What’s in a Name?

Thought this might be a fun little post for those who have read Catharsis. Did you look up all the names? All of them are pretty specific to the characters. I lifted a page from the George Lucas playbook and tried to make the names as straightforward as possible. Here’s a quick guide.

Bodhi–This sanskrit word is a sibling of the word Buddha and is also the root in the word Bodhisattva. As a word, it is often translated into English as “enlightenment” or “awakening.” I chose this word as the name for Bodhi so that his role in the story would be self-evident. Bodhi is undergoing an awakening to his true nature and the series of causes and effects that has led to his present incarnation as an Indian monk. The word is so close to Buddha that I also hoped the name would instantly help make a connection in the reader’s mind between Bodhi and the historic Buddha, Shakyamuni. Like the Buddha, Bodhi was a prince in his youth who then goes out and becomes an ascetic monk only to realize that there is more to life than just ascetic devotion and finally embrace neither path but a more middle path. This theme will play out through the sequels as we see Bodhi further torn between the paths and supernatural beings he comes into contact with.

Channa–This one was easy. Channa is the name of the footman of the historic Buddha who in some versions of the myth is the one that leads the Buddha to the gates of the city and shows him the sickness, suffering, old age, and death out in the world.

Behram–The historic Behram was a leader of the Thuggi cult in India. The Thuggi were made famous in modern times in the film Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom. They were historically worshippers of the goddess Khali who were said to implant sleeper agents into wandering caravans that would then silently and surprisingly murder enough of the caravan to allow the rest of their Thuggi compatriots to attack and rob the group. The murders were, if the tales can be believed, a religious rite more than just an extension of thieving. Thuggi were rumored to use mundane items, especially handkerchiefs, to strangle or otherwise relieve their prey of their lives. Behram was my attempt at creating a 41st century Thuggi.

Sujata–After the historic Buddha had been an ascetic for several years, he found himself weakened and still no closer to enlightenment. According to legend, he abandoned the path of asceticism and washed himself when he was provided a bowl of rice milk by a young woman named Sujata. She was there to succor him and show him that not all nourishment is evil and that the path of self denial isn’t the path to enlightenment. This is the exact same role my Sujata plays for Bodhi in the story (except she offers him booze and pu…nani instead of rice milk).

Indraprastha–Thought I’d include that this is the name of the legendary capital of India said to have been located somewhere near present day Delhi. While Catharsis is set in a future India, it’s very much meant to be a mythical India, too, and I thought the name would help evoke that.

Perfecti–In Catharism, a real form of Gnostic Christianity from several centuries ago, those who had attained a sort of “enlightenment” were called Perfecti. These were people who had thrown off attachment to the physical world and were now attached solely to the spiritual world.

Christine Religion–This name, a variation on “Christian,” is linked to the Aquarian Gospel. Followers of the Aquarian Gospel often refer to themselves as Christines. Like the word Perfecti, I wanted to connect Bodhi’s religion with a Gnostic version of Christianity rather than the version we’re accustomed to now. Bodhi’s religion is really an integration of Christianity into a far-future India via Gnostic traditions.

Sunnah–Sunnah is an Arabic word that I understand to mean something similar to the words Torah and Dharma–the sacred Law. In retrospect, I almost think I should have gone with just saying Muslims (and Christians rather than Christines) in describing members of these religions as I think trying to use related but “off” names only adds confusion rather than what I was going for which was a little sci-fi familiar-yet-not world building.

Gadianton–This password provided to the guard at the palace in Indraprastha by Behram is the name of an ancient American conspirator mentioned in the Book of Mormon. The name also applies to the brotherhood of conspirators and cutthroats that Gadianton founded called The Brotherhood of Gadianton. I thought it was the perfect fit for a millennia old secret society of dragon worshippers.

Sthapati–This word roughly translates from Hindi as “architect.” Felt right for a local leader of the above mentioned Brotherhood who use pseodo-Masonic exchanges to offer passwords. I’m a Mason myself, so don’t take it as an anti-Masonic statement. It’s also a bit of a reference to the Buddha referring to Mara as the Architect of his ego in Little Buddha. (A pretty obscure reference to a movie of questionable merit, I know.)

Kama–This one’s pretty straightforward. Kama is a goddess of lovemaking and reproduction in Hindu cosmology. Kama in the book represents a living sexual fantasy in body, though her mind tends to be pretty far from sex. For Bodhi, specifically, she represents earthly passion and also the passage from boyhood to manhood.

Mara–This one’s also pretty straightforward, but also double-sided. In Buddhist cosmology, Mara is the great tempter and king of the demons. It is the mythical Mara who works the hardest to pull the Buddha off his path toward enlightenment. In Hindu cosmology, Mara is the goddess of death and the sister of Kama (birth). In Catharsis, Mara represents a bit of both. She is yin to Kama’s yang just as in the Hindu cosmology–while Kama represents new life and earthly passion, Mara represents to Bodhi a sort of past life (i.e., the deathlike state of our existence before we are the sentient beings we are now) and the death and destruction now introduced into his world. But Kama also represents death in her willful destruction of her enemies and Mara also represents birth in being Bodhi’s mother. That’s the dots shared between the Yin and Yang wave here. Like the Buddhist Mara, Bodhi’s mother is also the leader of the demon armies and tempter to him in the promise of offering to return him to his princely, pleasured life. There’s also that play between a mother and girlfriend that I think naturally brings in a circle of life for Bodhi as a son and then as a boy becoming a man.

Sühk–Probably my least inventive and most pointless name in the book to be honest. Sühk was an east Asian, Mongolian word for “axe” as I understand it. I chose the word as a name purely to give the character an east Asian flavor and label him as a weapon.

Brother Sunay–Sunay means “leader.” Simple enough, right!

Brother Harij–Harij means “the horizon” and Brother Harij is the youthful monk who is just dawning on the horizon of becoming a Brother Sunay one day.

Councilor Grishm–Grishm means heat. His job in the book is to keep the heat on Bodhi and Kama trapped inside the temple.

Khul-thulu–A play on Djwhal Khul and Cthulhu. In the book Djwhal Khul is the next Ascended Master in the endless cycling, rising to take his place as the spiritual leader for the age of Capricorn. That means his symbolic animal is a sea goat. Cthulhu is a giant sea monster and herald of a new age of the old ones, so there are some similarities there. Thought the name was a fun way to just allude to those similarities.

Djwhal Khul–Djwhal Khul is one of the agents of the Great White Brotherhood in Theosophic teachings. He is the supposed spiritual author or at least muse for the writings of Alice Bailey. Theosophy offers a nice synchronization of Gnostic Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu cosmologies that plays well into my attempts at crafting a sci-fi world from similar influences. Djwhal felt like a good master to use for this because he’s somewhat unique to Theosophy and so doesn’t come with a lot of baggage like a more mainstream religious personage such as Krishna or Christ might. He immediately ties mythically into what I want, and yet is pretty open for me to present as I like.

That covers a lot of the names and you can continue to sort through for more. I thought it would be fun to explain why these names were chosen because knowing what some of them mean really adds to the story. If you hadn’t realized that the book is just overflowing with Buddhist symbolism and references, then you probably missed a lot of what I was trying to do. Now you know a lot more about it just because you know what the names mean. Of course, even if you missed the Buddhism and other similar elements, I hope you enjoyed the ample amounts of action, adventure, and romance in a sci-fi world on their own merits!

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