Other Religions: December 2005 Archives

The Beauty of Namaste

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Namaste - The Significance of a Yogic Greeting

The word nama is split into two, na and ma. Na signifies negation and ma represents mine. The meaning would then be 'not mine'. The import being that the individual soul belongs entirely to the Supreme soul, which is identified as residing in the individual towards whom the namaste is directed. Indeed there is nothing that the soul can claim as its own. Namaste is thus the necessary rejection of 'I' and the associated phenomena of egotism. It is said that 'ma' in nama means death (spiritual), and when this is negated (na-ma), it signifies immortality.

The whole action of namaste unfolds itself at three levels: mental, physical, and verbal.

It starts with a mental submission. This submission is in the spirit of total surrender of the self. This is parallel to the devotion one expresses before a chosen deity, also known as bhakti. The devotee who thus venerates with complete self-surrender is believed to partake the merits or qualities of the person or deity before whom he performs this submission. There is a prescription in the ancient texts known as Agamas that the worshipper of a deity must first become divine himself, for otherwise worship as a transaction would become invalid. A transaction can only be between equals, between individuals who share some details in common. Hence by performing namaste before an individual we recognize the divine spark in him. Further by facilitating our partaking of these divine qualities, namaste makes us aware of these very characteristics residing within our own selves. Simply put, namaste intimates the following:

'The God in me greets the God in you
The Spirit in me meets the same Spirit in you'

In other words, it recognizes the equality of all, and pays honor to the sacredness of all.

The "namaste" is a gesture of greeting in some Indian (Hindi?) cultures and groups. I have always found the gesture to be mysteriously beautiful and gracious. I have not thoroughly understood it, although I always had in mind the couplet just before the last sentence.

I often wish that western cultures had such a gesture or such a greeting. It is far less aggressive than the handshake, and what could be better than to be able to say to another, I salute the Image of Christ you are? How much more affirming could we possibly be?

Hence, namaste, though it does not come from my culture or my background, appeals to me deeply. Those who live within the culture may see it another way, but to salute the Divine within, the Holy Spirit who dwells in all people, who shines forth from believers and nonbelievers alike, who guides us all to the same end. What could be better, more compassionate, more meaningful.

And so all of St. Blogs--I hail the Holy Spirit within each of you and offer you peace and greetings in the name of Our Lord Jesus Christ. If I could accompany this with a bow, a gesture of respect, I would do so. So let us suffice with the Japanese Honorific, Stblogs-san.

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This page is a archive of entries in the Other Religions category from December 2005.

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