A Good Deed Never Goes Unpunished

Tam Mayer (of Bells Ink Tattooing & Body Piercing in Victoria, Australia) has managed to get herself in some hot water, all because she tried to do the right thing. As a part of a fundraiser for a local boy — in which they raised $3,000 to help him (the whole event raised $15,000) — she tattooed her friend Luke Coleman with this image of Buddha. At first everyone was happy, and thought they’d done something really special, and I’m sure they were even happier when some of the big tattoo rebloggers picked it up, featuring it because it’s unusual to see a tattoo like this on the sole of a foot (and I have to admit I have some doubts about how it will heal). Anyway, the problems began when Thai Buddhists saw the tattoo and took offense at the tattoo’s location — that someone was walking on the face of Buddha, which they thought was deeply disrespectful. Immediately the comments changed from congratulating Tam for a unique tattoo and more importantly, raising $3,000 for a child in need, to threatening to murder her if she ever showed her face in Thailand. Comment after comment insulted and berated her. Did Tam make a tactless mistake? Perhaps, by some interpretations of Buddhism. But by other interpretations of Buddhism, she did something wonderful. To my way of looking at it, this is just another example of extremist interpretation of religion poisoning everything. As far as I’m concerned, Tam’s got nothing to apologize for. If Buddha and Jesus existed, I’m sure they’d give her a high five for helping others, and then punch the religious radicals in the nuts for spreading hatred in their name.


Edit: I wanted to add one other thing — as soon as Tam found out that what she’d done was potentially offensive, she apologized profusely to anyone she might have offended (as did Luke), and said they wished they’d known in advance so they could have avoided the situation. It was very clear that they’d acted only with the best of intentions — and I want to be clear that the above comments are mine, not hers.

17 thoughts on “A Good Deed Never Goes Unpunished

  1. I’m no fan of religious extremists, but this is also an example of the “cultural imperialism”* that’s especially present in the more mainstream body mod culture.

    Anyway, tattoos on the soles of the feet are interesting. You could also think of it as something that supports you and holds you up, which would emphasize the power of the iconography. Taken either metaphorically or literally it’s a neat concept, I think.

    *It’s a crappy loaded term, but I can’t think of anything closer.

  2. really wanna see how that heals.


    “If Buddha and Jesus existed, I’m sure they’d give him a high five for helping others, and then punch the religious radicals in the nuts for spreading hatred in their name.” HEAR HEAR!!

  3. Yeah… he has NOTHING to apologize for. Tattoo artists have ZERO responsibility to stay abreast of every religion’s tenets & traditions just so they can avoid ever doing a tat that might offend someone, somewhere. I’m so sick of these religious freaks expecting the rest of the world to adapt to their obscure beliefs & threatening to KILL PEOPLE whenever they see something they don’t like. @#$% those people, seriously. Believe whatever silly things you want, but don’t you dare expect the rest of the world to kowtow to you.

    Religion really does poison everything, it’s made a great tat into an offensive thing when all it should have been is just that- a great tat(though in a very strange place!). Don’t apologize, Tam!

  4. I am the artist behind the picture above and I would just like to thank you for your support and also clarify a couple of things. Firstly, I am female, not male, but that it kind of irrelevant, 🙂
    This tattoo was planned out exclusively to raise money for a local child. We did not know at all that tattooing a buddha on his foot would be offensive to anyone. I did not research whether this would be the case, because for me it was no different to researching a flower on someone’s arm or a dragon on someone’s back.

    The image of buddha is tattooed quite frequently in western society and it was simply an issue with location due to the cultural belief of feet being the dirtiest part of the body. Retrospectively, had we known, we would have simply chosen a different image.

    The irony, is that we chose a buddha because of his teachings of love and compassion and of always remembering to help out your fellow man. This tattoo was done for no other reason then to help out someone else. We chose the sole of the foot because we had to find a way to raise the money and in a society where tattooing is celebrated, there is nothing special about having a tattoo on your arm. The idea was that the sole of the foot is considered to be the most excruciating area and that Luke was prepared to do that for charity if people were willing to sponsor it. The support for it was incredible and not once was the issue of the image and location brought to our attention prior to tattooing it.

