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Monday, 7 November 2016

NaBloPoMo Day 7: What's in a Name?

At the recent DISHA program, the guest speaker was a soft-spoken, well-traveled scholar and expert on topics ranging from thermodynamics to Vedanta. Narrating his experiences in Turkey, he told us about an interaction with a group of students who were learning yoga. He had asked those students for their names and also if they knew what those names meant. Some of them did; some didn’t, and some were irked by his question, wondering what was the big deal? 

He explained to them how in India, we have names that have some underlying meaning and gave them a few examples. Intrigued, they asked him to give them some such names and at random, because he didn’t know them well enough to match names to personality, he gave these students a new name (like Karuna, Pavitra and so on) and also explained what it meant. To his surprise, after a few years, when he met the student he had named Karuna, she told him that ever since the day she got that name and learned its meaning, she had stopped getting angry! Some of the other students too expressed similar experiences.

This example brings out beautifully the power of association. In psychology, association is the term used to explain a connection between ideas, feelings and behavior on an unconscious or conscious level.

Long before knowing about this power of association, I have experienced its effects. Probably when I was in my teens, I learned that my name Anasuya means “without jealousy” (An – without, Asuya – jealousy). Without anyone telling me so in as many terms, I remember feeling I must live up to that name. Anytime I felt a twinge of envy at someone for being something I wasn’t – tall, slender, good-looking – I mentally chastised myself saying it’s against the nature of my name to feel that way. I guess that effect rubbed off on me so much that as I grew older and realized there were many more things I wasn’t, I never felt envious of anyone. Whenever I noticed someone better than me in any way, I sought to understand the process of how they got to where they were and tried to emulate them.

What a powerful tool we’ve been blessed with in the form of a name that stands for some quality or a deity who is a repository of some desirable qualities. If only we cultivate a conscious awareness of this aspect, perhaps it would be easier to effect a small change in ourselves.
NaBloPoMo November 2016


  1. Wow. This is sooooo true in a way. There are some people who have shocked me for being totally opposite to what their names suggest! And well, my fullname (if I take it to heart) will only make me conceited :P So, I shall not dwell on it (which also is indirectly a way of making me a better person)!

    1. Good for you!...and isn't it too bad that parents can't figure out how their kids will turn out before naming them ;-)


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