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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