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 Japanese names ... just curious

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IanPatton

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PostSubject: Japanese names ... just curious   Wed Nov 10, 2010 2:48 pm

Can someone tell me why monks are given a Japanese name, or any name other than the one they were given at birth for that matter. It always struck me as a bit odd.

Blessings,
Ian
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Isan
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PostSubject: Re: Japanese names ... just curious   Wed Nov 10, 2010 3:31 pm

IanPatton wrote:
Can someone tell me why monks are given a Japanese name, or any name other than the one they were given at birth for that matter. It always struck me as a bit odd.

Blessings,
Ian

It is common practice in monasticism to give people a new name when they enter the order/community (true in Christianity as well as Buddhism and perhaps others). It is symbolic of leaving the old and embracing the new. Since RMJK trained in Japan she initially used Japanese names, but eventually she switched to names of English origin. The English names were sometimes so obscure they didn't solve the problem of "weirdness" (as perceived by those outside the community), but (at least) they were more pronounceable. Hmm, now that I think of it I believe new names were often given earlier during Jukai. Then if you went on to become a monk you just kept the Buddhist name you'd already received.

In my personal experience having a different name helped me to re-frame my life. RMJK used to say (and I paraphrase) that an important part of practice was to embrace a new definition of self and over time it would come to feel natural (fake it til you make it ). Although I mostly use by birth name now I still feel comfortable using my ordination name amongst those that understand it.
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Iain

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PostSubject: Re: Japanese names ... just curious   Wed Nov 10, 2010 8:33 pm

Isan wrote:

It is common practice in monasticism to give people a new name when they enter the order/community (true in Christianity as well as Buddhism and perhaps others). It is symbolic of leaving the old and embracing the new..

This is not a specifically monastic practice. In Japan it is common for people taking lay ordination also to be given a new name in addition to their family name and given name. There is also the option of 'posthumous ordination'.

Nor is it only symbolic of 'leaving the old and embracing the new'. It is an outward expression of the fact that for better or worse in taking the precepts from a particular 'flesh and blood' teacher you are joined to his or her spiritual 'blood line' just as you would be taken into an adoptive family. At any rate that is my understanding of the significance of 'names in religion' in Japan. 'Organisations' as a form of institution are a relatively new invention in Japanese culture. The characteristic institutional format in societies based on Confucian values is the biological family, not the Limited Company.

It interests me that many contributors here continue to use the names given to them by Rev. Master Jiyu. I wonder why that is.
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IanPatton

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PostSubject: Re: Japanese names ... just curious   Thu Nov 11, 2010 1:05 am

Thanks for the info guys, much appreciated.
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Jimyo

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PostSubject: Re: Japanese names ... just curious   Thu Nov 11, 2010 4:26 am

Iain wrote:

It interests me that many contributors here continue to use the names given to them by Rev. Master Jiyu. I wonder why that is.

In my case, simply so that old friends would know who I was was. It was helpful for me that they did the same. Other than that I haven't been Jimyo for 25 years. But it's no big deal to me one way or the other; it's only a name.
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IanPatton

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PostSubject: Re: Japanese names ... just curious   Thu Nov 11, 2010 1:54 pm

Please don't take my question as anything other than just curiosity, I'm not making any judgements.
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Sophia

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PostSubject: Re: Japanese names ... just curious   Fri Nov 12, 2010 11:54 am

I was given a western name, Sophia, and I kept it when I left. It symbolizes a change from the person I wasn't that happy about when I came to the Abbey. The Abbey pointed a way towards SOMETHING--hard to put down on 'paper' what--which I draw from multiple times a day. Kind of like a deep well. The name helps. Somethime I even think "that's the old X". Even though the name was given to me at ordination, by now it is a self-naming: I choose it as I choose to act from the place of my meditation. And now it's been part of me for 25 years!
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