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Dharma Names

Why arent Dharma or Buddhist names given in the native language of the student? Japanese teachers dont give their students names in Chinese even though Zen came from China. Tibetan and Chinese teachers dont give their students names in some ancient Indian language even though that is where their teachings originated. So why do Buddhist teachers, even the ones who are from western countries and speak western languages as their native tongue, continue giving their students names in the language of the country the teachings came from?

As well I would be very interested to know if this was the practice when Buddhism first came to China, Japan, Tibet etc. If so when did they being to start using their own languages to rename their students?

Keith

Comments

  • edited January 2006
    refractorist said:
    Why arent Dharma or Buddhist names given in the native language of the student?...Keith

    No reason.
  • edited January 2006
    zenmonk_genryu said:
    No reason.
    Very interesting. One thing it definitly does for us Americans is make us think in another language for at least a little bit, which is something I dont think most people here in the US do very much. The only time Ive ever used another language before Buddhism was during high school Spanish and college German. And I barely remember any of what I learned.

    However I suspect that in the long term we will start using Dharma names in our native languages. Which is wonderful in itself because being named "Hidden Dragon" like yourself or "Lotus Dharma-Lamp" (Thubten Chodron), etc sound very nice and are much more descriptive to people who are not Buddhists.

    Keith
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited January 2006
    In the end though, and this is just my two cents on it... names are just labels, and whilst they carry great significance at the time we are given them, or adopt them, in time, we my well find, through practise, that we 'outgrow' them, or the significance alters, depending on our progress....

    Here in France, great significance is attached to the names bestowed upon children.. It isn't unusual for parents to choose a name,a nd then at the baptism, to have a scroll given to them with the origin, meaning and significance of the name they have chosen.

    Many years ago, I was going through a 'personal growth and development' episode, during which I decided it was time to shed the crap I had been carrying around all my life.(Don't... I'm cringing already....)
    So symbolically, I decided to put aside my first name, and adopt my second name as my main one. I stopped being 'Alexandra' and picked up Federica'. I shed the previous persona, and began a new life.....(*Inhales deeply*) "Aaaaaaah!!"

    Now?
    Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.....

    Or am I spinning off on the wrong tangent here...?
    ZenMonk, throw me a rope, huh?
  • edited January 2006
    federica said:
    names are just labels, and whilst they carry great significance at the time we are given them, or adopt them, in time, we my well find, through practise, that we 'outgrow' them, or the significance alters, depending on our progress....

    Many years ago, I was going through a 'personal growth and development' episode, during which I decided it was time to shed the crap I had been carrying around all my life.(Don't... I'm cringing already....)
    So symbolically, I decided to put aside my first name, and adopt my second name as my main one. I stopped being 'Alexandra' and picked up Federica'. I shed the previous persona, and began a new life.....(*Inhales deeply*) "Aaaaaaah!!"

    Now?
    Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.....

    Or am I spinning off on the wrong tangent here...?
    ZenMonk, throw me a rope, huh?
    No, No I think your being very relevent. Its just that Ive always been very interested to know what someone who really knew me and was going to give me another name would call me. Especially a name that had a special meaning that would share with everyone I meet something about me they might not know until they get to know me.

    Reading over this its sounds like Im being a really egotistical, though. Like "Oh I want everyone to know about ME." But then again I wish everyone had a name that told something about them so I could know them in a way I might not get to, until I know them for a while. It would be like a little connection we could have with people after only knowing their name.

    But I guess I dont follow my own advice. My nickname refractorist is just something I made up because I think it sounds cool. So, I dont know.

    Keith
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited January 2006
    "The boy's name 'Keith' is pronounced keeth. It is of Scottish and Gaelic origin, and its meaning is "woodland, forest." The family name of hereditary Earls and Marshals of Scotland from the 11th century. It is a name therefore, associated with Nobility, Magnitude and Majesty. Equitable both with rank and imagery. Usually denotes someone who holds wisdom, flexibility and Brotherhood as of primary importance."
    From the 'Oxford Encyclopaedia of Ancient and Modern Names'.

    Out of print, but I have a copy.... ;)
  • edited January 2006
    Maybe I should start introducing myself as Flexible-Wise-Forest-Brother. :grin:" alt=":grin:" height="20" />

    But seriously that is wonderful. Maybe we should all be taught in school what all these western names mean. It might just bring a little more meaning into each new meeting.

