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Dharma Connect: Buddha Tattoos -- An Homage or a Sign of Disrespect?

A British woman is being held in a detention camp in Sri Lanka prior to being deported. Her offense? Having a tattoo of a buddha.

A police spokesman told BBC news she was arrested for "hurting others' religious feelings."

The woman, a 37-year-old mental health nurse, told police that she is a Buddhist who has taken part in meditation retreats in several other countries without problems.

Sri Lanka, where about 80 percent of the population is Buddhist, has high standards of decorum. Other tourists have been arrested or kicked out of the country for similar violations.

In the West, we may think of a permanent drawing of a Buddhist icon on our arm as a symbol of our devotion to the dharma. Or a cool picture. Others may feel differently.

Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse created a stir in 2013 with his social media guidelines for vajrayana practitioners, saying that depictions of deities, mantras, and seed syllables should not be shared. Other teachers share those themselves.

For your own practice, it's important to know your intention in public displays of Buddhist iconography.

It also helps to know the laws or culture of countries you visit.

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