A name is a name, or not?

नाम्यते अभिधीयते अर्थोऽनेन इति नाम – that whose meaning encompasses the characteristics of a person, is a name.

Here is something that I came across, that has been explained so well, so thought will share it with you…

If you are a Hindu or know Hinduism closely, you will be aware that in the vedic culture there are deities with just too many names. There are multiple lists of 108 names, 1000 names of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. How can somebody be known by so many different names?

The answer is that each of these names describe different attributes or properties of those Gods or Goddesses. If we take Ganesha for instance.

  • Ekadatanta refers to his attribute of having one tusk
  • Gajavadana refers to his attribute of having an Elephant face
  • Mushaka Vaahana refers to his attribute of Mouse being his vehicle
  • Vaktratunda refers to his attribute of having a curved trunk
  • Vigneshwara refers to his attribute of being the remover of obstacles and so on.
  • Ganesha itself refers to his attribute of being the Head of Ganas, the semi divine beings.

If everything refers to his attributes, then what is the real name of Ganesha?

Another similar interesting aspect you come across in Sanskrit is a thing or a class having multiple names – common names that all refer to the same entity. Take the case of Lotus for instance, Kamala is what it is popularly known as in Sanskrit, but also has numerous other names like Jalaja, Vaarija, Ambuja, Neeraja, Pankaja and so on. Similarly ‘Sea’ which is popularly known as Samudra in Sanskrit has numerous other names like Jaladhi, Vaaridhi, Ambudhi, Neereadhi and so on.

Now if you keenly observe the names of Lotus and Sea given above, they look similar except for the last letter. For Lotus the names end with ‘ja‘, while for sea they end with ‘dhi‘. What do the common terms represent then?

The common terms, jala, vaari, ambu, neera all refer to water. Each of them define an attribute of water, and hence they represent water.

Ja in Sanskrit means ‘born of‘. So when you add ‘ja’ to the names referring to water in Sanskrit, you are referring to something that is born of water. Lotus being a flower born in water naturally earns all these names. So take any attribute in Sanskrit which represents water, add ja to it, there you have another name for Lotus!

But why am I here referring jala, vaari, ambu, neera etc as attributes or properties of water, and not as names of water? Aren’t they actually the names of water? We will come to that in a moment.

Before that we will look into the names of sea. dhi in Sanskrit means abundance. Water is abundant in a sea. So you take any name in Sanskrit which refers to the attributes of water, and add a ‘dhi’ to it. There you have a name for sea!

If you were keen enough to observe the other name of Lotus Pankaja, you will see that I didn’t mention a similar name for sea, Pankadhi. That is because, Panka refers to an attribute of mud in Sanskrit, not an attribute of water as you might have expected. Lotus is born in mud and hence also earns the name Pankaja. So what is Pankadhi then? Well, if you know something which is abundant in mud, like how a sea is abundant in water, you can call it Pankadhi. You just created a new name in Sanskrit!

What about the names Kamala and Samudra? Kamala refers to something that has an attribute of pale red color. Since Lotus has this attribute of being pale red in color, it is also called Kamala. Anything which has this attribute of pale red color can be called Kamala as well.

Samudra refers to an attribute or a property of gathering of waters. So any gathering of waters can be called Samudra, be it a Sea or an Ocean.

Sam refers to gathering, like in the word SamsadUdra again refers to an attribute of water. Sea is a gathering of river waters, Ocean is a gathering of sea waters, hence both Sea and Ocean could be called Samudra. Now just think what are Udraja and Udradhi.

If you are wondering about Samsad, sad refers to the act of sitting. So Samsad is sitting together, members sit together in the parliament, or for that matter any place where people sit together can be referred to as Samsad.

What is Kamalaja? You should be able to easily make out, it can refer to anything born out of Lotus, because we saw earlier that Kamala refers to Lotus and ja refers to born of. So who is born of Lotus? Brahma! which is why he is also called Kamalaja. Because he is said to be born of Lotus!

Similarly KamalaNaabha refers to Vishnu because Lotus sprouts out of his navel. Naabha refers to an attribute of navel. So AmbujaNaabha, VaarijaNaabha all refer to Vishnu!

