Spiritual Baby Names: Buddhism-Inspired Choices for the Peaceful Child
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 spiritual names with peaceful meanings and deep 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 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.
Most people would recognize Arya as the name of the rebellious girl 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).
Pronounced uh-VEE-chee, this is a Buddhist term for the lowest level of hell. Add an extra “i” and you have the stage name of the late Swedish DJ. Neither spelling has ever made it into the US charts yet, but Avici is a cool-sounding name that could work well on either gender.
Bodhi is one of the more accessible and indeed more popular names on this list, and one of the fastest-rising spiritual names of the last decades. 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’.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Meaning "liberation", this concept can refer to various types of freedom and release, such as from ignorance and from the cycle of death and rebirth. In the last decade, it has been used regularly for a small number of girls in the US each year.
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 has to date been used as a boy name in the US; in fact, it is one of the more popular names on this list. 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 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.
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 is synonymous with calmness and tranquillity, 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.