    Flexible-Wise-Forest-Brother
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited January 2006
    Funny though.... look at your avatar....I forget....Was it always so? Why did you choose it?
  • edited January 2006
    refractorist said:
    Why arent Dharma or Buddhist names given in the native language of the student?
    Hi Keith, when I went to my retreat at Throssel Hole Abbey I met a few of the monks there. Among them were Revs Edwin, Alfred, Wilfred, Elina and Muriel. I guess chosing the name is down to whoever ordains them but in this case they were given western names.
    Cheers,
    Adrian
  • edited January 2006
    Fede,

    You make an interesting point.

    Could this be some form of attachment or ... trying to validate ones Buddhist way of life? Like, "We're a real Buddhist group because we give all of our students Dharma names - we're the real stuff."

    I know thinking like this happens in the martial arts. Creating a new name, which has Asian roots, spelling or pronunciation - but everything else is in English or, at the least, very American.

    -bf
  • edited January 2006
    Like Federica, I've got several names, all of which are used by different groups of friends / contacts. People ask me which I prefer and I honestly don't mind. They are all me and only relate to where I was at the time that these people got to know me. The only person who suffers from this is the Old Feller, who has to field four different names when he answers the telephone in two different languages - he copes well though, bless 'im.
  • edited January 2006
    Federica: Ive actually had this avatar since I joined this forum. I was searching for pictures of OM and this came up and I decided to go with it instead. Ive always been a fan of forests and trees. I do love a nice hike through the woods, too.

    Frizzer: I think thats great that they use western names. I would love to find out more information about that Abbey.

    Its not that I have anything against Asian languages but as buddhafoot kind of alluded to if we're going to have everything else (Dharma books, oral teachings, chants, etc) in our native language why not Dharma names too.

    I was just at the bookstore and got a book called the Collected Songs of Cold Mountain. In in an man who goes by the name of Red Pine translates some very wonderful Chinese Buddhist poetry. Cold Mountain is actually Han Shan. Red Pine (Bill Porter) also translates some poems by two of Cold Mountains's colleagues Big Stick (Feng-kan) and Pickup (Shih-te). I think this is great because it really lets you know something about who they were that a speaker of Chinese would know but we wouldnt.

    Keith

    (changed Frederica to Federica)
  • edited January 2006
    Knitwitch said:
    Like Federica, I've got several names, all of which are used by different groups of friends / contacts. People ask me which I prefer and I honestly don't mind. They are all me and only relate to where I was at the time that these people got to know me. The only person who suffers from this is the Old Feller, who has to field four different names when he answers the telephone in two different languages - he copes well though, bless 'im.
    Like Fede and Knitwitch - I have a lot of names that people call me.

    Some of them aren't even close to my real name.

    Some of them deal with excrement. Others define my lack of testosterone. Others just seem like vulgar explitives.

    Interesting.

    -bf
  • edited January 2006
    refractorist said:

    Frizzer: I think thats great that they use western names. I would love to find out more information about that Abbey.

    Keith, they actually have a priory where you are that is part of the same order.

    Here you go : Eugene Buddhist Priory
  • edited January 2006
    Frizzer said:
    Keith, they actually have a priory where you are that is part of the same order.

    Here you go : Eugene Buddhist Priory

    Thanks, Im definitely going to talk with them about my question.

    Keith
  • edited January 2006
    buddhafoot said:
    Like Fede and Knitwitch - I have a lot of names that people call me.

    Some of them aren't even close to my real name.

    Some of them deal with excrement. Others define my lack of testosterone. Others just seem like vulgar explitives.

    Interesting.

    -bf

    Oh that wasn't even counting what the Old Feller calls me when his porridge is too hot!
  • edited January 2006
    Most of mine relate to the farmyard :woowoo:
  • edited January 2006
    refractorist said:
    .

