The meaning of a Name

I grew up and still live outside of Rwanda, my country of origin.
I guess that’s why, often people ask me the meaning of my family name Munyeshuli
Simply put, my name means “student” , the one who (umunye) goes to school (shuli). For many years, the questions around my name made very nervous.

In Africa (in Rwanda neighboring countries were my family lived as refugees), those questions often came from people who knew what it meant and would make it a “joke”: “so what will you do when you finish school, will you change your name?” Very often I felt this playing with my name was a way to put me down. If you ever had reasons to be anxious at the customs, you see what I mean …

When I arrived in Europe, a customs officer asked me to spell my name (first long serie of questions). An other day, someone asked me what it meant. I said “student”. And that same person continued: “oh it’s like in german schule means school”. Good to know! After almost 18years living in Geneva, I am more at ease with my name. The strangeness of it is often an opportunity to engage conversation.

Most recently, my beloved yoga teacher and mentor, Lady Ruth asked me the meaning of my name. And I replied “student like in German, you know schule means school”. And she said “Oh it is like in Sanskrit, Shala“. She added “it’s beautiful, I love the sound of it! I hope you will teach me more words in your language”. I wish you had seen my face! I always loved studying, and in that very precise situation, I was traveling to study with incredible teachers. And that beautiful teacher loved both the sound and the meaning of my name. I consider my teacher Lady Ruth, as the most perfect student in the world. She has the greatest reverence for her holy teachers, and always talks about them with great love and humility. Always and often.

शाला Shala School Shuli

I am passionate about Yoga and Sanskrit, as the sacred language of Yoga.

It is not the first time that I find similarities between kinyarwanda words and sanskrit ones but this one, has a very special meaning. It made me feel my name auspicious at the beginning of the teacher training. A joyful imprint is taking over years of anxiety associated with my name.

In Kinyarwanda, when an elder calls you by your name, you reply karame! (as a way to say  yes, I am coming!). Literally karame means “long live” (the one who calls my name out)”. I remember as a child, feeling very proud to be called by my grand-mother, I was honored to be of some help to her. As the first child, I was the one my mom called more often, sometimes I complained she should call my sister (and not me every time), but inside I felt special. Every time I have the opportunity to help an elder or a busy woman, I see my mother, my grand-mother, it makes me happy.

Lady Ruth was my first jivamukti teacher in human form and a few years later, she became my mentor. I feel blessed and honored to be her student. Her voice whispering breath count in my ears, her gentle touch, her stories, her profound wisdom and knowledge of the sutras, her poetry in words and motion… Being with Lady Ruth always make me happy.

Long, blessed life to you Lady Ruth of my heart.


  1. J’aime ce que tu as écrit, ton article me fait plonger dans notre période scolaire commune… plein de nostalgie :-))


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