral or circular dot on the Buddha's forward. The urna symbolizes the third high and the view into the divine world.
Later, this mark was viewed as a symbol of our path to nirvana or enlightenment. The unalome became an important yantra, a geometrical design used to guide worship and meditation.
In Theravada practices, there is no discernable difference between the meanings of Om and unalome, and they are often depicted together or interchangeably.
Sak Yant Tattoos
Om and unalome frequently appear in sak yant tattoos, an ancient and sacred form of tattooing popular in Thailand. Angelina Jolie has a sak yant tattoo, which contributed to their appearance on the international stage. Buddhist tattoos have also become popularized on the international level thanks to the practice of Muy Thai fighters getting these tattoos.
Sak Yant tattoos are considered highly mystical and capable of providing protection and good luck. Each design is unique and is created by a highly trained sak yant tattoo artist. They are elaborate and intricate designs that feature elements of sacred geometry, animals, gods, and sacred mantras. Om and unalome are commonly incorporated into these powerful designs.
While their intricate designs and mystical meaning are appealing, it would be considered disrespectful to get a Sak Yant tattoo without having a deep understanding of and belief in its meaning.
Are unalome and Om tattoos disrespectful?
Today, it seems as if Om and unalome tattoos are everywhere. These can be simple designs or something more elaborate, like our elaborate unalome and lotus temporary tattoo. There is no denying the beauty and appeal of this type of tattoo!
Despite their aesthetic appeal, getting an unalome or Om tattoo without understanding its meaning and cultural context could be considered disrespectful. While it is certainly possible to appreciate their beauty without being religious, you need to be aware that these tattoos are more than simply aesthetic choices.
If someone chooses this design because they saw it on vacation or on their favorite celebrity, getting this type of tattoo would be highly disrespectful. Om and unalome tattoos are not simply fashionable or trendy designs, but rather have a long history and profoundly significant meaning.
These are sacred designs, so choosing to get one inked on your skin without that understanding would be a form of cultural appropriation and even considered racist by someone.
On the other hand, if you understand and respect the symbol's esoteric meaning, then choosing this design is acceptable. Likewise, if you practice Theravada Buddhism, meditate upon Om, or have brought spiritual elements into your yoga practice, your choice of an unalome or Om tattoo is a valid one.
If you’re feeling unsure, one of the best ways to experiment with this design is by grabbing a set of Om temporary tattoos or unalome fake tattoos from our collection. Once the design is on your skin, you’ll have time to reflect upon its meaning and whether it’s the right choice for you.
When getting an unalome or Om tattoo, it is essential to do your research and find an artist who respects the cultural significance of these designs. In this way, you can ensure that your tattoo is respectful and reflects your personal beliefs.