What is in a name?
For many of us a name may mean everything attachment, prestige, identity, etc., but for some it may not mean much read the following lines from Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. Juliet says to Romeo,
“………. What's in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet; ………………”
That’s right if you call rose by some other name also it would continue to give a pleasant smell.
But “Gertrude” Stein has something different to say in the poem “Sacred Emily”; the now famous lines,
“…….Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose……..’
First let us look into the concept of identity. What is an identity? In logic, the law of identity is the first of the three classical laws of thought. It states that: “each thing is the same with itself and different from another”:
The law of identity states that ‘A’ is ‘A’. An Apple is an Apple. In other words, something is what it is. If something exists, it has a nature, an essence. For example, a book has a front and back cover with pages. A car has four wheels, seats, doors, windows, etc. A tree has branches, leaves, a trunk, and roots. This also means that anything that exists has characteristics. We recognize what something is by observing its characteristic. You know that a tree is a tree because you see its branches, its leads, its trunk, etc.
Furthermore, if something has an identity, it has a single identity. It does not have more than one identity. In other words, if something exists it has a set of attributes that are consistent with its own existence. It does not have a set of attributes that are inconsistent with itself. Therefore we can easily conclude that a cat is not a parachute. An Apple is not a race car. A tree is not a movie.
The above law of logic about identity I think is fairly clear to all of us. The name gives us an identity.
What does religion talk about name? We have long tradition of repeating holy names in the form for prayer. We consider name of god as holy.
Praising or chanting the name of God is a special form of prayer. In many religions, the excellence of chanting the name(s) of God lies in the mystic syllables which invoke God's purity and sovereign power. In the Jewish tradition the explicit name of God is too holy to be uttered by the human tongue.
In the Hindu tradition the bhakti yogi believes that, “The utterance of the Lord's name completely destroys all sin.” The most well-known expression of devotion in the Hindu religious ethos is therefore the Nama-sankIrtana i.e., recitation of (God's) names, collective or individual.
What is the theory behind this?
The mind is unsteady as a sailboat in an ocean and needs a symbol, for the purpose of single-minded concentration. The Lord's name serves as this symbol, reciting God's names, repeating them in a certain rhythmic pattern.
We use name as a form of identity, god’s name is termed as holy; these are not the only things we name we identify our feelings emotions etc., by names. Let us look into what J.K says about this.
“…………… Why do we name a feeling? Why do we term a reaction as anger, as jealousy, as arrogance, as hate, and so on? Do you term it in order to understand it, or as a means of recognizing it, or to communicate it? Is the feeling independent of the term, or do you understand it through the term? If you understand the feeling through the term, through the word, then the term becomes important and not the feeling. Is it possible not to name the feeling? If it is, then what happens to the feeling? By terming, you entangle the feeling within the frame of reference, and so the living is caught in the net of time, which only strengthens memory, the 'me'. What happens to a feeling, to a response if you do not give a name, a term to it? Does it not come to an end, does it not wither away? Please experiment with this and discover for yourself. Any response to a challenge comes to an end when you do not name it, put it within the frame of reference.”………….
“………. But will you give a name to a feeling that is termed pleasant? When a pleasurable feeling arises and you do not give it a name, it too will die away, wither away. So, pleasurable and painful responses wither away when you do not term them, when they are not absorbed into the frame of reference.”…….. (J.K)
Zen story - Great Waves
In the early days of the Meiji era there lived a well-known wrestler called O-nami, Great Waves.
O-nami was immensly strong and knew the art of wresting. In his private bouts he defeated even his teacher, but in public was so bashful that his own pupils threw him.
O-nami felt he should go to a Zen master for help. Hakuju, a wandering teacher, was stopping in a little temple nearby, so O-nami went to see him and told him of his great trouble.
"Great Waves is your name," the teacher advised, "so stay in this temple tonight. Imagine that you are those billows. You are no longer a wrestler who is afraid. You are those huge waves sweeping everything before them, swallowing all in their path. Do this and you will be the greatest wrestler in the land."
The teacher retired. O-nami sat in meditation trying to imagine himself as waves. He thought of many different things. Then gradualy he turned more and more to the feeling of waves. As the night advanced the waves became larger and larger. They swept away the flowers in their vases. Even the Buddha in the shrine was inundated. Before dawn the temple was nothing but the ebb and flow of an immense sea.
In the morning the teacher found O-nami meditating, a faint smile on his face. He patted the wrestler's shoulder. "Now nothing can disturb you," he said. "You are those waves. You will sweep everything before you."
The same day O-nami entered the wrestling contests and won. After that, no one in Japan was able to defeat him.