Girl with the circle tattoo (from a monk) stirs up controversy

By Praj Kiatpongsan

Som is clearly not Oscar nominee Rooney Mara nor does she have a dragon tattoo. But a one-minute clip of her having a circle tattoo done has undoubtedly generated far more buzz in Thai society than David Fincher’s most recent 158-minute film.

The reason? The tattoo is being given by a monk.

The original clip entitled Som Sak Yan (literally ”Som is getting a tattoo”) was uploaded on YouTube in 2010 but has just made its way to mainstream media in the past few days.

The Daily News wrote that its local reporter received a number of complaints from residents in Ayutthaya, where the tattoo was given, who were offended by the inappropriate intimacy between Som and the monk. In the clip, Som, a woman with blonde hair is showing her bare back on which the monk is tattooing a prayer wheel. They were physically separated only by a thin sheet of fabric.

In Thailand’s Buddhist society the notorious act is an ultra sensitive issue and is considered outrageous and contradictory to the Vinaya’s framework of monastic discipline. The basic rule specifies that if a practicing bhikkhu or monk touches or is touched by a woman, it is a very serious offense implying that the bhikkhu has been overcome by lust.

Khaosod Newspaper reported that after obtaining over 60,000 views in total, the original clip was removed by the owner of that YouTube channel. It also quoted a strong statement made by the Office of National Buddhism director Nopparat Benjawatananun as saying that it was absolutely unacceptable for the bhikkhu to tattoo the lady. Even though the monk did not directly touch her skin, it was still wrongful conduct.

The director went on further to question the monk’s qualifications before he could enter the monkhood, commenting that the tattooist might be one of the senior monks from the previous generation because he has multiple tattoos on his body. He confirmed that at the moment anyone with even a tiny tattoo cannot be ordained as a monk.

On the internet, the controversy generated mixed reactions. Conservative netizens condemned both Som and the monk, saying that the monk should spend more time preaching and not tattooing.

Others said that they didn’t see any wrongdoing, and that the Thai media was just dramatizing the issue as they did not even make a skin to skin contact.

Those who personally know the monk protected him by saying that he was in fact a considerably decent and respectful person. He only gets a few hours of sleep every night and spends the rest of his days tattooing people without asking anything in return.

The clip below shows the girl and the tattooing monk. Offended or doubtful, impassive or supportive, tell us what you think!

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