Recently a friend asked me "what's the deal with yoga people changing their name?". She proceeded to ask me why I didn't have a spiritual name. I got to thinking..."does the fact that I don't have a spiritual name mean I'm less of a yogi?" "What is the deal with yoga people changing their name?"
I did a little (and I mean a little) research via google. I came across an interview with Amma where she talks about spiritual names. In the interview she says (para-phrasing here) that she gives devotees a name because they ask for one not because she wants them to change their name. She goes on to say that changing your name doesn't change you. Change has to come from the inside. In other words, calling yourself God doesn't actually make you God. She said something to the effect that if your mother and father gave you a name and you toss it aside you are disrespecting your parents.
Still, there is a tradition of a master or guru giving the student a spiritual name when they initiate them into the spiritual tradition which goes back thousands of years. Sadly, like much of the tradition of yoga, this taking of a spiritual name has been stripped of any tradition and sacredness and has become another ego inflating practice.
Here's what my teacher, Ed, says:
"Names are traditionally given by the Guru to the disciple as part of being accepted into the teaching lineage (the Guruparampara).. like becoming a member of the spiritual family.
Also names and titles are given to renunciates and/or monks when they take their vows...such as Swami Yogananda Saraswati... Swami - a title... Yogananda.. ananda.. divine bliss - of- Yoga Divine Union... Saraswati is the order of monks...who later was named a Param hamsa a supreme soul...
Again the name designates the connection to the teaching lineage... and its transmission of Shakti over time."
Let's not forget that when you take a spiritual name you have an even greater responsibility to honor that spiritual family by living your life in accordance with the yamas and niymas. All of them! The spiritual name is not a pass to skip over "intentional self-discipline" and "self-inquiry".
Besides, when we merge with the Divine in cosmic consciousness what you call yourself won't matter anyway.