A person—calm, centered, and peacefully aware of the universe—stands before you in your yoga class or meditation gathering. She folds her hands gently together, close to her breast, fingertips skyward, lowers her eyes and says a single word: “Namaste.” You can’t help but feel something—a pleasant reaction, a feeling of having been gifted. But what does namaste mean?
It’s not at all mystical—it’s a cordial, respectful human interaction. Like the Hawaiian aloha, or Hebrew shalom, namaste (stress on the second syllable) can be used in a variety of circumstances. Maybe you’d say “Namaste” upon parting from a dear friend. Perhaps the word would be your choice when you meet with a revered teacher, mentor, or spiritual leader.
If you’re into word origins, you’ll want to know that namaste is a fusion of a Sanskrit word, namah (to bow) and te (to you). Namah implies respect, compliance, and reverence. Should you decide to incorporate namaste into your personal vocabulary, you’ve got some choices. You can use the salutation itself, just verbally, no gestures. You can add the pranamasana gesture described above (hands folded at your chest) or, if you’re feeling particularly reticent (not in the mood to speak), the gesture can be used silently.
There’s some tinsel hung on the word by various sorces. For example, Wikipedia points to the following books and recordings:
• Unofficially attributed to Deepak Chopra: “I honor the Spirit in you which is also in me.”
• An enormous lot to see in one word, “I honor the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells, I honor the place in you which is of Love, of Integrity, of Wisdom and of Peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are One.”
• “That which is of God in me greets that which is of God in you.”
• “The divinity within me perceives and adores the divinity within you.”
In pop culture, namaste is becoming a hip catch word, often used when someone wants to be known as a seeker of wisdom. An inside buzz word in New Age culture, it seems to carry some secret behind it, but in truth, it’s a warm, respectful way to recognize another human. You don’t have to be mystical or holy to adopt this friendly word. Look inside yourself and respectfully greet your fellows. “Namaste.”