A Tale of Two (3/4) Sleeves

I’ve got a journey to tell you about; it’s a friendly arm’s length…x2. Here is my tale of two (three-quarter) sleeve tattoos. The first ¾ sleeve on my right arm that I acquired in 2009 symbolizes peace, growth from darkness, perseverance in coming into myself; my own inner and outer beauty, against the odds – overcoming hypocrisy, anger, spite, and those negative emotions – all while wading through emotional waters. My second 3/4 sleeve represents my practice in Buddhism using the Eight Fold Path, a natural space where I feel most at peace, new beginnings, and who I am – symbolism for the person I am and hope to grow into.

Original drawing of my 2009 3/4 sleeve tattoo

A gallery of my first 3/4 sleeve (right arm) through the years…

My Right arm has the face of Shakyamuni Buddha. This is the person that most people think of when they hear “the Buddha.” He was a great teacher, a sage, and his teachings have strengthened and developed me through the years. Seeing the Buddha’s face reminds me of the person I should continue to strive to be like. My art has the twisting balance of good fortune and well-being beneath His face. Weaving in and out of the lotuses, beautifully bloomed flowers persevered out of mud, and raging waters of life that we wade through daily, are skulls on a rope, like mala beads. Skulls represent death; contemplate death to have greater gratitude for life.

My left arm art, which I obtained the outline for on Friday, March 25, 2022, represents direction and guidance from my teachings through the Eight-Fold Path; I wanted a nature theme with water, mountains, and trees. Mountains and forestry areas are where I feel most at peace. I wanted my art to represent travel and spiritual growth, maturity, and adventure.

Chuck Hayes tracing my art onto transfer paper

Tattoo elements 

A Dharma Wheel that looks like a ship’s wheel. I study in the school of Mahayana Buddhism. Mahayana means “great vessel.” The idea is that the teachings are like a ship; they will help you get to where you are going, but when you reach your destination (the shore/Nirvana), they will need to be abandoned to continue your journey in life. You don’t want to stay stagnant on the ship; take the lessons you learned, but you will no longer need the vessel. Even the teachings are impermanent. 

There are eight handles on the wheel that represent the Eightfold Path

  • Right View (an accurate understanding of the nature of things/Four Noble Truths)
  • Right Intentions (avoiding thoughts of attachment, hatred, and harmful intent)
  • Right Speech (refraining from verbal transgressions such as lying, divisive speech, harsh speech, and senseless speech)
  • Right Action (refraining from physical wrongdoings such as killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct)
  • Right Livelihood (avoiding business that directly or indirectly harms others, such as selling weapons, animals for slaughter, or intoxicants)
  • Right Effort (abandoning negative states of mind that have already arisen, preventing negative states that have yet to arise, and sustaining positive states that have already arisen)
  • Right Concentration (practice meditation)
  • Right Mindfulness (awareness of body, feelings, and thought)

“Frequently examine ourselves for faults and shortcomings; immediately correct them if any are found. By sweeping away the garbage in our mind — our afflictions and ignorance, our mind can be like a clear mirror, a pool of pure, still water.”Grand Master Wei Chueh

Art looks good. Let’s goooo!

The Chinese characters in the center of the wheel are my Dharma name, 傳幸 (Chuan Xing), meaning Luck and Blessings. When I took my vows at Chung Tai Chan Monastery in Taiwan in 2014, I was given a Dharma name; the name was written in a booklet, and when I opened that booklet, it was the first time I learned of my new name. Chuan indicates who I took my vows under, and at that time, it was our Grand Master Wei Chueh. He has since passed, but he is the founding master of our school. Xing means “luck and blessings.” 

I have a Nightingale bird – that’s also me! Nightingale, a bird that penetrates darkness with its voice, embodies beauty, peace, harmony, and love. The Nightingale on my arm reminds me to use my voice, as a Bodhisattva, to pierce through life’s darkness for the good of humanity despite fear and uncertainty. 

My right arm has skulls on a rope, representing the contemplation of death. If we contemplate death, we have a greater appreciation for life. My left arm has lotus buds on a rope, symbolizing new life, new beginnings, and hope for healthy growth despite the odds.

Both arms have full lotuses, a beautiful, resilient flower that grows from muddy waters. 

Both arms also have splashing water – emotions of life. There are always things happening in life that we must get through, sometimes treacherous waters, sometimes still – but perilous waters will always come. I aim to have a still and calm mind to withstand those trials. 

A bodhisattva is someone who has compassion within himself or herself and who is able to make another person smile or help someone suffer less. Every one of us is capable of this.” – Nhat Hanh


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