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Spiritual Baby Names: Buddhism-Inspired Choices for the Peaceful Child

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By Brooke Cussans, Baby Name Pondering

In times when some parents are attracted to bold, energetic names like Dash and Blaze; or weaponry associated names like Colt and Cannon, it makes sense that others would be drawn to names with peaceful, spiritual meanings and connections.

Such names can create a great first impression – they can set others at ease, making their wearer seem friendly, relaxed and approachable. Less overt than traditional virtue names, they still hint at an attitude that the wearer can aspire to.

I must preface this list by saying that I am not a Buddhist, so my knowledge of Buddhist terms that would make for great names is by no means exhaustive. However, here are some in particular that are not only usable but also very cool.

Anicca
Anicca is a term meaning ‘inconstancy’ or ‘impermanence’, referring to the Buddhist teaching that all things are in a constant state of change – an inevitable cycle of birth, growth, decay and death. Pronounced uh-NIK-uh, visually and verbally Anicca doesn’t seem very far removed from names such as Anita or Annika.

Arya
Most people would recognize Arya as the name of the rebellious tomboy in Game of Thrones. Arya actually has a history as a name used by both genders, and skewed male in the U.S until 2010. Arya (or Ariya) means ‘noble’ or ‘exalted’ in Sanskrit, and is frequently used in Buddhism to describe some of the main tenets – mainly the Four Noble Truths (catvary arya satyani) or The Noble Eightfold Path (arya marga).

Avici
Pronounced uh-vee-chee, this is a Buddhist term for the lowest level of hell. Add an extra “i” and you have the adopted stage name of the young Swedish DJ whose star is currently on the rise. Avici is a cool sounding name that could work well on either gender.

Bodhi
Bodhi is one of the more accessible and indeed more popular names on this list. It is a term for the understanding possessed by Buddha regarding the nature of things, an enlightenment attained while sitting under a sacred tree known as the Bodhi tree. It means ‘enlightenment’ or ‘awakened’.

Dharma
Most would probably see this as a “hippie” type name, thanks in large part to the character played by Jenna Elfman in the 90’s sitcom Dharma and Greg‘ But if you’re looking at names rich with Buddhist meaning, it’s hard to go past Dharma, a term for the understanding of the laws of nature and how they apply to the human condition.

Karma
Style and impression wise, Karma bears a lot of similarity to Dharma, yet has proven to be a much more popular choice for namers. Most people are familiar with the concept of Karma, the principle that the intent and actions of a person influence a person’s future in this life and beyond.

Kathina
Kathina is a Buddhist festival held at the end of Vassa, the three-month rainy season retreat for Theraveda Buddhists. It is a time of giving, for people to express their thanks to monks. It is rarely used as a name, but feels like an exotic blend of Katrina and Katherine and would make for a spiritual, celebratory name.

Lotus
The lotus is an important Buddhist icon, as Buddha is typically depicted sitting on a lotus. It is symbolic of the path from ignorance to enlightenment, as it rises from the mud of materialism, through the waters of experience, and into the sunshine of enlightenment. Lotus is a seemingly simple yet elegantly beautiful name.

Mahayana
Lyrical sounding and pronounced mah-huh-YAH-nuh, this is one of the main branches of Buddhism. It comes from the Sanskrit words maha meaning ‘great’ and yana meaning ‘vehicle’. Mahayana is a more liberal type of Buddhism, and the most popular. Followers believe that anyone – not just monks and nuns – can attain enlightenment.

Nirvana
Nirvana in the Buddhist context refers to “the imperturbable stillness of mind after the fires of desire, aversion and delusion have been finally extinguished.” Buddhists aim to reach this state of mind or consciousness to be free of individual desires or suffering. If Haven, Elysia or Nevaeh are on your list, this is another worthy option to consider.

Om
Om has to date been used as a boys name in the U.S. Om is sometimes referred to as the sacred syllable, used as a mantra when meditating. It means ‘creation’ in Sanskrit, and as a representation of the three most important deities in Hindu religions – Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma – it ultimately refers to the essence of life. It may be short, but it is loaded with meaning and has a relaxing sound.

Samsara
Samsara means ‘continuous movement’ or ‘cyclic existence’, often translated as ‘the circle of life’. By following the Buddhist path, one can liberate oneself from the endless cycling through the six realms, but must first understand the nature of Samsara in order to be liberated from it. Samsara has a lovely, liquid velvet feel to it, pronounced suhm-SAHR-uh. Its rare use has so far been for girls.

