Giving A New Name, A Javanese Tradition Which is Almost Disappear

An Old Javanese Tradition

Before nineteen sixties, In Java there is still often heard that a child name  is replaced by a new name, caused by a ‘heavy’ name given by his parent. For example people often feel that a Buddha or a king name seems too ‘heavy’ so the result is that the child is often get ill and very weak. ‘Slamet’, with means save is a popular new name for kids who get remedy after got bad illness. Nowadays a replaced name like this is very rare. First, the difficulty in changing the legal name from Civic Registration Office and second, many modern people think, What is a name? Society tends to quote Wiiliam Shakesphere well-known statement.

The replacement name by our forefathers has strong foundation. Name has strongly meaning by the owner, such as an afirmation, a very effective mantra. Indonesia have a first president name Sukarno, ‘Su’ is good, and ‘Karno’,’Karna’ is a hero in Bharatayuda who give back all his life to Hastina who gave him life and kingdom. The second president is Suharto, ‘Su’ is good, and ‘Harto’ is wealth. Now our  president is Susilo, meaning a good morality.

I remember the name of my grandfather is Dharmawiyata. He explained that his name when he was small is Soedharma. Because of his job as a director of a school so his name changed to Dharmawiyata. A teaching profession at that time is ended with word ‘wiyata’. My father’s brother was also called Dwijawiyata, because he was a school director also. At that time, someone who works as a medic physician named by ending ‘husada’, healer, for example, Dr. Wahidin Soedirohusada, one of Indonesian founding fathers. Then someone who worked as ‘Dhalang’, puppeteer his name is ended with ‘carita’, eg Ki Purbacarita. Someone who worked as government officials is ended with ‘praja’, for example Sastrapraja, Martahadipraja.

With a new name someone is expected to be aware of his new profession, and improve his profesionality.

In addition to the new name as a profession, someone can also have a new name given after starting a new family. Woekirno is my father’s name when he was a bachelor, but after married his name become Woekirno Prawiradharmadja. “Careful please! You were not bachelor anymore, your father is Prawira and your father in law is Dharmawiyata”. Woekirno bachelor conditioned habits must be discarded, and must aware that he was already a husband and he must carry the good name of both parent and parent in law.

Since the first day of an inauguration, a king is also change the previous name. Ken Arok named himself as Rajasawardhana after become a king. Gusti Herjuna Darpita after inaugurated, given king  title of Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwana to X. After becoming King his vision must be changed broader. He was not only a prince but he was ‘hamengkubuwono’, the manager of the world.


Teachings of Sri Dharmakirti Svarnadvippi

Giving a new name in the Java tradition can be linked to the teachings of His Holy Sri Dharmakirti Svarnadwippi, a Guru in the era of Sriwijaya Kingdom from Sumatera. His teachings about ‘Boddhichitta’, Pure Consciousness learned by His Holy Atisha and it spread out in India and Tibet. Dalai Lama admires Great Gurus Dharmakirti and Atisha. One of the famous teachings of Guru Atisha is that after achieving an understanding of the Pure Consciousness, then it was time to discard the old conditioning, and replace them with new awareness. Improving the conditioned mind with the new created mind must be applied in daily life. Giving a new name is intended as strengthening new created mind to improve the conditioned mind.

India also have traditions giving a new name after ‘initiation’. Conditioned Liny Tjeris before initiation should be abandoned and she has a new life as her new name ‘Upasana’. Conditioned Maya Safira must be released and get a new life as ‘Archana’. In Catholic tradition, a Prijoewo Guntoro’s name added by Baptism name, Franxiscus Xavierius. Therefore, he must have a life full of love like St. Franxiscus Xavierius. Likewise someone who added the name of Muhammad in front of his name must have awareness like Him. My parents was so happy with the three protection: Buddha-Pure Awareness, Dharma-Duty, and Sangha-Good Friends, so they named their third son as Triwidodo, the three of save.

A name is an afirmation, an effective mantra that is very useful in walking on the path of life. Hopefully!

March 2009.


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