    Its not that I have anything against Asian languages but as buddhafoot kind of alluded to if we're going to have everything else (Dharma books, oral teachings, chants, etc) in our native language why not Dharma names too.

    i support the assimilation of buddhism into another culture.it will enrich the buddhism culture itself.so maybe one day there would be america buddhism culture,europe buddhism culture.
  • edited January 2006
    angulimala said:
    i support the assimilation of buddhism into another culture. it will enrich the buddhism culture itself.
    Which I think nicely sums up what I had in mind when I began this thread. Thank you angulimala. :)

    Keith
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited January 2006
    It might b worth noticing that Western missionaries, when baptising the "heathen", gave them Western saints' names. The practice of using such "Christian" names continues. It is a sort of linguistic imperialism.

    One of the reasons that some people choose exotic names is to distance themselves from a previous life. In many Christian monastc traditions, new names are chosen when one is professed.
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited January 2006
    federica said:
    .........................

    Here in France, great significance is attached to the names bestowed upon children.. It isn't unusual for parents to choose a name,a nd then at the baptism, to have a scroll given to them with the origin, meaning and significance of the name they have chosen.

    .....................
    In France it used to be law that children could only be given forenames from the Calendar of Saints. I remember reading, some years ago, a proposal to change the law but am not sure of the outcome.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited January 2006
    With children here in France turning up at schools with names like Tiffany, Kylie and Angelina... I think we can safely say "Rules may be rules, but aren't they meant to be broken....?"
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited January 2006
    federica said:
    With children here in France turning up at schools with names like Tiffany, Kylie and Angelina... I think we can safely say "Rules may be rules, but aren't they meant to be broken....?"
    Saint Kylie, Patron Saint of Neighbours. Saint's day: 30th February. Liturgical colour: Flesh tones.

    Saint Tiffany, Patron of Shopping. Saint's Dats: Winter sales. Liturgical colour: dollar green.

    Saint Angelina, Patron of Plastic. Saint's day: Twelfth of Never. Liturgical colour: smoke (and mirrors).
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited January 2006
    Yeh... and I'll tell you, the boys are getting pretty pissy about being given these names....!!
  • edited January 2006
    My brothers and I were definitely given Biblical names: Matthew, Peter, David, and Mary Elizabeth. My mother used these not so much for the meaning...but simply for the biblical use.

    Mary: wished for (my parents wished for a girl) or bitterness (not even close!!), beloved
    Elizabeth: my God is abundance

    I am Mary Elizabeth, Marybeth, Aunt B...love them all!
    I don't attach too much significance to names....but it would be rather interesting to pick out my own...
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited January 2006
    federica said:
    Yeh... and I'll tell you, the boys are getting pretty pissy about being given these names....!!


    Any better than Hilaire, Hippolyte, Jean-Marie and other of the names from my childhood. French kids just had such odd names.
  • edited January 2006
    Going back to Dharma names, can I ask why people take them?

    In our tradition a new initiate is asked to choose a new name to symbolise their death to the old life and rebirth into a new life. Some choose to pick a name that is secret, known only to them and their gods, others a name by which they will be known from then on at least in their coven. Some go as far as to change their names permanently.
  • edited January 2006
    In the Zen tradition at least, Dharma names are given when one takes the Refuges and Precepts or when one is ordained. Often they either reflect an aspect of a person's character or something that they can grow into. They're given by one's teacher as an acknowledgement that through taking the precepts you have left behind taking refuge in any deity, belief or reliance on an external solution and have instead committed to realizing and manifesting reality as it is, thus joining the family of the Buddhas. So just as when a child joins a family and is given a name at birth, the person taking the precepts or being ordained is given a new name. A friend of mine, Brad Warner though, almost never uses his Dharma name and dislikes them, seeing them as something of an affectation in the West especially. His Dharma name is Odo, which means 'The Way of Answers' and his teachers' is Gudo, which, interestingly means, 'The Way of Stupidity'.
  • edited January 2006
    Thank you very much ZMG. Very interesting and probably a much better idea that the name is given by the teacher to the pupil rather than the candidate choosing their own name.

    As I have mentioned, some people in our tradition tend to get a bit carried away with their choice and I have wished I could suggest a more suitable one!
  • edited January 2006
    Fortunately for me, I ended up with a pretty good name at birth. After years of hating the oddball moniker I was stuck with, I just discovered that 'Narda' is used in tantric Kashmir as a local name for 'Saraswati'.

