College Meeting November 2017

Order members changing their Order name

Posted by Saccanama on Wed, 22 November, 2017 - 10:47
Saccanama's picture

There has recently been a lot of discussion following on from an Order member announcing a change of her Order name. Her preceptor and other College members are now in dialogue with her, and we very much hope that any outstanding issues around this particular instance will soon be resolved on a basis of metta and mutual understanding.

However, as an important principle is involved in Order members changing their name we decided that we needed to discuss this whole area at the November 2017 College meeting, and make a clear statement that would hopefully help us avoid misunderstandings in the future. Please see below.

Order members changing their Order name.

The ordination ceremony is the central ritual for our Order, and a significant element in the private aspect of the ceremony is the giving of the name, and in the public aspect of the ceremony the announcing of the name. If an Order member changes their name without consultation or agreement, then it seriously undermines that ceremony, and thus what unites us as an Order.  We should not underestimate the weight and significance of ritual.

There would need to be compelling reasons for a name change, and then it would need to be done with very careful and sensitive communication between the Order member and their preceptors. An important aspect of our Order name is that it is given, and not chosen by us, as it marks our commitment to a life in the Dharma moving beyond self-clinging. In the rare situation of a name being changed, the new name should again be given rather than chosen, and by the private preceptor, or someone agreed between the relevant kula or kulas of public preceptors and the Order member, with a ritual marking of the change. The new name would then be formally announced.

Our Order names are not just personal. They can indicate spiritual qualities that we aspire to embody, and qualities that it would be good to see more of in the Order generally. Shared elements in a name can also be a reminder of connections with kalyana mitras or people we were ordained with, relationships that will hopefully endure throughout our whole life. Some Order members use their Order name in all areas of their life, whilst others only use their name in an Order context. All that is obviously fine, and it is just the changing of the Order name that we are addressing here.


Chair of the Preceptors’ College

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sucimani's picture

Thank you Saddhaloka. Really appreciate the clarity around this and the care you have taken to communicate it.

Sucimani xx

parami's picture

Just to be clear, the discussion at the college meeting, although it had been triggered by the situation mentioned in this piece, was a discussion about the principle of name change and was not about the individual concerned. 

Prabhakari's picture

Hi Saddhaloka,

I understand that the Order Member mentioned’s preferred pronouns are “they” and “them”. I think it would be kind and respectful to honour that request.


parami's picture

Hi prabhakari, In conversation with the order member in question they told me that although they is their preferred pronoun, they are happy with either they or she.

Prabhakari's picture

ok, thanks for clarifying that, Parami

danavira's picture

I remember a woman order member telling me that she had been unhappy with her name and she had communicated this to her preceptor, Sangharakshita.   Her version went that he finally said to her to choose a new one for herself that she might be happier with.  She has not changed her name, as it turns out, and it has been years.  ( This is a memory from the distant past).

Again, years and years ago, I climbed to the top of St Paul’s tower, in London, and there, at the very top, was a piece of graffiti written in biro.  It was a list of Asian names.There was the name that this particular woman OM had.  This indicated to me that the name was fairly common in South-East Asia.

Karunabala's picture

Thank you for your explanation, Saddhaloka. However I do not feel that it is comprehensive in understanding personal distress.

Ordained 2 years ago, I do feel deep consolation that, as a Mitra towards the end of my ordination process, I had the clarity and conviction to assert to my Private Preceptor-to-be that I couldn’t live with a feminised name.

 Thankfully Padmavajri was receptive to my yearning of liberation and re-birth in true  service to the Dharma, and chose not to  shackle me with one that I could never feel comfortable speaking out loud.

 I had had 55 years of jokes as a response from some (in hearing my birth name) about “a boy named Sue” ,the Johnny Cash song.

I  now carry no gender, am truly liberated from rupa. Can we  have the confidence that our  Order name will consistently transcend assumption so that we can fit in to one or other Wing ?

Do we always have to have the initiative to state a basic problem of mis-identity? If I hadn’t spoken up two years ago, I might be facing the same strait jacket of gender-polarisation, and deep wrangle for contentment.

As it is , I am deeply witnessed, respected, and my name is an example of  Order progress.

 with love to you all, Karunabala

Padmavani's picture

Since this is relevant here, I’m going to add this, which I’ve posted elsewhere…

A happier update on my name change: I’ll be doing a private ritual with Parami on the women’s AOWE at the end of this month, to “formalise” my new name (and my name will be changed on the order register), and I’m happy with this outcome. Remorse has been expressed at the way my change of name was responded to, and it feels for me like it’s resolved now. I’m confident that the preceptor’s college has taken on board the potential need for gender diverse order members to change their names, and I’m happy that they’ve acknowledged my name and its provenance as valid.

I’m also confident that the college is now beginning to understand better the reality of gender diverse people in the world (and in Triratna).

And I want to add that I do feel some remorse myself about some of the tone in my original post about all this (I was in much distress, and it was a blurt).

Munisha's picture

Dear Padmavani,

Thank you very much for letting us know this.

I appreciate you expressing your own remorse - and I do understand that you were in considerable distress and I’m very sorry about that. May you be happy and well.

Love, Munisha

manjuvajra's picture

A wee personal contribution: For several years in the early 1970’s I had issues with my gender. I once talked to Bhante about it – telling him that at times I even felt the sensation of having breasts. He said that it was not unusual for men to have 10% of the woman in them and I sort of blurted out, a gut reaction, that I was not 10% woman, I was 50%. He was a little taken aback, but when it came to giving me my name he said (among other things) that Manju was feminine and Vajra masculine, so the name reflected the fact that I had both male and female sides to my being – and that it would be a reminder to develop both equally. I have taken that advice seriously and thought very much in terms of developing spiritual androgyne – this has been a very important dimension of my mythic life and was eventually a factor in my becoming an anagarika in the quest for the Brahma life.


Padmavani's picture

That’s very interesting Manjuvajra, thanks for sharing. When I spoke with Bhante about gender diversity a couple of years ago, i mentioned his discussion of spiritual androgyny in the Ten Pillars talk, and of the pillar of quartz, colourless with perhaps a hint of pink or blue… he said he hadn’t had gender diversity in mind when he said that, but he could see how relevant it was.

I believe we create gender on the basis of our social conditioning to do so (otherwise it would look the same all over the world and across history, which of course it does not). It’s an unnecessary set of chains to carry around, and causes so much misery.