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Theravada Buddhist Baby Naming Ceremony

According to "Buddhist Ceremonies and Rituals of Sri Lanka," with the exception of ordination to the monastic life and funeral rites, life cycle events were regarded as secular affairs for most of Buddhism's history. Unlike in other major world religions, no ancient Buddhist baby-naming ceremonies exist. In more recent times, Buddhist rituals have mixed with those of other world religions and cultures. In many countries that practice Theravada Buddhism, outside influences have inspired the development of Buddhist baby-naming rituals.

History

Theravada Buddhism is often called "southern Buddhism," because it is mostly followed in Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. In Pali, Theravada means "the Way of the Elders." These southern Buddhist countries have developed their own specific baby-naming rituals. Often these baby-naming rituals incorporate a visit to the monastery to enlist the naming services of local Buddhist monks.

Geography

In Sri Lanka, a baby's parents will "select an auspicious day or full-moon day and take the child to the nearest temple," according to "Buddhist Ceremonies and Rituals of Sri Lanka." Thai babies are most often named by either a monk or a grandparent using Thai astrology. In Myanmar, the naming ceremony happens when the baby is 100 days old. At this ceremony, monks chant prayers and bless the baby.

Function

Baby-naming ceremonies are performed cross-culturally to celebrate the birth of a child and to welcome that child into the community. In some countries, Theravada Buddhist baby-naming ceremonies also function to ensure that the child will receive "the blessings of the Three Jewels (the Buddha, the sangha and the dhamma)."

Significance

Often during the naming ceremony, a Theravada Buddhist monk will bless the baby and name her. The name chosen by the monk is often based on the day, month and zodiac year of the baby's birth along with the baby's character. Sometimes the name begins with the letter that is blessed for the day of the week on which the birth occurred.

Considerations

Sometimes parents (especially those from the West) will prefer to name their baby themselves. When naming a baby, Buddhist parents will often choose a name that is tied to the day, month or season that the child is born. It is common to choose a name that begins with the same letter or that rhymes with the name of a mother, father, brother or sister. Finally, parents may opt to name their child after the sun, moon or even a flower.

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About the Author

A professional writer since 2001, Dominique Keller's writing has been featured on the Pilot Guides "The Lonely Planet" series and on the blog blog.thebabycliff.com, and recently her work represented Canada at the Shanghai 2010 World Expo. Keller has received awards from the The Canadian Council and CTV. She holds a Bachelor of Science in anthropology from the University of Calgary.