Now we are ready for the great dive into Sanskrit. Before that please note, attribute names themselves do not have a single meaning either. They in turn depend on the attributes of their roots and so on till the very base root. For instance ambara can refers to the attribute of Sky or to the attribute of Cloth. So when we say Shwetambara we are referring to the attribute of cloth, where Shweta means white, so Shwetambara means white cloth or white dress. Even Shukla refers to the attribute of white, so Shuklambhara refers to white dress and Shuklambharadharam refers to the one who is wearing white cloth. But when ambara is used to refer to the attribute of being limitless, it refers to Sky which is limitless.

Sanskrit, all about names of attributes and properties, not of things and objects

There are no names for entities, categories and classes in Sanskrit, its only about referring to them by the names of their attributes or properties. In other words, all names in Sanskrit actually represent knowledge! They tell you something about the entity or class that they are referring to. So if you know ten names of a fruit in Sanskrit, then you know ten different facts about that fruit automatically. Sanskrit itself is knowledge!

there are no names in Sanskrit language which refer directly to an object without having to mean anything else related to that object, except for proper names which parents give to their children. In ancient times, even proper names actually referred to an attribute that the child had during birth.

For instance, a girl born on full moon day, might have been named Poornima which means full moon. Ashtavakra was called so because he was born with eight (ashta) observable physical handicaps (vakra meaning curve or twist – remember Vakratunda ?).

There are no ‘fixed’ name representations in Sanskrit for Objects. Sanskrit is not a language based on names of objects, unlike other languages. It is purely based on names of attributes. In ancient India even people were given names based on their attributes – proper names indicated attributes as well.

Interesting, isn’t it?

Here is something else that I wrote some time ago. See you tomorrow!

Had a meeting today where I discussed a structure with a potential client. We got talking and they asked me about the name of my consultancy – 10 Leaves. Why 10? Why Leaves?

They also came to know the name of my son, and liked the fact that it is a unique name, with a deep meaning behind it.

And so they wanted me to help them with the name of their new venture. Or should I say – adventure?

William Shakespeare once said – a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet…But the good bard wouldn’t have relished being called Will.I.am I imagine. Now would calling a rose a cabbage have evoked the same feelings…So what’s in a name?

An identity, pride in one’s roots, memories of a place that thrived and then was looted, a label of culture that is representative of the people living there, a non-distortion of actuality that comes from people being able to pronounce it in their native language rather than accommodate an anglicized version of it.

Yes, there is a lot in a name Rohit, and being called ‘Roti’ in school was not appreciated :)) Lok Kalyan Marg is more representative of the road that houses the most important residence of the representative of the people of India, than Race Course Road, that sounds more like a gamble in itself.

नाम्यते अभिधीयते अर्थोऽनेन इति नाम – that whose meaning encompasses the characteristics of a person, is a name.

So one should choose carefully.

But what about a company?

Now there are two ways to look at it. The name of a company should be representative of what the company does, what it stands for…it’s identity. But then there is Apple, that surely doesn’t sell fruit, has a half-bitten apple to rub it in, and yet is the most valuable company in the world.

The name 10 Leaves has nothing to do with consultancy, yet we are pretty good at what we do, and are well known for what we do.

And so a good company is made of good people, with good intentions, a good work environment and of course, good service. A great name does give you that initial recognition, but without the rest of the ingredients…nothing much can happen.

You can have a great name like Blockbuster and still go under. Or you can have an unrelated name like Apple and still be worth a couple of trillion dollars. It is what is inside that matters.

A person however, is different.

 In our culture, a name is not arbitrarily assigned. In fact, it is only decided upon after the baby is born. Parents and elders take 11-14 days to observe the characteristics of the baby, it’s tendencies and gunas (sattva, rajas and tamas) and then after careful consideration, the names are assigned. 

I said names. Because, one name cannot define everything about a person. The greater the personality, the more names they have. This is why we have the Vishnu Sahasranama – even one thousand names are not enough to define the universal consciousness. 

For us mortals, 4-5 names are usually assigned.

Anyways, the meeting went well, and I hope so does the company. For now, I have to pack and can’t wait to get back!