I feel amused when I come across people with multiple parts to their name, comprising of their own name, name of their father or mother, a family name and often even a name of their city or town. In practice, what they really end up using or telling others to use is just their given name. The rest simply gets abbreviated. In the West, even the given name gets shortened – William becomes Bill, Jacob becomes Jack, Tadatnayam becomes Ted or Ramaprasad becomes Rampi.
It is interesting that often people do not even question the rationale of continuing with the practice of tagging a long list of names to describe themselves. It is believed that the “surnames” associate you with your “family” and often highlight where you hail from. I tell my kids that their real identity is in their “karma” or what they do – not where they came from. If you really want an identity to accompany your name, add titles before your name, such as Doctor Srinath, Justice Siva or General Joseph. Your title conveys lot more about who you are, than Srinath Murugan or Siva Krishnamoorthy or Joseph Turner.
We could take inspiration from nature. A tree is known by its fruit and not its roots. Obviously the root determines what the fruit would be – but the tree shows its fruit, and not the root. The only tree that flaunts its roots is a banyan tree – and no other tree grows along it.
We can also take inspiration from ancient Indian civilization, where, despite being a strict hierarchical social structure, there was no “family name”. The gods and mythological characters are known by their first names and titles appropriate to their deeds and role in the society, for example, Rajarshi (The Royal Sage), Kulguru (Family Teacher), Rajvaidya (The Royal Doctor), Devraj (King of gods) etc. As per Rig Veda, the mother of a potter could be a cook, his father could be a guard and his son could be a teacher. I guess, “surnames” were thrust upon the world by Empire Brittanica, as they ruled the world. May be it served some administrative purpose. But it sure defies all common sense to carry a “family” name that does not foretell anything about who you are or what you can be.
We are conditioned to carry forward the legacy of our parents, grandparents and ancestors, without even quesitoning the basic practice. Perhaps, it is the attachment of our karma to our name, that we carry the desire to flaunt our name – that too our family name. We wish to take pride in the family that we belong to. The truth is that we do not belong to a family. The world is our family. We do not deliver any acts representing any family. So carrying forward a family name is an illusion. It is unnecessary. Out identity does not lie in which family we belong to. Our identity lies in what contribution we make to the community.
Drop that appendage and feel liberated to join a world family!
(This piece is tagged under Tat category, as all out actions are not owned by us, our family, or our name. We deliver and surrender all our acts in the service to and as per rules of mother nature)