What’s in a name? More than we think, perhaps

Sat nam.

This year Sikh Dharma is focusing on the Mul Mantra. That got me thinking.  Ek Ong Kaar. Sat Naam: One Creator of the Creation. Identified as Truth. The Siri Singh Sahib taught us that when we say “Sat Naam” as a greeting, we self-identify with Truth and affirm that for the other. Each of us is the eternal, primal, timeless Truth characterized by the last four lines of Mul Mantra: “Aad Such, Jugaad Such, HaiBhee Such, Nanak Hosee Bhee Such.”

So we are each of us a part of the Creator, Who is Truth. But we all have names. Yes, of course this is a human’s way of having something to call another. But the name(s) we are given have meanings. I have three names: the one my parents gave me, Kathryn, the one my Chinese language school gave me, KaiLing, (when I lived in Taiwan lifetimes ago!), and the spiritual /Sikh name the Siri Singh Sahib gave me, Dharmatma Kaur.  The first, Kathryn, means “pure”: hmm, needed that one twice, since Khalsa, my last name, refers to the Pure Ones. The second, KaiLing, means Ring of Triumph, although it was assigned based on the sound of my birth name. Believe me, I still need that affirmation! The third, Dharmatma Kaur, means Soul of Dharma/Dharmic Soul. Wow, I better pay attention. Really. When I asked Siri Singh Sahib what my name meant, he looked at me and with a sharp voice that told me I should know the answer already, he said: “It means religious saint!” It took years, but I do understand now why he added that tone….

I didn’t even use my name at all it for a couple of years, I wasn’t a Sikh at the time and wasn’t sure what to “do with it.”  But I was told by my Sikh friends that a spiritual name can be: what you have been, what you are, and/or what you need as a vibration and need to become. I never heard firsthand what Siri Singh Sahib said about why we have spiritual names but my own experience is all of the above. At its simplest, a spiritual name is a high vibration that is affirmed for you when someone uses it. Can’t beat that, eh? And then, when one adds the Kaur or Singh plus Khalsa,  our Royalty, Courage and Purity is affirmed. Wahe Guru!

For myself, I wanted the whole she-bang. I refused to let my non-Sikh friends shorten my Sikh name (“Dharmy” was their idea). A nickname might come from affection but it doesn’t maintain the vibration and I was–and am–choosing that.

Most of us only have one given name. So meditate on your name, or names if you have more than one you relate to. Link it to your Naam, your particular Identity within the One Identity.

One time a yoga teacher at Summer Solstice (in the 90s) passed on a yogic practice of sitting and chanting your spiritual name and appending Wahe Guru. For example: “Dharmatma Kaur, Wahe Guru!” There was a mudra Yogi Bhajan gave with it that the teacher gave that day–I don’t recall it. Maybe someone reading this knows and can comment, but you get the idea.

Many of this site’s readers have names that are in shabads in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib or in mantras given by the Siri Singh Sahib. Practice them and meditate on your Naam! And know there are layers of meaning in your name. It can take a paragraph of words to (try to) describe a concept from the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, such as Naam, or Akal Purakh, or SukhSehej. Many of you have names that have a literal meaning–merely a key to the door of the subtle meaning of your name, your Identity.

Whatever your name(s) — “spiritual” or not, be conscious in your own practice about how it suits you, supports you, and is Your Truth. Or not. If you really don’t relate to your name, then change it. Ask for a spiritual name through 3HO. Or take Guru’s Hukam to direct you in choosing one, or just pick a name you can relate to and become.

For myself, I think there is plenty in a Name.

Guru Ang Sang.

Dharmatma Kaur

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    • Pritpal Singh Khalsa says:

      We are not aware of any KRI-approved kriya where you repeat your spiritual name. However, some trainers do incorporate an exercise in Level 1 Teacher Training where people take turns leading the group in chanting their spiritual name aloud. As a practice on your own this can be very affirming and consolidating of the new identity associated with your spiritual name.

  1. Harimander Singh Khalsa says:

    I recall that in a Sikh or spiritual name, as given by Yogi Bhajan, there is the polarity of potential as an affirmation in action. This means that your greatest gift and greatest challenge in life are contained in it and as it is used as an affirmation, by yourself and those who use it to identify you, the polarity will be revealed to you if you maintain your awareness. So for example Dharmatma (spiritual path + soul) could be interpreted that your highest destiny is when you live with the 100 % connection to your soul as your path. Letting other aspects of your being guide your path will lead to your fate or lowest destiny. The loud voice of your ego may overpower the quiet voice of your soul.


    Thank you Dharmatma ji, lately this has been on my mind a lot. It is so odd when people call me by my birth name and it takes me a few minutes…who? whose that?. My name given to me by Maharaja ji was what I needed to realize I had to always be, 24/7 on this planet, this lifetime. Your article explains it so well.

    Inderjot Kaur

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