In place of a biological generation, the character could be used as an indicator of seniority and peer groups in religious lineages. Thus, in the lay Buddhist circles of Song and Yuan times, it could be Dào (道 ‘Dharma’), Zhì (智 ‘wisdom’), Yuán (圆 ‘Complete/All-embracing’), Pǔ (普 ‘universal’), Jué (觉 ‘Enlightenment’), Shàn (善 ‘Skilful/Virtuous’). The characters demonstrated belonging to a devotionalist group with a social status close to the family one. The affiliation character Miào (妙 ‘Profound/Marvellous’) usually was used by women, relating them to Guanyin, as Miàoshàn (妙善) was her name at birth.
In a same way, taking the monastic vows meant the break with the family lineage, which was shown by application of the surname Shì (释, Thích in Vietnam) in one's Dharma name, the first character of the Shakyamuni Buddha's name in Chinese, Shìjiāmóuní (释迦牟尼).
Read more about this topic: Generation Name
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