Throughout all of India, most people greet one-another with a form of greeting called a ‘namaskar’, this is always different in every part of India which you may go, but no matter where you go, this friendly greetings always carries the same deep and beautiful spiritual message. For this purpose of this post, let’s focus on one particular and very common form of ‘namaskar’, which you may or may not have heard of; ‘namaste’.
There are two parts to this greeting, the sound itself and the gesture that goes with it; Namaste comes from two Sanskrit words- Namah and Te. Many people might tell you that Namah means to bow, to greet, or to salute. This is all true, but Namah also carries a sense of devotion. When praying, Hindus often begin with the phrase, ‘Om Namah’, followed by the name they choose to call their deity. So, Namah can also mean ‘to bow down in greeting to divinity’.Te, on the other hand, means ‘to you’. Thus, when you combine these two words together as ‘Namaste’, you’re saying “I bow down to the divinity in you’.
But the meaning goes even deeper than that. In Indian spirituality, it’s believed that there is a single divine consciousness that exists in everything, everywhere, and in everyone. We are all part of this consciousness, though we may or may not have realized it just as yet. When you greet someone with a ‘namaste’, you are recognizing their true self, that supreme consciousness, in them. One should also remember that that divine consciousness is their own true self as well! This brings us to the second part of the greeting- the gesture of namaste.
The gesture for ‘namaste’ is simple; one’s two palms are joined together and held against a chakra, this is commonly the heart, third-eye or crown chakra, where it is believed the secrets of self-divinity can be unlocked. There is also a slight bow of the head. This gesture is known in Sanskrit as ‘Anjali-mudra’. A ‘mudra’ is a simple posture or gesture of the hands that carries spiritual symbolism, while ‘anjali’ means ‘to honour someone with an offering’.
The joining of the left and right hands signifies the bringing together of the left and right spheres- where the left symbolizes the material and interact-able world. The right side symbolizes the transcendent, unseen and spiritual realm. When brought together, the two bridge these two realms together, and it is a beautiful way of saying “I realize the spiritual truth through my experience in this world.”
Doing this with a bow to the head makes one feel humble, and reminds them that whoever they are interacting with also has the spark of the divine, just as they do. When reflecting on a Namaste, one’s ego is really erased!
Believe it or not, the meaning of ‘namaste’ goes even deeper! As mentioned earlier, when performing this greeting, one holds their two joined hands to one of their own chakras. If this greeting is about recognizing the divinity inside someone else, wouldn’t it make more sense to touch your two hands to that person’s chakra? Of course, this would be a bit awkward. Not to mention, by making contact with your chakra, you are humbling and at the same time reminding yourself that the spark of divinity you recognize in someone else is also within you! Thus, even though the greeting symbolizes lessening your ego, it can also be used to recognize the true oneness of everything and everyone.
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