    Works for me! :)
  • edited January 2006
    zenmonk_genryu said:
    Gudo, which, interestingly means, 'The Way of Stupidity'.
    I would be very interested to know what other Japanese people think of a name like this. I suppose they might think (if they are not Buddhists or maybe even if they are) "Oh, those silly Buddhist's calling themselves stupid!" or maybe they might be curious and start asking about Buddhism and what such a name means. I would be very curious. I can definitely image the first response coming from an American if, on first meeting, one were to very calmly and seriously introduce oneself, "Hi, my name is Way of Stupidity." :grin:" alt=":grin:" height="20" />

    Keith
  • edited January 2006
    On the subject of choosing names - I am reminded of a chap who decided as a good pagan he would let the gods decide his new name (he was of the Norse persuasion) so he wrote several gods' names, adjectives and animals and put them in separate hats, drawing one of each out in turn. The gods were evidently having a mead fest that day because the poor man ended up being Mighty Thor Rabbit.
  • edited January 2006
    Knitwitch said:
    Thank you very much ZMG. Very interesting and probably a much better idea that the name is given by the teacher to the pupil rather than the candidate choosing their own name.

    As I have mentioned, some people in our tradition tend to get a bit carried away with their choice and I have wished I could suggest a more suitable one!

    Then again, that may be a good way to go, for example I've always wanted to be called 'Orbital Sanders'. At the very least, it would make a good name for a band. ;)
  • edited January 2006
    zenmonk_genryu said:
    ...His Dharma name is Odo, which means 'The Way of Answers' and his teachers' is Gudo, which, interestingly means, 'The Way of Stupidity'.
    Gudo's teacher must have been one of them "Bad Boys"...

    -bf

    I don't think I'll ever take a teacher - I'd probably get stuck with Butt-Pipe or Ass-Monkey for a dharma name...
  • edited January 2006
    BF, when you do find a teacher, I'll send him a copy of that post. :mullet:
  • edited January 2006
    You mean this post?
    buddhafoot said:
    Gudo's teacher must have been one of them "Bad Boys"...

    -bf

    I don't think I'll ever take a teacher - I'd probably get stuck with Abs-of-Steel or Buns-Of-Desire for a dharma name...

    -bf
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited January 2006
    buddhafoot,

    ...

    :lol:" alt=":lol:" height="20" />

    ...

    Jason
  • edited January 2006
    refractorist said:
    I would be very interested to know what other Japanese people think of a name like this. I suppose they might think (if they are not Buddhists or maybe even if they are) "Oh, those silly Buddhist's calling themselves stupid!" or maybe they might be curious and start asking about Buddhism and what such a name means. I would be very curious. I can definitely image the first response coming from an American if, on first meeting, one were to very calmly and seriously introduce oneself, "Hi, my name is Way of Stupidity." :grin:" alt=":grin:" height="20" />

    Keith
    Stupidity or 'Not Knowing' in Zen has a particular connotation. Many Japanese are not that involved with Buddhism at all, it's often seen as too hard to actually practice meditation and whatnot, but there is a cultural acceptance and understanding of some aspects of Buddhism. Which is probably why this can work in Japan but not in the West as yet.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Somewhere in the UK, Central-Southern.... Moderator
    edited January 2006
    I once had my first name, (Alexandra' written for me in Chinese hyroglyphs... Given that the alphabet and english pronounciations obviously don't exist in Chinese, the lady gave me four hyrogliphs (corresponding to the four syllables)...
    It turned out that reading my name, it became translated as "mud puddle shallow mind...!!"

    It's about as accurate a description as I could possibly find!
  • edited January 2006
    I was given the astronomy name of "Urananus" by my star-teacher.

    -bf



    I'm sorry... is that too juvenile?
  • edited January 2006
    YUP.....Here Kitty...Kitty
  • edited January 2006
    Does one have to bribe a mentor for a decent name?

    Mind you with my job sometimes (oh always) I really look like a bat out of hell, and turn up and announce myself as Cathag.....
  • edited January 2006
    federica said:
    I once had my first name, (Alexandra' written for me in Chinese hyroglyphs... Given that the alphabet and english pronounciations obviously don't exist in Chinese, the lady gave me four hyrogliphs (corresponding to the four syllables)...
    It turned out that reading my name, it became translated as "mud puddle shallow mind...!!"

    It's about as accurate a description as I could possibly find!
    Mud Puddle it is then.
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