For decades I did not use my given name ‘Tim’ in private life. I always used it in conventional business life and official contexts, but was not happy with it in private. Every name has a meaning, and Timothy comes from the ancient Greek ‘Timor Theus’, meaning – so I thought – ‘Fear of God’. My parents gave me that biblical name from the context of their Christian beliefs and world view, but I shared neither that religion nor that world view with them. Put simply, I felt that that name had nothing to do with who I was.
For me, a name matches a particular phase of life, in which a certain theme, topic or quality is in focus and wants to be healed, experienced, embraced, let go of… The energy and meaning of an appropriate name support the growth of the corresponding insight or quality in its bearer, who is addressed so often by that name. The name is both a goal, and a support to reach it. Thus it came that I had quite a few names in my life, here in chronological order:
- Anand Tim
Given by Osho (then Bhagwan; or someone assigning names for him)
I sort of wanted to be a Sannyasin (disciple), but was not wholehearted about the idea, and thus applied for a partial name. Anand means happiness or bliss.
- Anand Kalyan – this time a full Sannyas name
But as you see, I still needed to become happy
Kalyan means a blessing, in that phase in my life I was still not much of a blessing to anyone or even life in general, so that was my goal. I learned a great deal from Bhagwan, and the therapies and groups I attended in those years changed me deeply – I moved towards living a life which was positive for others.
- Elisius – the male power of love
This name was not given to me by someone else, rather I came to it via a training in channelling. In the field of awareness I met a very advanced spirit named Elisis (without a u), and felt so akin to, and connected with, him that I took a diminutive form of his name for myself. That phase of my life was focussed on remaining powerful but shaping that potency to come out as loving actions.
- E.T. – the extraterrestrial Elisius Tim
Coined by my Teacher Julie Henderson
I still love this name, and identify with it on the organismic level. I was doing a lot of training units with Julie Henderson, an absolutely amazing woman, teaching in her own practice line ‘Zapchen’ of Tibetan Buddhism. And sometimes she called me Elisius, and sometimes Tim, and it was apparent that she did not really connect with either name. And then – no doubt she having noticed my starseed background – she quietly started calling me “E.T.”, short for Elisius Tim, but also with the conventional meaning of an extraterrestrial. I listened up quick! In the ensuing phase of my life the starseed aspect and what I learned through it – thanks to connections to several very mature races, scattered throughout our milky way galaxy – was a major part of what I learned in those years.
- Prasad Shunyata – read more on that below
That name lasted for 13 years. My daughters started calling me “Shunnie”, which is shorter and rolls off the tongue more easily. I still quite like it…
- Tim – and the circle is complete
It was late 2019, just before I moved to Lehrte, and a lot was happening in my life, both internally and externally. I began to notice that in dreams and the semi-waking state I was referring to myself as Tim. My small mind thought “huh?”. But the feeling was clear enough that I again researched the meaning of the name Timothy: AHA! Not ‘Fear of God’ but ‘Honouring God’ – put in Advaita terms something like ‘holding the divine in great respect’. Well well, now that does sound good and appropriate. So finally, after five decades, I could realise that all that time I had been rebelling against my parents and had fabricated an incorrect reason to reject the name they gave me. When this was clear, the resistance to a name which in fact has a very spiritual meaning was simply gone.
Shunyata – Emptiness
Shunyata is the name I chose for myself in 2006. Before we get into the (remarkably non-trivial) meaning of the word, a brief note on how I chose it:
I had had a sudden and very clear noticing that the name ‘E.T.’ had run its course, that that phase of my life was completed. (That was fun – for a few weeks I had no name, so nobody knew what to call me). I spent those weeks researching Sanskrit names, meditating over them, feeling into them – and arrived at a short list of candidate names. These I wrote in large letters on sheets of A4 paper, one name per sheet, and sat on a meditation cushion under which my girlfriend of that time (from behind me) inserted one sheet after another. So I did not know which name I was currently sitting on, and was simply feeling the quality of each name. The repeated clarity for a particular sheet of paper was very clear – it bore the name ‘Shunyata’
Regarding ‘Shunyata’, Karmapa has pointed out that it is due to existence that there is emptiness, and not to non-existence. This is what I wrote to my friends at the time I adopted the name:
Shunyata is Sanskrit and is normally translated as ‘Empty’ or ‘Emptiness’, sometimes also as ‘Openness’ or even ‘Relativity’. Shunyata is a core concept of Mahayana Buddhism, and cannot be ‘simply’ translated into a western language without the loss of a whole ideological construct. Shunyata means neither Nihilism (nothing really exists) nor anything absolute (which would underlie all manifest forms). Rather, Shunyata implies that things (manifest forms) are empty in the sense that they do not persist independently.
I find the meaning of the word ‘Shunyata’ (or ‘Sunyata’), as taught by Tibetan Buddhists, heavy going. In its basic meaning it refers to the non-separation, or interdependence, or relativity, of all phenomena. But in its final meaning, by general consensus of writings on it, it refers to the state of (what I call) Nothingness, which a sentient being arrives at as (or near) the pinnacle of all possible spiritual achievement – having become a Sage, an embodiment of ‘Shunyata’.
Much has been written about ‘Shunyata’, some of it by Sages and Liberated beings, although some texts from people of great learning are, while their authors may not have attained these states, more easy to digest. I will not attempt to add any more to the wonderful texts already available. Here are some links to good articles on the Internet:
- http://www.kheper.net/topics/Buddhism/sunyata.htm • https://www.learnreligions.com/sunyata-or-emptiness-450191