Monday, September 6, 2010

A New Name

The part of jukai which I was most anticipating, both with eagerness and with trepidation, was the receipt of my new Buddhist name. Traditionally, a student turns in her completed rakusu with blank white silk on the back side. And on the day of jukai, for the first time, she receives the rakusu back, inked with her new Buddhist name, and hears it spoken aloud.

My trepidation arose from the usual places - what if my name didn't make sense to me? What if it didn't fit? What if I was named "she who worries too much"? Or "she who is the biggest procrastinator"? Of course, I imagined all of my worst traits being highlighted and brought to the forefront.

The eagerness, though, was also there. This was a chance to start fresh, to see myself new. To allow myself, perhaps, to grow into a name.

When the time came during the jukai ceremony for us to receive our rakusu and names, I was sixth of the seven. So first, I was able to watch what happened to those who went before me. And it was amazing. As Cheri, my first sangha mate, heard her name, and held her rakusu in her hands, the aptness of "Dragon Soaring, Vast Mind/Heart" filled her chest and rose up into her face. The name moved into her as if it were an inhalation that she had been waiting to make for years. On down the row, it was the same. Each person seemed to fit the name; the name fit the person.

When it was my turn, I stood in front of Tony and bowed. He pronounced my new name: Ankyō Kikan. "Dark Mirror, Joyful Reflection/Insight." We bowed again, and I sat down.

I was overwhelmed with emotion. There was some initial fear, about that image of a dark mirror. The naming, we had been told, is such that the first part indicates where your practice is now, and the second part shows where you are headed. So I was grateful that Tony and Darlene foresaw joyful reflection ahead. But did they see me as dark and brooding now? Quickly, though, a trusting voice rose up from inside of me. No, it said. These are your teachers. They are giving you a gift, not something negative. I realized that it was simply a name with depth, a metaphor of complexity - and, as Tony pointed out later on, a fine name for a poet.

A week later, Darlene told me that they had used the "dark mirror" image in part to reference the deep pain in my past. But the image she had was of a mirror in the darkness, that looked frightening, because you can't see into it. Then, as you step close, suddenly a beautiful moonbeam is reflected out into the night - joyful reflection. Ah.

I am Ankyō Kikan.


  1. Lovely name. I was in my mid 60's when I received my name. I have thought often that if I had received a name every decade -- each would be different from the other. Thank you for displaying your name in Chinese.

  2. Nice post. I love the anticipation of names like "she who worries too much, she who procrastinates. Nothing trumps a sense of humour. And I loved your description of the whole Jukai process. Thanks for sharing this.