Published on New York Spirit
This is what is taught to a toddler in India to greet everyone who visits their home. The bewildered kid coyly, utters it in his or her cute gibberish manner and parents feel proud. Honestly speaking, it is just a respectable form of salutation to most of the people in India. The literal meaning is, “I bow to thee.” However, our wise ancestors did not just introduce it into our lives because we were short of a word for greeting; like everything, they put a lot of significance into the whole act of Namaste. Apart from salutation or bidding farewell, it is used in yoga, meditation and while praying.
Thanks to the West, the long-forgotten meaning of Namaste was highlighted once again few years back. Whenever I get a message from few of my non-Indian friends ending with a Namaste, I feel the unspoken humility and positive energies. Yet, in my own country, it is still a thoughtless greeting for many. The power of any word comes from the intention behind saying it. Namaste is powerful when you know how and why it is. Just because your mommy asked you to say it renders it meaningless.
Namaste is generally expressed by joining the palms near the heart chakra ending with a slight bow. This mudra,or position, is known as the Hriday-anjali Mudra, which means admiration to the heart from the soul. The posture should be such that the palms and the center of the head should align. If the hands’ position is tilted, the flow of energy won’t be the same.
The palms joined together in union are a sign of merger of spirit and matter–the self meeting the higher self. It represents sacred connection of the person with the divine. It is honoring the supreme present both in the person giving it and the receiver.
When Namaste is conveyed by bringing the joined palms to the forehead, near the mystical third eye chakra, it signifies a deep form of respect.
A third way of Namaste is to put the palms completely above the head at the crown chakra. This act is said to focus pure consciousness in the subtle space–brahma-randhara–the dwelling house of the human soul. This form signifies worshipping and is done while showing devotion to God and the revered gurus.
The anjali mudra in which Namaste is performed is in fact a yogic asana, or pose, which balances and synchronizes our energies, keeping us grounded, poised and makes our aura glow with brighter stronger colors. The meaning of this gesture is to bow before the supreme that is in each of us.
The palms come together to form a symbol so powerful which points to the supreme power. Our body is a pyramid with head as the top point. Similarly, Namaste forms another pyramid (imagine a line across the shape and you will see) and when these two pyramids are aligned perfectly, energy flows! I envision it as an ascetic in meditative state in lotus pose.
There is a channel that we create between us and the other person. The joining of palms forbids the dualities of the human nature. There comes an oneness to the whole expression and thought process.
A Namaskar or Namaste is seen as a cultural act, but it is much more than just that. For the logistical thinkers, there is a science behind it–the connection of the left and right hemispheres of the brain, the deep nerve endings in the palms and fingers. But for for a spirituality seeker, there is a whole vigorous experience of body and spirit. I liked the way Sadhguru put it:
“If you are doing your sadhana, every time you bring your palms together, there is a crackle of energy–a boom is happening.”
Every day we can sit or stand quietly for some time in the Anjali mudra. We can perform it as a simple exercise orasana. If possible, do it amidst plants and trees. That way we are accomplishing the full meaning of the mantra and the mudra. We will slowly see its positive influence on our bodies. The calmness it brings to our body and mind is unquestionable.
In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, we are advised to love everyone; not because they have done anything to deserve our love, but solely because they are divine; connected to the same source.
Hence, the profound spiritual rationale behind Namaste is to remind ourselves and others of the absolute oneness and sanctity of all life. Knowing it, understanding it and doing it helps us become compassionate to every life form.
May every word we say exude compassion, humility and energy. Namaste!