Baby Naming Ceremony

baby-naming-ceremony-in-english.doc
namensgebungszeremonie.doc (German)

CONTEXT

In itself it is a very simple ceremony but you can embellish it in consultation with the parents if you wish. The main point to get across is that the ceremony has nothing to do with making the child a Buddhist. It’s more a gathering of friends and family to take in fully the significance and responsibility involved in bringing a child up and that that child will be part of a wider community reflected in the immediate sense by the people attending the ceremony. You can then elaborate as you wish on one/or both of the parents is a practicing Buddhist and no doubt s/he will be sharing their values with the child. Possible (in the case of a non Buddhist partner) that they do have to some extent shared values in human and spiritual terms you can make something of them imparting those to their son/daughter, helping s/he to take their place in the wider society as a responsible and aware individual. Since the ceremony takes place in the shrine room you could bring out the significance of the Buddha in this context as signifying our potential as human beings and the potential of the child to grow and develop.

CEREMONY

So the shrine is suitably decorated and red thread has already been placed around the Buddha and runs down over either side of the shrine and then in a big circle that leads back to where you will sit as the leader so that both ends of the thread are resting in a pot of water*. The idea then is that the parents and close friends and family (who ever they wish) sit in the inner circle where each person can take a piece of the thread. Other relations and friends can sit around in an outer circle and they don’t hold the thread. The baby is held at this stage by one of the parents. Then you give a little talk about the significance of the occasion – it needn’t be long, maybe 10-15 minutes, and you can explain how the rest of the ceremony will take place. So once you’ve finished what you’ve said, the baby is then given to you so you’re sitting holding the baby and everyone in the front circle takes up the thread. This symbolizes the flow of love and kindness, of metta even, being directed to this new being by all those present. Then, whilst everyone keeps hold of the thread and the two ends remain in the pot of water, you take up the bit of slack between you and the pot of water and wrap the thread round one of the baby’s wrists. You then cut the thread and tie it on the wrist after which everyone can put down the thread they’re holding. Continuing to hold the baby you then announce his name and explain the meaning of the name if it’s Pali or Sanskrit and also whether the name will be a first name or a middle name. You then need to recite the blessings – the Jayamangala Gata which invokes the blessings of all the positive forces in the universe on to this new being.** Then everybody present gives voice to their joy and delight by way of three Sadhus! One of the parents then comes to relieve you of the baby and everyone retires to the reception room for celebratory tea and cakes or equivalent.
*The water symbolizes the Dharma and connects the two ends of the threads. There is also an element of purification. It’s an important symbol in the Indian tradition and not to be missed out. You can also make any other connections that come to mind.
**I think you’ll find the Pali in the new Puja book. I don’t know how the chant it – maybe you’ll have e-mail around to find someone who knows it and get them to chant it to you. Otherwise you’ll have to chant it in English.

 

 

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