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Dharma name or
June 15th, 2018

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

Dharma name or… simply 'Buddhist'?

Sure, there's a traditional basis for "Dharma names" in Buddhism:
Pahārāda, just as all the great rivers, that is to say,
the Ganga, the Yamuna, the Aciravati, the Sarabhu and the Mahi,
upon reaching the great ocean, losing their former names and origins,
come to be known simply as the great ocean…

so, too, Pahārāda, when these 4 classes
—the kshatriyas, the brahmins, the vaishyas, the shudras
having gone forth from the house for the homeless life in the Dharma-Vinaya proclaimed by the Tathāgata,
they abandon their former names and lineages, and are simply known as ‘Sakya-putta recluses’ [‘recluses who are sons of the Śakya’].
Pahārāda sutta (AN 8.19)

But looking at this basis, you can see for yourself that, unless you live in a society where your name de facto informs others of your class / caste, you don't need a Dharma name!
That'd just be copying practices appropriate to the old caste system in India into another context, without regards for the appropriateness or priorities in the situation at hand (and "fixing imaginary flaws" is likely to distract you from, and keep you blind to, the present flaws —no society is perfect!).

Moreover, "sons of the Śakya" had no 'exotic' ring to it, in the regional context the Buddha proposed it. In Anglo-saxon countries, today, that'd be equivalent to changing your name to 'Smith': it lets your origins go, but it doesn't make you 'special', with some weird foreign name…

It might be noted that the Pāḷi term in "sons of the Śakya" is ambiguous as to whether the Śakya is a collective, the clan from which the Buddha arose, or a singular, which would point to the Buddha himself.
The former would point to the 'Smith' case above.
The latter, however, would make the reference a bit more specific, or 'special'… but then you still don't need an exotic new name for that, for a suitable word already exists in English (which had no equivalent at the time of Buddha): 'Buddhist'.

If you ought to change something when you become a Buddhist practitioner, it's your mind, your views, your behaviours (in body and speech)… not your name. There's a difference between wishing to practice and practicing; don't start with distractions! Guidance is available (
The eightfold path is "right view, right intention, right action, right speech, right livelihood, right effort, right concentration, right mindfulness"… and 'right' here is a misleading translation from samma, which in fact points to 'complete', to 'inclusive', to 'harmonious' rather than 'right' (! So, this list does not include "right name" —and if it did, then it'd mean 'harmonious' name, not something setting you apart, different, special or even implicitly superior ( on the assumption that you joined the 'right' tradition (because you're at ease with it? then watch

And, yes, 5 rivers but only 4 castes… because caste-based societies also have 'outcasts' or 'untouchables'… people which were also accepted in the Saṅgha as full-fledged human beings (this was and remains one of the social dimensions of Buddhism: one is worthy by deed, not by birth)… so if you "have to" change your name, then make sure you pick an harmonious one, rather than a tradition-specific, country-connoted, culturally-foreign, I'm-right-you're-wrong name! And no, I don't mean "harmonious after translation", I mean "harmonious". And on this basis, even claiming you're Buddhist might not be such a great idea. It isn't about how you label yourself, it's about how you behave (and refrain from embodying unwholesome tendencies): don't move forward on the path by outcasting others!

#Buddhism #Dharma
As this is the first post of the "needlessly provocative" series, a.k.a. "not for the sake of popularity" series (, rest assured that yes, I did think of putting some nude woman doing some meditative yoga pose or something; that'd be for another post, a monster bashing stuff just seemed more appropriate for this one ;-)
image: Japanese folklore's Ōari monster (the ghost of a giant ant) raising a wooden hammer, from the Hyakki-Yagyō-Emaki scroll, Muromachi period (approx. 1336–1573)… and no, this has virtually no link with Buddhist teachings… or about as much as Westerners taking exotic names on, to refurbish-yet-sustain their ego.
Buddhism has no specific guideline on supporting teachers, it simply asks for you to consider causality: if you want this living tradition to survive, how are you participating, in practical terms, to make this happen? Nice words, exposure or social media ‘+1’ might feel good, but they do not actually help with the basic necessities: