You have a secret name. It’s not that the name is being kept secret in order to conceal your true identity – it’s secret because the pronunciation and meaning of that name does not correspond to ordinary language. It’s easier to know the secret name of one’s master than to know one’s own secret name. This is because many practitioners, especially Buddhists, believe too much in emptiness. But what is the point of having a name if not to be identified by that name? We can communicate with our master by calling out their secret name. This works even when we don’t really know how to correctly pronounce their secret name, or what it really means. It works because the master understands our speech impediments. Although it is important and wonderful to know the master’s secret name, it is even more wonderful to know one’s own. If you know your own name, you will wake up and respond when the master calls it out.
Presently, every inkling of self-identity is associated with arbitrary and symbolic events that somehow highlighted a fundamental confusion. Over time, we partitioned the infinite space of consciousness with imaginary boundaries as a field-expedient defense against confusion. This understandable, semi-logical and often heroic effort did not, however, solve the problem of confusion. It only rationalized the fundamental confusion into an egocentric pattern of confusion that functioned as a pretty good work-around for survival. Our intimate familiarity with and bitter-sweet narrative about these imaginary boundaries constitute the brick and mortar of our fictional identity. The familiarity is the brick and the narrative is the mortar.
Using your Dharma Name is like having a honey badger as a house pet. Your Dharma name is not your secret name (but may be a cognate of your secret name). Your Dharma name is a kind of nominative chemotherapy for the cancer-like effects that narcissism has upon wisdom. Take care that it doesn’t kill the patient before it kills the cancer.
Conventional Buddhism teaches that there are two “I’s”: the completely fictional “I” and the provisionally necessary “I”. The completely fictional “I” is the “I” that seems to get bigger when we’re flattered and feels injured when we’re humiliated. Buddhism advocates the summary execution of this particular “I” and many famous masters are notorious assassins of such (just ask any inside student of Chatral Rinpoche). The provisionally necessary “I” is the one that can achieve the various Bodhisattva levels and ultimately realize Buddhahood. That “I” is just as non-existent as the completely fictional “I”, but serves as an ontic chalice for receiving and drinking the wisdom nectar of the teachings. Dzogchen teachings are not conventional Buddhism and therefore are not constrained by those conventions. It is vital to understand however that Dzogchen teachings do not contradict anything – certainly not any Buddhist teachings. Dzogchen is a way of going beyond conventions, beyond boundaries, beyond limitations. This can be done without contradicting, renouncing, transforming, transcending, or assassinating anything. What a relief!
So, returning to the matter of names, if you know the real name of something, then you can integrate fully with its meaning. The completely fictional “I” has no capacity to know the real name of anything because it is merely a psychic structure of imaginal partitions. The provisionally necessary “I” has the capacity to hear the real names but can’t repeat them until it dissolves into total realization. That’s where secret names come in. Secret names can be used in the meanwhile, so you won’t have to hand over the baby. If it’s not already obvious, names are sounds and sounds convey meaning. Real meanings are unbounded by any and all concepts that might be formulated about those meanings. To be in a state devoid of meaning is to be in hell. Secret names convey the same meaning as real names but are intentionally attenuated to match the lower energy amplitude of the provisionally necessary “I”. Padmasambhava’s secret name is (the sound) Padma Totreng Tsal. The moon’s secret name is (the sound) 417 Hz. The significance of this kind of understanding is certainly not confined to the teachings bearing the name, Dzogchen. You may refer to the details of Rumpelstiltskin for a fine example.