Adopting the name 'Vivekananda'

My name, Chinmoy, was given to me by my brother Chitta when he applied for me to go to the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Before that, I was known by my nickname, 'Madal'.

In Swami Vivekananda's case, his childhood name was Naren and his nickname was Bilé. A few years after Sri Ramakrishna left the body, Naren became a wandering sannyasin. His wanderings took him across the length and breadth of India.

At that time, he used many different names. When he journeyed to Delhi in 1891, for example, he assumed the name of Swami Vividishananda. Before that, he had also travelled under the names Bishikeshananda and Sachchidananda. Then, on the eve of his departure for America, he took the name Vivekananda. This is how it happened.

Naren's dearest friend, admirer and devotee came from Kerala in South India. As I mentioned in the previous story, his name was Alasinga Perumal. He was extremely, extremely devoted to Naren. He was supposed to take care of Naren's passport. So he went to the passport office in Madras and wrote down the name that the Swami had been using: Bishikeshananda. It means, 'the dancing waves of the ocean'. The meaning is so significant, but the word itself is not at all sweet.

"What a horrible name!" exclaimed Alasinga Perumal. Then he consulted with the other devotees in Madras and they were all of the same opinion. A few days later, he brought the passport to Naren. When Naren looked at it, he said, "What is this? This is not my name!"

Then all the devotees replied, "Yes, this is your name. We did not like that old name you gave yourself. Vivekananda has to be your name. It is far, far better. It has much more meaning around it."

Naren could not argue with his disciples, so he took the name Vivekananda. It means, 'the most powerful delight of all-pervading conscience'. If you develop your conscience, you cannot tell lies or do anything wrong or undivine. Your conscience will all the time poke you. Some people say that this name means 'discrimination'. But the actual meaning is 'conscience'. Where does discrimination come from? From conscience. If you have conscience, then only can you discriminate. It is from the results of conscience that we get discrimination.

In most cases, disciples receive spiritual names from their Masters. But in Vivekananda's case, it was just the opposite. He received his name from the disciples, and he surrendered to them.