above, YouTube video of Andrew Zimmern receiving his Sak Yant
You can read about my own Sak Yant experiences here
Since the airing of Andrew Zimmern’s Driven By Food I’ve already received a lot of questions about how to get a Sak Yant from Arjan Pi Bangkating, so this post is a basic 101 on how to get in touch with him so you can arrange a Sak Yant session. Arjan Pi moves between locations in rotation. Most of his time is spent in Chiang Mai and in Bangkok (his Bangkok location is just outside of Bangkok in Rangsit). He also travels occasionally to Singapore and Taiwan to give Sak Yant. So the first thing to do is to contact him and find out if he will be in the same location you are, when you are in Thailand. Arjan Pi does not speak a lot of English but he does have some broken spoken phrase knowledge. But the person helping him with his Facebook page answers questions in English very well and you can have communication prior to your appointment.
The Steps in Getting a Sak Yant from Arjan Pi
- contact Arjan Pi on Facebook
- find out where Arjan Pi will be at the time you are in Thailand (map of locations below)
- think about what Sak Yant you would like (Google Searches), and it’s location on your body
- ask Arjan Pi through Facebook if he will give the Sak Yant, and approximately how much it will be
- book an appointment and be on time
Aspects of Sak Yant
Predominantly, Sak Yant were given by ordained Buddhist monks (women cannot receive these as monks in Thailand are forbidden to touch women for fear of inciting impure thoughts). There is also in Thailand a long tradition of non-ordained masters, some of whom study Sak Yant and other incantational meditation/magical wicha, and Arjan Pi is in this tradition, so he can and does tattoo women. Because Sak Yant are meant to actively do something (protect, heal, empower, etc), and not just appear in a certain way, historically the Sak Yant master would choose your Yant for you when presented with what you need. He would also place it on the appropriate part of your body. But as times changed, Sak Yant masters also have opened to you asking for a particular Yant, for the west, often based on aesthetic appeal without understanding of its purpose. So you can ask Arjan Pi for a particular Yant – when in his studio home you can look through two large volumes of Yant to make a selection – and he will then decide if he will give it to you. Or, you can, like Andrew Zimmern did, just tell him your hope or difficulty, and he will prescribe a Yant to you. Deities and holy symbols cannot go below the waist, so the location of your Yant may be prescribed by Arjan as well. If you don’t like the location, you might need to choose a different Yant. I cannot tell you the cost of specific Sak Yant as Arjan Pi sets the prices individually and I’ve known him for a while now and I suspect he’s been favorable with me. His popularity has grown significantly, which may have bearing on the cost and his availability. But his work is stunningly beautiful and he fits his Yant to the shape of each person’s body (and works around existing tattoos) better than anyone I’ve ever seen. All prices end in 29, in my experience, so bring small bills for this as well. You don’t “tip” as you would with a tattoo artist, but you can offer extra money in an envelope that will be given to the temple for merit-making if you so choose.
There is no ultimate guide to what Sak Yant mean, it is often more a question of what they do. But in a general sense they each invoke powers or spirits summoned to create a capability or protection. Tigers can invoke “tiger” energy, which can be destructive, but also powerful and authoritative. (I’ve read that people born in the year of the pig are discouraged from getting Tigers as they may be susceptible to losing themselves to the more powerful animal, for instance.) Tiger Yants are something of a specialty of Arjan Pi, nobody quite does them like him and with such aesthetic power. Hanuman (Monkey Warrior) often is the force of undefeatable energy in the service of ultimate good (common for Muay Thai). A takroh, like the one on the middle of my back, can be seen as a protective shell for impenetrability – favored by those with dangerous professions like police, soldiers, fighters or gangsters. Many Yants are linked to good fortune, the production of wealth or the ability to influence. Some of the more “feminine” Yant focus on charm and fortune, such as birds. Sak Yant given below the waist sometimes are seen as nefarious (but not always) or sexual – for this reason location of the part of the body is important. The script used is often based in Pali, and is seen as inscribing/embedding Buddhist scriptural power into your body. And chanted verse in Pali-Sanskrit or incantation seals and infuses the Sak Yant.
There are many rules for how to address an Arjan, even more for how to address and speak to an ordained Monk. But you don’t have to know all of those. Generally speaking, try to keep your head lower than the master and below any images of Buddha or the Abbots who are often in photos high up on the walls (easy to stay below those, they’re placed high for a reason). Wai as you enter and before you leave. But overall the best rule of thumb, even if you forget everything mentioned above, is to just be polite. Speak respectfully, conduct yourself with manners. You’ll be fine.
Map of Where Arjan Pi Bangkating Is
Some of Arjan Pi’s Sak Yant
You can read about my own Sak Yant experiences here
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