Veda
The Vedas are the most ancient and important of Hindu sacred literature, believed to be an eternal revelation of divine origin. Veda (pronounced VEY-duh or VEE-duh) means ‘knowledge’ or ‘wisdom’ – Theravada is the oldest surviving branch of Buddhism, meaning ‘the Teaching of the Elders’. Veda has a long history of use as a girls name in the U.S – particularly popular at the beginning of the 20th century – and hence has a vintage feel.

Zen
Zen is synonymous with calmness and tranquility, and for many is immediately associated with Buddhism. Meaning ‘absorption’ or ‘meditative state’, Zen is a school of Mahayana Buddhism that advocates the use of sitting meditation for realizing Buddhist truths such as no-self, emptiness, and the un-created mind. Zen has a fantastic energy – it feels unexpected, yet cool and stylish.

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About the author

bluejuniper

Brooke Cussans – better known on the Nameberry forums as bluejuniper – is based in Melbourne, Australia and is the author of name blog Baby Name Pondering. She especially loves rare and unusual names.
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12 Responses to “Spiritual Baby Names: Buddhism-Inspired Choices for the Peaceful Child”

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Rin Says:

September 3rd, 2014 at 11:29 pm

I have loved Veda for years, hopefully I’ll get the chance to use it one day 🙂

mckaylalove Says:

September 4th, 2014 at 1:07 am

My favourites are Kathina, Lotus and Samsara. I also like Zen and Karma but I’d be more like to put them in the middle spot rather then the first.

The_Supernatural_Hufflepuff Says:

September 4th, 2014 at 12:06 pm

I loved Kathrina, Lotus, Veda, Samsara, and Arya!

celly Says:

September 4th, 2014 at 1:01 pm

I love these names! Our 10 month old son is named Felix Bodhi! Love his name and it fits him so well! It he was going to be a she we would have named her Arya. I also love Lotus! If we have a little girl this will be on the top of my list!

Theodora_Phoenix Says:

September 4th, 2014 at 6:25 pm

I love the sounds of Kathina and Anicca!
But I’m not a Buddhist, so I probably wouldn’t use any of the names on this list. Nevertheless, they’re gorgeous!

Netta5187 Says:

September 5th, 2014 at 12:56 pm

I was raised Buddhist so I thank you for this list!! I have had Dharma, Bodhi and Zen on my list for ages!

Anotherkate Says:

September 6th, 2014 at 8:11 pm

I’m not a fan of anicca (it sounds way too close to the N word to me, sorry!) but I like Annika.
Veda is the runaway favorite to me. Love it!

indiefendi Says:

September 7th, 2014 at 5:15 pm

Lotus I would 1000% use. It’s a gorgeous flower with amazing symbolism behind it.

Nirvana. I’m a HUGE fan of the band and I love the meaning “everlasting peace” so that combines two things I’d love to put in a name. A serene meaning and a cool pop culture reference.

Om, I have a tattoo of an om symbol actually! I love that it sounds like home and I love the zen sound when you meditate. I like it.

Zen! It’s perfect! It’s nicknamey like Ben or Jen but it’s so–zen!

Karma I’d never use because of the saying “karma is a bitch”. If people didn’t say that I would definitely be open to using it.

Dharma, quite interesting but I think I would need to research it more before using it.

🙂

I love Buddhist and Hindu names!!

18 Spiritual Baby Names That Are Full Of Power – Popular Trending | trends.my.id Says:

April 24th, 2015 at 1:26 pm

[…] Arya is widely known as the name of a fiercely independent character on Game of Thrones, it has roots in Theravada Buddhism. An Ariya is a noble person who has achieved one of the four levels of […]

18 Spiritual Baby Names That Are Full Of Power « CauseHub Says:

April 25th, 2015 at 12:02 am

[…] Arya is widely known as the name of a fiercely independent character on Game of Thrones, it has roots in Theravada Buddhism. An Ariya is a noble person who has achieved one of the four levels of […]

hufflepuff Says:

October 11th, 2015 at 10:12 pm

I’m sorry, but this is such a crappy list. It’s like making a Christian inspired names list and offering people choices such as Bible, Cross, and Pew. You’re literally just taking elements from the belief system and turning them into “names.” No, you can’t name your kid Mahayana, just like you can’t name them Orthodox.

What about names like Pema, Padma, and Indira? Nowhere on this ridiculous list. I can only hope people don’t name their baby Om!!!

perdireinz Says:

February 8th, 2017 at 5:15 pm

I think Mahayana sounds beautiful, but I agree with hufflepuff…

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