A part of the ceremony will be getting a special name from my teacher. I have already begun to imagine what she might choose to call me. It could be a beautiful name like “well grounded cloud dweller” which does sound paradoxical and probably won’t be the name sewn into the underside of my rakusu, the blue bib-like covering I will begin to craft myself as I prepare to take the precepts. It’s possible, considering my homemaking skills that sewing my rakusu, even with help of sewing teachers may take years. My friend Kate who is a fine seamstress can only help me with five percent of the sewing. Without a doubt, the better stitches will be Kate’s. But I digress.
I have read that the name I will be given can be either a label that influences how others see me, or a kind of goal or motivation. Back in 2005 while I was doing Pathways, a program in Dallas, Texas, I was given the name “Porcupine” and had to earn back my own name. More recently I temporarily acquired a name the evening my teacher Lien, fellow student Sam, and I went to Japantown to pick up items Sam and I would need for one-day sittings and longer extended stays, should we agree to undertake them.
After I had parked my small car, a man driving a Toyota stationwagon pulled up beside me as I momentarily paused outside my car. He asked me if I would mind moving forward or backward to accommodate his large car. I swear I didn’t say aloud, “Yes, I do mind,” but that became my name for the next several minutes as I reseated myself and backed up the car. “You have a lovely voice,” the inconveniencing man commented once the mission was accomplished. His compliment clearly meant he heard, “Of course, I don’t mind. We are all one just in separate cars and mine is small while yours is big.”
Yet Sam, the other student, is certain he heard me say, “Yes, I do mind.” Bundled into the back seat, he could have been mistaken. Nevertheless the name I had for the evening was “Yes-I-do Mind” which I chose to understand as “Yes- I-will Mind,” a name indicating my willingness to be inconvenienced and to accommodate all beings, cheerfully and not.
I have never really appreciated having names pinned on me and I didn’t that evening. Even a positive appellation like “writer” hasn’t made me glow. Yet as my practice passes from what Sam calls “Zen light” to what I feel is “Full On” Soto Zen, I will accept any name my teacher pins on me and know that she has my growth and understanding of the dharma at heart. I will remind her as we get closer to the ceremony of Jukai that the name “Reluctant Dragon” is already taken.