Monba Custom of Giving Names

Names are important to Monba people. According to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, people choose names with an auspicious meaning for children. In Tibet there are two main ways of giving children names. One way is that parents give a name to the child. The other is to invite the great lama to name the child. The second way is quite common in Tibet nowadays. Many people nowadays request His Holiness of the 14th Dalai Lama to give names to their children. Some people even request a name for the child before he is born. When people go to the Dalai Lama, they will be given a name written on a thread of blessed cloth. Sometimes they will also be given some blessed pills of Tibetan medicine. Tibetan people believe that these blessed things are a combination of religious power and mercies from the lama. What's more, they believe that these things can bless the child with an auspicious beginning in life and protect him from physical and mental harms.

Three days after the baby is born, the parents will ask the lama to name it. The lama sometimes name the child according to the day on which it is born. People believe that the custom can place the child under the protection of that day's deity. e.g. Nyima is a name for a child born on Sunday (By taking the name, he gains the protective power of Sun, the ruler of Sunday). Every time his name is spoken, that protective power is re-affirmed. The names for children born on the following days are: Da-wa---Monday, the Moon; Mingmar--Tuesday, planet Mars (Tibetan pronunciation can be "Mikmar"); Lhak-pa--Wednesday, planet Mercury; Phu-/ Phur-ba--Thursday, planet Jupiter; Pa-sang--Friday, planet Venus; Pem-ba--Saturday, planet Saturn. Another way is to name the child according to the date of birth. For example, a child born on the first day of the month may be named as Tshe je.

And Tshe ne is a name for children born on the second day of the month, Tshe song for the third of the month, and Jiu'a for the fifteenth of the month, Langang for the thirtieth of the month. Monba people also have names related to male or female Buddhas or enlightened beings. Some names such as "Tenzin" or "Dawa" can be both male or female although females are often named after a female Buddha or deity such as "Dolma" (Tara in Sanskrit), which means the "one who liberates others from suffering. There are also female names such as " Dicky Dolma" which means "one who is healthy, happy and liberates other by leading them to Nirvana." Some Monba names have important religious symbols. For example, "dorje" symbolizes indestructibility, compassion, and skillful means. People are also named after simple Buddhist terms such as " sherap", a word meaning wisdom, or " sopa", meaning patience. Some Monba names have special meanings. For example, "Dawa" means both "moon" and "Monday."

Being a name for a child born on Monday, "Dawa" conveys the symbolic meaning of one who "gives light and removes darkness" as moonlight does. Other Monba names with special meanings are as follows: Byang-chub = jang-chu (purified, one who has reached spiritual perfection), Sang-gye(Gautama), Gom-bu( Meditation), Gya-tsho (Ocean), Gyel-tsen /Gyeljen, Geljen(royal courage, conqueror), Gyel-bu (royal), Gyel(King), Byang-ba(wise, learned, skillful, clever), Ka-rma(work, effort, discipline), Lha-mo (Goddess ), Lob-sang / Lop-sang(disciple), Nam-kha(spacious sky, essential space, energy of space), Nor-bu/Nur-bu(precious jewel, wealth), Phu-dorje (knowledge) (a power of Jupiter, the day ruler) plus clarity (a quality of diamond), Rin-che /Rin-ji/ Rinchen(precious, great), She-rap / She-rab(wisdom ), Ta-shi (good luck), sTen (good ,happiness), Thugs-rten ("the holder of the heart or mind" as manifest in a holy person), Tshe-ten(good life), and Tshe-wang(powerful life) etc.

If some children die young in a family, the parents would rather give some embarrassing names with bad meanings for the new babies in the wishes of surviving them and making their life easier and happier (according to the Chinese tradition, these embarrassing names, often connected with animals, can help bring up the children and prevent the them from harms). Some examples are Gyigyai(dog's dung), Paygyag(pig's dung) and Shileg(one who has returned to life after death). After the naming ritual, the grandmother will bring the baby out of the house. With a lit firewood, a gourd of water, a piece of farming tool and a handful of earth, they will follow the lama and circle the house three times.

After that, they throw away four things, which symbolize the flesh borrowed from the earth, blood from water, breath from fire, bone from iron and stone, and heart from the sky. The families will express their gratitude to gods for giving them so good a child, and say they will bring him up to be an outstanding hunter or a clever girl. After discarding the four things, a man holding a peacock made of corn flour will go out of the house, walk after the baby and nod his head frequently to him. Monba people believe that the auspicious peacock has the miraculous power of reducing poison and help digesting, thus can help keep the baby safe in his life.

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