When you are laity and given a Buddhist name does it change with different masters and temples or do you carry it with you for life? While mostly pertaining to the Vietnamese tradition I'm very curious about all. Thank you.

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    There are several people I know practicing Soto Zen here in the State who, when they've changed teachers, have asked for a new name. But I've never gotten the impression that the teachers required this.
    – A.Ellett
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 2:34
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    I believe the custom of giving an ordinary lay person a Buddhist name is particular to Mahayana traditions. I'm going to add that tag for clarity; but if I'm wrong, please feel free to remove it.
    – Robin111
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 21:05
  • IMO the Mahayana tag works very well because this question most likely has the same answer across the Mahayana spectrum. Thank you adding it.
    – Brian
    Commented May 26, 2015 at 12:04
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    While not authoritative I checked with a [Vietnamese Mahayana] monk friend of mine and best translated he said that since we have accepted the Triple Gem in previous lives our Buddhist names should be the same so it is held for life. That is unless you don't like it then you're free to get another at another temple. It seems like a very Buddhist response but I can't source it.
    – Brian
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 2:22

3 Answers 3


In Sri Lanka it is generally the towns name followed by a name given at ordination.

E.g. Henepola Gunaratana

  • Henepola is the village name
  • Gunaratana is the name given at ordination

Balangoda Ananda Maitreya Thero from Balangoda

I guess in other countries you might follow different schemes.

You might become famous by the monastery's name: Ledi Sayadaw (U Ñanadhaja), PA Auk Sayadaw (U Āciṇṇa) though the Dhamma name is different and hardly used. E.g. U Ñanadhaja, U Āciṇṇa. I guess you see this more in Burma.

Also names can be completely independent of monastery or town. E.g. Thanisaro Bikkhu, Achan Cha. I guess this is more seen in Thai Land.

In all of these cases the lay name has been changes and a Dhamma name has been taken at ordination.

  • I didn't know that about Sri Lanka. Thank you. BTW everyone should read "The Jhanas in Theravada Buddhist Meditation" by Henepola Gunaratana aka Bhante G.
    – Brian
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 10:17
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    All of them are good books to read. Commented May 25, 2015 at 14:40
  • You are so right. They are all good. Thank you so for mentioning Bhante G. You reminded me to read his writings which brings me happiness.
    – Brian
    Commented May 25, 2015 at 19:27
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    Good that something more positive came out of this :) Commented May 26, 2015 at 4:15
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    You are welcome. Just out of curiosity if you find the information you are looking for please let me know. I am interested in knowing also. Commented May 28, 2015 at 2:33

Within the Triratna Buddhist Order, an order member is given a name upon ordination by his or her preceptor. This is part of the "private ordination" at which the practice of the ordinand is witnessed by the private preceptor as being effective. At the "public ordination", some time later, the name is made public and the ordinand is welcomed into the Order by a public preceptor (sometimes, but not always, a more senior order member than the private preceptor).

The name is both an aspiration and a recognition of something already present in the person, or one or the other (what may or may not be conveyed to the ordinand). The name may also hint at the individual path taken by the order member, as recognised by the private preceptor.

Some, but far from all, also change their legal name to the name given at ordination.

It happens that people leave the order for various reasons. I believe that some choose to keep their "Buddhist names". The name is, after all, actually not directly linked to them being member of the order, but to the recognition and witnessing of the effectiveness of their practice.

Regards, Kusalananda


My experience with this is limited, but I'm happy to share what I've observed. My own practice is in the Theravada tradition where only ordained monastics and anagarikas receive a Buddhist name. An ordinary lay person would not receive one.

I've visited three local Mahayana groups and temples (in the US) as a guest and at each one it was mentioned that for those new to Buddhism, if one was interested in taking refuge formally for the first time, a taking refuge ceremony was periodically available. In this taking refuge ceremony, a dharma name would be given. Requirements varied from simple sincere interest in taking refuge (at two temples) to completing coursework in Buddhist studies and attending a retreat before the taking refuge ceremony became available (with a lay led group).

At the two temples (one Korean Seon and the other a mixed tradition with a Chan monk who visits periodically), dharma names were chosen for each person taking refuge by the monks. At the lay led Buddhist group (Jōdo Shinshū), a dharma name was chosen by the person taking refuge themselves from this list of names.

Obviously, this is nothing conclusive, but the offer at each of these locations was to those taking refuge/precepts for the first time (or for the first time formally or publicly). These being English speaking groups in the US, it was understood that virtually everyone in attendance had converted to Buddhism and the taking refuge ceremony was considered quite meaningful to formalize one's intentions to follow the Buddha's teachings.

Receiving a dharma name did not appear to be connected to the particular group, temple, teacher, or monk, but simply as part of an initiation into Buddhism for those who were regular members of each of the various groups.

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