Is monastic name part of Vinaya ordination?

Historically bhikkhus got new names - Upatissa became Sariputta, Kolita became Mogallana, etc. Is this name-change a formal part of the ordination according to the Vinaya, or is this ‘just a custom’?

Could someone please guide me to the Vinaya passage that specifies the name change, if there is any?



Actually, they historically didn’t get new names. They kept their old ones. They just had two names, similar to how we nowadays have first names and last names: Upatissa, the son of Sari, and Kolita, the son of Moggali.
See also for example the Ratthapala sutta MN 82, where Ratthapala is just called “clansman Ratthapala” before the ordination, and “Ven. Ratthapala” afterwards.

So there is no formal name change during ordinations. The candidates are just asked about their name and the name of their preceptor.

Even today, it is quite widespread for monastics to keep their lay names and just add a Pali name to it.


Thanks a lot Ayya. I thought the name-change was more of a ritual. No wonder I could find no details in the Vinaya. I just thought that when the name is asked in the ordination ritual that then the ‘monastic name’ is fixed…


Actually, in practice, when people do the ordination procedure, they sometimes use “dummy names” instead of their real monastic names, so that they don’t have to adapt the script for every new candidate/preceptor. :wink:
So the name used during the ordination has nothing to do with your actual Pali name and it has no “legal” (Vinaya) relevance.