YogaMaYam

This site is for learning and sharing about Yoga. Topics include teaching, asana, meditation and a nurturing forum for questions about your Yoga practice.

About Spiritual Names

I am always grateful when meeting someone who motivates me to question my own stuff, and then share through teaching and writing what is found out through the process.   Just today a new friend-pen pal of mine, Tai Chi master teacher Mark Johnson sparked for me, the thought of looking at, exploring for myself and explaining to others the nuances of having, wanting, rejecting understanding yogic and spiritual names.

So … maybe you meet or read about a Yoga teacher who has a spiritual name like “Bhakti Das” or “Satyananda” and usually students might think “wow that person must be special and have been initiated or validated by a big wig in Yoga”.  (or not).  Bhakti means “devotional love” and “Das” means servant, so that person would serve to inspire devotionally, such as through kirtan, music, etc.  “Satya” is truth and “Ananda” is bliss, so that person would need to aspire to tell and be the truth at all times while shining a type of happiness.  There is a certain mystique around teachers with exotic sounding yogic, spiritual names.  And many teachers go through a period of time when they are in the new love/infatuation phase with Yoga and teaching wherein they want to be further along on the path and want a spiritual name. There was a time when I too wished for a new spiritual name and thought it would mean I had graduated to a deeper level. Over time I realized that is not the case.  Some people want one so much that go out on the Internet and pay $25 to get one.  Yet why is it that some of the great masters out there who even lived side-by-side with a guru in an ashram or great masters (depending on the path) who have gone out and shined their light in the world do not have a additional name … a spiritual name.  Why is that?

First, since these practices are from the East, to have a Sanskrit or other spiritual Yogic name can resonate in vibration to that line.  Names, words, sounds when spoken do resonate to a certain vibration, frequency, or note.  So it is interesting to explore that.

Secondly, if a student or teacher receives a nickname, or additional name, in the tradition of Yogic spiritual names, what that really means is that they are actually being given an ASSIGNMENT.  And it is usually a hard one.  For instance, I have struggled with depression all my life.  My teacher assigned me with the name of Ananda Prema Shakti. Ananda means a type of happiness called ‘bliss’ which takes some in-depth study to begin to figure out.  So here I am … on the depressed side, and I’m supposed to aspire to be some sort of primarily happy person in order to heal myself and shine positive vibes out to those I come into contact with.  Then to top it off, Prema means a type of unconditional love, the kind God gives through grace. So my assignment is to try to love all unconditionally (which also opens up another whole deep abyss of study and possibilities on what it really means to love unconditionally (i.e. don’t compare, judge, push, compete, and so on).  Then, putting Shakti on the end … geesh, I’m challenged to work to cultivate, build and honor increasing life force energy that can be transformative and alchemical (and NOT coincidentally helps the brain to NOT be depressed).  That is a lot of homework.  (Hey, and I just ‘met’ a Chi-Kung teacher so I’m thinking exploring this art would be a fun and additional way to work with our universal energy.)

Now lets go deeper.  Our given birth names have meanings too and that is ALSO our assignment, whether or not we were given an additional spiritual name or not, So YES we sure can have one or more spiritual names.  My birth spiritual name is “Felicia” which (drum-roll) … means {of course}  “Happiness.”   (haha are we surprised?)

Finally, there is another funny twist about spiritual names, in that I suspect is another one of those spiritual jokes we can have played on us that then have the cathartic gift of causing us to lighten up and be more playful, and a tad less reverent.  And that is this ….   The reason why some gurus and master teachers and teachers and students that might secretly have liked to have one, don’t have a spiritual name is that they perhaps waited and thought a name might be bestowed upon them like some gift or honor, or a graduation of sorts.  Some might have thought that having a spiritual name would mean they are now initiated or elevated in some way, when that is not the case. And here is where the joke and sense of humor comes in.  These gurus and master teachers and teachers and students who might have secretly wanted to have another spiritual name linked to their practice lineage may not have realized that they could humbly go to their teacher and just ASK for one.  That’s right.  No one ever stops to think that the folks who have additional spiritual names may have humbly asked their teacher for one.  (I did.)  The very act of asking shows humility … shows a desire to more fully immerse into the lineage and beingness of Yoga.  The very act of asking takes it off the pedestal.

Osho had a habit of being in a room with even brand new yoga practitioners/students and doling out yogic spiritual names right and left to each of them.  In studying the writings on this, it is obvious that Osho intuited and knew about the student enough to assign them with an inspiring and challenging name. Osho’s way of seemingly casually giving a student a name shows that students don’t have to graduate to some assumed level to get one, and doesn’t have to be ‘enlightened’ or have reached some sort of attainment.  Having an additional spiritual name is a type of ‘joining the family’ just as people take on one another’s names in marriage.  A yogic spiritual name can be like a further plugging in to the lineage.

So whether we continue to vibrate to the first spiritual name we were born to, or any additional spiritual names we may pick up along the way, it is not something that is meant to elevate us above others.  It is an assignment and something to aspire to.  It holds a vibration linked to the lineage of our study path(s).  It is sound, frequency and identity.  I have read about several gurus/master teachers who prayed and meditated on it, and chose an additional spiritual name for themselves, kind of like changing one’s hairstyle gives a different expression and vibration in life.  It is also similar to the way nuns choose a name for their sisterhood.  No one thinks “oh sister Bernadette” is sooooo special (or thinks she is).  The nun aspires to the qualities of the saint’s name she chose. So spiritual similarities across sects abound … and isn’t it interesting to watch, learn and grow along the journey!

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