Thursday, September 17, 2015

Why three names in Bhutan?

Our name has social references to identify oneself. It is how we identify ourselves verbally in a larger social context. It has an impact on our sense of identity definition--Who am I? Am I a male or a female? Am I Bhutanese or an Indian? Am I a Buddhist or a Muslim?
Our name is the first thing that gets through the introduction, be it formal or informal. Our names are seen on the table during a conference. It is written on the top of our first email and is introduced first in an interview. Names are emphasized in the classroom, so that the students do not view themselves separated from the educational process. A name has its role to play in many situations. So, why not make our students explore about their names? What is the meaning it is rooted in? How did they get their names? Who gave their names? What is the story behind their name?
There are different naming systems across the globe and each system has its own significance, the cultural significance, hereditary importance, and belief system of our own birthplace. Many times there is a story behind a name. For example, my name is Dawa because I was born on Sunday. Therefore, encouraging students to develop a curiosity to learn about their names is important.
Many of the beautiful Bhutanese names have Buddhist ideas and meaning in it. Kelzang means one born with good fortune, Sonam is believed to have merit, Tashi is considered to be auspicious, and Tshering is wishing for long life to that person are a few examples. Being in a Buddhist country and follower of Buddhism, the names are given with a strong sense of belief in it. Many Bhutanese names are received from Rinpoches and lamas, such as the names of our many students. Most of their names have a strong meaning of Buddhist ideas and they cherish having one. The practice of requesting a name from a Rinpoche or lama after the birth of a child is still alive and popular in this region. There were also practices of receiving names from their elders like our parents or grandparents. But, few of the students have gotten their names from their grandparents and parents.
Most Bhutanese usually have a first and second name, however today if we look at the names of the upcoming generation we can hear three or more names, e.g.  Sonam T. Dorji and Kezang D. Wangmo are some common three names. I am wondering the origin of three names. Did Bhutanese ever have three names? What is the significance of a third name besides the first and second? Is it a family name? Is it a caste name? How are three names linked to our parents and grandparents? Is it a system of a name replicated from other urbanized culture? These are some of the questions we have to ask and reflect on it.
I was told by a couple Rinpoches that giving a name to a child these days is getting difficult. There are demands for their names and also preferences.
Bhutanese having three names do not include a family name except for Royal Lineages. Wangchuck dynasty has been the only example of Bhutanese having a family name. The introduction of three names is a wonder of an influence of Generation Z, I believe. Teaching the impact of the physical pressure on those existing age old system of naming in our respective region should be kept alive through education.

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