25 June 2009


Every now and then I get a fun request for a tattoo and this mornings effort is a gem of the genre.
"I was wondering if you guys could translate the Seven Deadly sins and the Seven Holy Virtues into Buddhist Sanskrit for me. I want to tattoo it on my back."
Given that he won't be able to read the result - what would you write on his back? Must be in lots of seven!

I'll start the bidding with: बष्वुल्, डक्, डौपी, ग्रंपी, हप्पी, स्लीपी, स्नीसी

24 June 2009

Sword with Fudō Bīja and a mystery

Sword with Siddhaṃ characters - hāṃ, maṃ, āṃḥ (?)Richard sent me this pic of a Japanese sword asking if the symbols are Siddhaṃ. They are, but there is a bit of a mystery. The top two symbols are hāṃ and maṃ which are both associated with Fudō Myōō.

The bottom syllable looks like Siddhaṃ as well but it is so stylised that I can't read it. Taking a guess I think it might be some variation on 'a' because that would fit what I know about Fudō and his association with Mahāvairocana of whom the 'a' is the bīja. My guess is that it is āṃḥ - the elaborate variation that includes a, ā, aṃ, and aḥ symbolising the four stages of the spiritual path in the Mahāvairocana Abhisaṃbodhi Tantra.

If you know for sure what it is please let me know and I'll pass it on. The original photo is here.

16 June 2009


'GBH' asked on the blog about this form of the seed syllable aṃ which is an image in the Japanese Wikipedia commons. The text accompanying it is in Japanese but it appears the the image was scanned from a book called 悉曇章の研究 (and is therefore a breach of copyright!)

This is simply a variety Siddhaṃ. It looks like it was either done with a Chinese Calligraphy brush or is designed to look that way. Note that even contemporary Siddhaṃ calligraphy can vary quite widely in style.

Compare with my pen style 'a' (left, and here) - the shape is the same: a shape like a number 3 linked by a mid-height line to a vertical stroke on the right. The contemporary a in Devanāgarī is similar as well: अं. The dot above the aṃ is the basic anusvāra which indicates nasalisation of the vowel. Anusvāra (anu + svāra) means after-sound, or following sound. Often with bīja mantras the anusvāra is exchanged for the chandra-bindu (moon and dot) which has the same phonetic effect, but which involves a more elaborate symbollism.

01 June 2009

Readers' Work

Seishin recently sent me an example of his work - inspired by visiblemantra.org. This is a fine piece of work on many levels. The flame effects are hand-made marbled paper, while the calligraphy is done with a specially ground pen and a flat brush - for the hāṃ. This is the bīja and mantra of Acala Vidyarāja or Fudō Myōō as he is known in Japanese.

This is a stunning setting for the mantra and an interesting combination of East and West. As I wrote to Seishin - the cool blue of the hāṃ amidst the hot yellow and red flames invokes one of the fundamental Buddhist metaphors: the coolness of nirvāṇa

I'm more than happy to see, and to showcase other people's work if anyone wants to send any in.