Naming – UnNaming


Dr Ravi P Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

All people, all living beings–animals, birds–have names; so do countries, rivers, lakes, mountains.  We have the tendency to give names to all of our feelings and emotions–happiness, sadness, isolation etc. We also provide names to things, objects both terrestrial and cosmic.

In short, we recognise everything by names given to them. By contrast, in the play Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare, it is said that a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.

Of course, all individuals also have names. It is inconceivable for anyone to go without a name. A baby is given a name soon after birth although the formal religious ceremony may come later.

Thus a person recognises himself/herself by the name given. Imagine if the name is removed from the person, what does the person think or feel? This situation is considered in the Hindu epic Advaita as summarised below:

“Who are you?

“I am ..

“No, I am not asking your name, who are you?

“I am a person with a heart, bones, flesh..

“Is that all you are, only bones and flesh? Animals like cows and rats also have these features, so you are no different from a rat for example?

“Of course I am not a rat; I can think, I can talk to you …

“Yes, a cow can also communicate with her calves, so are you similar to a cow?

“No, Sir, I have intelligence unlike a cow…

“Yes, but cows and horses and other such animals also have intelligence, unlike those of people. So what is the difference?

“It is a difficult question. I think I am different because I have a soul unlike that of these creatures.

“You keep saying I. Are you then a soul, a bodyless soul?”

These types of issues are considered at length and tentative conclusions drawn. I do not have the knowledge or expertise to deal with these issues in detail. What I do want to stress is the importance that names provide to objects, individuals. What difficulties arise if people are bereft of their names is briefly suggested.


Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 9 Mar 2020.

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