    In total, the appeal raised $15 000 and I would not change that for the world as this family can now breathe a little easier, but I am GENUINELY sorry that I have unknowingly offended another culture. That was not at all my intention. Unfortunately a lot of people that were genuinely offended were not even able to read my explanation or apology due to the language barrier, but I have done all I can do.

    At the end of the day there will always be lovers and haters for everything we do. There will also always be extremists and those who jump on the bandwagon.

    All I can do is stand by my word and by my apology. I have love for all cultures and this diverse world we live in, but I do not know the ins and outs of every rule of every religion.

    I thank you all for the support as it means a lot and I am pleased to know that at least the intention was not lost on your all.

    In love and light, Tam x

  5. I also forgot to add in answer to some of the other questions, that the tattoo is healing fine but it will not be permanent. This was something we were aware of prior to tattooing. It was never intended to be a permanent piece of art as that part of the body loses so many skin cells that it will rub away quite quickly. It was only ever done for the purpose of fundraising for charity. 🙂

  6. Yes definitely want to see healed pictures. And people will get offended no matter what you do, I have a friend who has Jesus holding guns on his back (rather large tattoo at that) and no Christian yet has called it disrespectful and I’m fair;y certain that’s how he meant it to be (disrespectful that is). My point is it’s a beautiful tattoo and for a Buddhist to threaten murder is… well …ironic and scary all at the same time

  7. Why do the religious nut jobs always threaten death? It is one of 2 things consistent with most major religions. They all preach about peace and love and that killing is really a SUPER bad thing to do. Yet at the same time all of the extremists always threaten to kill anyone who offends their “god”. Why can’t they make up their collective minds? Maybe one day they will be visited by the F.S.M. and be blessed by his noodly appendage or have Bob Dobbs show up and take them to the promised land.

  8. Tattooing an important religious figure on the bottom of your foot seems like pretty blatant and obvious disrespect to that religion. However, the client is ultimately who gets to decide what they want on their body so it’s not entirely the tattooers fault.
    If the client was doing it to step on the face of Buddha, yes that’s pretty antagonistic and rude, but since they did it with good intentions or whatever, it’s just incredibly moronic and shows a ridiculous lack of forethought and critical thinking skills.
    Also at the Western commenters getting butthurt about ‘religious extremism’ or whatever about a religion that has zero effect on their daily life, your whining makes it really hard to agree with you.

  9. “to threatening to murder her if she ever showed her face in Thailand. Comment after comment insulted and berated her.”

    Any such comments could not have come from those who follow the dharma. It really is that simple. But this is the internet, and one has to face the trolls.

    Culturally, showing the sole of ones feet to another person in Thailand is seen as deeply insulting. I believe the government in Thailand is trying to prevent artists from inking religious symbols.

    Given that the buddha dharma places the greatest importance on our intentions then it is clear that if the artist did not intend the work to be disrespectful then that is what maters.

  10. Ian, that would be a Zen buddhist opinion that may not be widely shared by our Thai brothers and sisters.

    We are a broad religion with many different traditions.

  11. Actually, many historians agree that Jesus in fact existed. But yeah, all kinds of fundamentalists tend to take stuff the wrong way and way too serious. Zen baby, zen.

  12. as much as i hate religion too it is absolutely not your place (ESPECIALLY as a white person) to decide whether or not these buddhists’ feelings are valid or not. i promise they know more about buddhism than you do. i think “cultural imperialism” as stated above is an excellent term for this

  13. Shannon, most times I don’t agree with your view on religion, but in this instance you are right on. Her intentions were good, and I don’t believe Jesus ever intended for us to hate and judge each other like we do and he would (in my opinion) not approve of the castigation that has taken place over this. The people who’ve gotten their panties in a twist need to get some perspective and stfu.

  14. Okay, I don’t think death threats were necessary, and people are free to tattoo themselves however they wish. However, I do think it is pretty offensive to tattoo Buddha to the sole of your foot, or any religious figure for that matter, just because it’s important for us all to respect other beliefs. I feel that the artist/tattooed should have done some research into this, especially since Buddhism is a religion from a different culture. If you type in Buddha tattoo, the first thing that comes up is a warning to be careful with where you tattoo your body with Buddhist symbols, and a recommendation to only tattoo waist up. You shouldn’t be willy nilly tattooing such meaningful people all over your body without doing some prior research really.

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