The Story of a Name

MC40_KulvirAndSonsMy wife Birender and I were blessed to have our second son come into our lives on January 19th, 2013. In selecting a name for him we followed Sikh tradition which I’ve described below. Less traditional, we then engaged in a little online crowdsourcing by posting an invitation on our Facebook pages for any suggestions beginning with the letter ‘S’. Our deliberations began!

We could have simply sent out a birth announcement to our network of friends and colleagues announcing the name of our newborn son. Instead we decided to include the explanation (below) of the Sikh naming tradition we had followed and an explanation of what his name “Sahib” meant in a South Asian and Sikh context.   We thought people unacquainted with the Sikh faith might appreciate learning the meaning of the name, the context of the tradition, and our hopes as parents.

It turns out, they did.

- Kulvir in Mississauga


We took our new child into the presence of our guiding light, our sacred scriptures, the Guru Granth Sahib to seek inspiration from the Divine Creator, Karta Purakh. We were blessed with the attached shabad or prayer revealed to the Fifth Nanak, beginning with the letter ‘S’ or Sassa. Sung in Raag Suhi

In the South Asian context, sahib is translated as sir, master, or lord. It is often used after a person’s name to confer respect. However, from a Sikh perspective, Sahib can be interpreted as sovereign – independent from the attachments of the world, liberated from all spiritual, political, economic and social tyrannies and accountable to no one but the ultimate Sovereign.

 The most famous Sahib Singh in Sikh history was the last of the Panj Piare (or Five Beloved Ones) to be initiated into the Khalsa Panth (by Guru Gobind Singh ). The names of these Five are significant as they illustrate the journey one needs to take to become sovereign – starting with Daya (compassion) then Dharam (discipline) to Himmat (courage) to Mohkem (steadfastness) to finally Sahib (sovereign).

 So with inspiration from Guru Granth Sahib, Birender and I named our second child, like Mohkem, after one of the Panj Pyare in the hopes that both of them cultivate these virtues in their lives. That they love all of the Creator’s Creation, not from a distance, but as a manifestation of their inner divinity. They live a life of self-control, self-discipline, practice and humility. That they have the courage to stand up for themselves and the rights of others even when it is impractical, inconvenient and unprofitable. They remain stubbornly detached from materialism yet committed to serving the ideas, individuals, and institutions they deem worthy of their loyalty, holding themselves to the highest standard and living their lives to the fullest.