How do you greet your family member? How do you greet your friends? How do you greet a stranger or other acquaintance?  Do you greet them the same way? The answer varies depending on your culture. Isn’t it? Many in the western world greet others by shaking hand and saying “Hi” or “Hello” or some other words. Have you experience shaking hands with others? I have seen people who hold the hands tightly; some hold them for the sake very loosely. Some people show their confidence, their power or superiority. Some show their nervousness. Sure, we can find the gentleness, calmness in the greeting as well. Some much is conveyed by just shaking hands. We don’t stop just by shaking hands. We say “Hi” or “Hello” or other greetings. Some part of the world greets people by a hug and a kiss. It varies from culture to culture. The gesture tells something about the culture. In India people greet each other by saying Namaste with their hands held together and gently pressed against their heart.  Usually this is accompanied by bowing the head and shoulders a little bit. Depending on the region in India one may say “Namaste” or “Namskar” or “Namaskaram”. We know about “Hi” and “Hello”. But what is Namaste? In Sanskrit “namas” means “bow”, “obedience”, “reverential salutation”. It comes from the root word “nam” and “te”. “Nam” means bending, humbly submitting and becoming silent. “te” means “to you”. Thus Namaste means “I bow to you”.

It does not stop at this level. Namaste simply means “I salute to the Divine within you”. Wait a second. So far we have been seeing greeting at a human level by means of Hi/Hello and a handshake. Now we are saying I am saluting to the Divine within you. This is where great Masters have incorporated some means to remind us who we really are. This is where the culture aspect comes into play. Here the culture weighs on the inner aspect rather than external aspect of showing power or equality. Many in India would realize that this is similar to prayerful hand position. This is actually a mudra called “Anjali”. The root word “An” mean “to adorn”, “honor”, “celebrate”. The union of hands signifies the oneness of an apparently dual cosmos or simply bringing the spirit and matter.

Just like we have different ways of greeting people there different forms of Namaste. A deeper veneration is to bring the fingers of the clasped palms to the forehead. Another form of Namaste is to bring the palms completely above the head. This form is so full of reverence that is reserved for God and the Satgurus.

Saying Namaste has significance at various levels. It is like a mini meditation. But here is some practicality. You can avoid passing of germs by greeting anyone with Namaste rather than to shake handsJ. Also it is very convenient to say Namaste to all in a large gathering.

Having you been to any traditional Hindu temple? Have you observed various statues in the temple? If so, you probably would have seen idols in Namaste posture. They remind us the significance of Namaste. Probably many would have forgotten the real significance. Try greeting someone by saying “Namaste”. Start with your loved ones. Looks into people’s eyes and say Namaste gently. Also, remind yourself who you are greeting. Please share your experience in the blog comments. It will be great if parents understand the real significance of Namaste and teach their children as well.

- Sanjai

One Response to “Namaste”

  1. Venugopal Says:

    Dear Sanjai,

    Thank you for the wonderful article that explained the inner meaning of ‘Namaste’. You have beautifully explained various forms of Namaste and it’s relationship with the culture. Whenever i do a Namaste, i see that the other person will also try to reciprocate either by bowing or a smile. Once again, thank you for spreading the awareness about Namaste.


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