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Giving Dharma Names to Animals

Most people give their pet animals names they think are cute or sound cool or perhaps reflect the animals’ personality. As Buddhists, we are missing a huge opportunity if we do this and doing our animals a disservice. As Lama Zopa Rinpoche says:

“If you have a pet it is very good to give it a Dharma name rather than giving it a useless name that has no benefit for the animal. If you give your pet a Dharma name, such as names of the path to enlightenment (renunciation, bodhicitta, emptiness – they can be in English, Tibetan or Sanskrit) it leaves a positive imprint on the mind of the animal.”

Rinpoche blesses Lobsang the goat

Rinpoche explains by giving an example of his dog at Aptos:

“So we called the dog in Kachoe Dechen Ling ‘Om mani padme hung’. Each time she hears her name it plants the seed for the whole path to enlightenment, it leaves a positive imprint on her mind. Also, it creates the cause for her to understand all the 84,000 teachings of Buddha because they are contained in om mani padme hung: the two truths, the path of method and wisdom and the goal, dharmakaya and rupakaya. Each time we call her name it leaves a positive imprint for her to be able to hear the whole sutra and tantra, the complete extensive teachings of Buddha. This is incredible; definitely each time she hears her name it brings her closer to enlightenment. This is such an easy way to benefit animals and to bring them closer to enlightenment so we must do it, we must attempt every single way to benefit them. We must do it for others, to quickly liberate them from samsara, which is only in the nature of suffering and which has no beginning, which is continuous.

Understanding the incredible benefits just of naming your pets, it is very silly and foolish if you don’t do even this. It’s such an easy way to benefit them, even if you don’t do bigger things like building a stupa to benefit the sentient beings living with you. What you can easily do is take them around holy objects, chant mantras, read lam rim prayers that contain the whole path, the Heart Sutra, Diamond Cutter Sutra, Sutra of Golden Light, Arya Sangatasutra, and chant powerful mantras as much as possible. There are so many practices you can recite next to them as well as many other things you can do, but if you can’t do these then an easy one is giving them a Dharma name that will benefit them very much.

During Choden Rinpoche’s teachings at Vajrapani a few years ago Rinpoche said that Lama Atisha called animals ‘sangpo’, which means “good-hearted.” Probably he is not saying: I am good-hearted, but as Lama Atisha has bodhichitta maybe he is saying that his bodhichitta came from them. Lama Atisha gave teachings to numberless sentient beings, liberating them from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bringing them to enlightenment. As all this was received from these animals, from their kind heart, the reason Lama Atisha calls them sangpo is that he is naming the result on the cause. Sometimes he may have called them triche, which means “kind one.” This is maybe to benefit one’s own mind, referring to all animals as “kind one”, remembering how all one’s happiness comes from them”. [5]

Suggested Dharma Names

Below are some examples of beneficial names you can give your pets (or children!). We have listed only single word names rather than double as single words are easier when calling for your pet. But you can combine some of the words as Tibetans do, for example: Samten Chodron (female) means ‘Truth Light of Meditation’ or Jinpa Phuntsok (male) means ‘Generous One Full of Qualities’.

Acharya A spiritual master
Amrita Nectar of the gods
Arya A being who has attained a direct realisation of the true nature of reality.
Asanga 4th century Indian scholar; One of then two most important masters in the development of the Mahayana Buddhist schools of ancient India.
Atisha 11th century Indian scholar accredited with founding of the Tibetan Mahayana school called Kadam. His works include the great text ‘Lamp of the Path of Enlightenment’
Bodhicitta Awakened mind, mind of enlightenment
Bodhi Enlightenment
Chodak Dharma Spreader
Choden One who is devout, religious
Choedron Truth Light
Choegyal Dharma king
Chokyi Joyful Dharma or teachings
Chophel The flourishing of the Dharma
Dagpa Pure
Dana (Sanscrit) voluntary giving of material, eneregy, or wisdom to others; one of the 6 Perfections
Dechen Great Bliss
Deyki Happiness and Joy
Dhargey Progress, development, spreading
Dharmata Suchness, true nature of things; phenomena as it really is,as seen by a completely enlightened being without any distortion,
Dondrub Accomplishment, attainment, realizer
Dorje Vajra, which means indestructible
Drimed Stainless, imaaculate, undefiled
Drolma Liberator Tara
Drolkar White Liberator Tara (long life deity)
Gendun Helper
Gyaltsen Victory banner
Jampa (Maitreya, the next Buddha) Loving-kindness
Jamyang Gentle voice (Manjushri)
Jangchub Enlightenment
Jigme Fearless
Jinpa Generosity
Kalden Good fortune
Kalsang/Kelsang Fortunate, Good fortune
Karuna Compassion
Karma Action, deed
Kaya Body of a Buddha
Khandro Dakini
Kunchen All-knowing
Lekshey Right speech. eloquent
Lhakyi Happiness, joy
Lhundup Spontaneously accomplished
Lobsang Kind One, Noble-minded, kind-hearted,
Lodro Wise One, intelligent
Lungtok The Teachings, scriptures
Ngawang Powerful speech
Ngedon Ultimate truth
Ngodup Attainment, accomplishment
Norbu Jewel
Nying jye Compassion
Osel Luminosity, luminous clarity
Palden Glorious
Paramita Perfect virtues, the perfections
Pelkyi (female) Radiant Happiness
Pema Lotus
Phuntsok Excellence (excellent qualities, most perfect qualities)
Prajna Wisdom, discriminative awareness
Rabten Steadfast
Rigpa Awareness of the absolute
Rigzin Wise One, Knower; wisdom
Rinchen Precious, gem, treasure (great value)
Samadhi Concentration, meditative stabilisation
Samdup Fulfillment (of one’s wishes)
Samten (male) Samadhi, Perfect stability in meditation
Sang Purified, awakened
Sangpo Good hearted
Sangye Buddha
Sempa Bodhisattva
Shamatha Calm abiding
Shedrub (male) Accomplisher of highest knowledge
Shepa Awareness, knowledge
Sherab Perfect knowledge, Wisdom, discriminative awareness
Shunyata Emptiness
Sila Moral discipline
Sonam Merit
Tenpa (holder of the) Teachings
Tenzin Holder of the teachings
Thekchen Mahayana
Thokmay Unobstructed, unhindered
Thubpa Capable or Mighty One
Thubten The Buddha’s teaching
Tinley/Trinley Enlightened activity
Tilopa One of the 84 mahasiddhas of ancient India and the guru of the great scholar and meditator Naropa.
Tsering Long life
Tseten Stable life
Tsewang Life empowerment
Tsognyi The two accumulations: merit and wisdom
Tsondru Diligent One
Tsultrim Moral discipline
Tushita Pure Land of joy
Tutob Great Abilities
Wangchuk Lord, mighty
Wangdue Subduer
Yangchen (female) Melodious One
Yangkyi (female) Inspired Happiness
Yangzom (female) Perfect Woman of Accomplished Qualities
Yeshe Deep/pristine awareness, widsom knowledge
Yodron (female) Turquoise Light
Yonten Good qualities
Zopa Forbearance, patience