As far as the Sikh faith is concerned, believers are encouraged to lead a life as free of vanity and bodily adornment as possible.
That can make things a little bit tougher for today’s Sikhs, especially in today’s modern tattoo-crazy culture.
Are tattoos allowed by this religion?
Yes, but things are a little more complex than that. Sikhs are discouraged from getting tattoos to be sure (and these kinds of bodily alterations are considered to be against the Sikh faith), but getting a tattoo or having a tattoo when joining the faith is not punishable spiritually.
That’s a huge distinction and one that we explore a little more in-depth below.
Tattoos are Frowned Upon in the Sikh Faith
To get this out of the way immediately, there are a lot of Sikh believers out there today (and throughout history) that either have tattoos or other bodily adornments and are still strict in adherence to the Sikh faith.
As we mentioned a moment ago, while this kind of bodily alteration is certainly frowned upon and discouraged by the Sikh leadership, the Sikh religious texts and traditions, and the Sikh culture in general it is not considered to be an offense that would be punished spiritually.
There is no active ban preventing people with existing tattoos (or other forms of body art, for that matter) from joining the Sikh faith, for example.
On top of that, there are a number of believers today that get a single, small, and relatively simple symbol of their Sikh faith tattooed on their hand or their body.
This is seen as a confirmation of their faith and their belief, a tribute to the seriousness of their dedication, and honoring their culture, too.
But Not Necessarily Outlawed by the Faith
A couple of questions must be asked about each tattoo that a Sikh has or plans to get, giving clarity to the situation while also better understanding whether or not it would be considered to be more or less of an affront to this religion.
First, will this tattoo help to elevate an individual’s spiritual consciousness?
Does it strengthen their Sikh faith? Does it honor the Sikh religion? Does it pay tribute to the Sikh culture?
Second, will a tattoo defile the body and leave it less than a temple for the divine?
Will this tattoo add or detract from the purity of the body? Is it small, subtle, and symbolic or is it large, gratuitous, and vain?
Third, is the tattoo intended to be more of a private symbol for an individual’s conviction of faith or something else entirely?
Fourth, will this tattoo be used purely as a form of body modification – something designed to draw attention or something designed to change the way that a person looks, feels, or presents themselves?
All of these questions need to be carefully considered before a new tattoo is put permanently on the body, but these questions should also be asked of tattoos that are already present on the body of those that wish to become part of the Sikh faith, too.
Sikhs Generally Strive to Have as Little Vanity as Possible
When you get right down to it, a major tenant of the Sikh faith is to lead a life with as little vanity as possible.
Sikhs are encouraged to leave their appearance as untouched as possible, so as not to spoil the work of the divine and also to honor the body that has been provided to them.
This is why Sikhs are supposed to leave all of their hair grow, left completely unmolested, no matter where it’s found on the body.
Vanity is anathema to the Sikh faith.
While most in the Sikh community are going to actively discourage members to get a tattoo, most also recognize that those interested in the Sikh faith with tattoos already should not be disbarred – and some tattoos can actually add to the devotion that Sikh followers have.
Like most things, tattoos need to be considered on a case-by-case basis and should not ever be a vanity project.
Once a tattoo crosses the vanity line it is almost always going to be a problem in the Sikh faith, though (once again) the punishment for a tattoo is not going to lay on your spiritual consciousness.