Monday, 31 May 2010

Namaste


Namaste is one of the few Sanskrit words commonly recognized by Non-Hindi speakers.

Namaste is particularly associated with aspects of Indian culture such as vegetarianism, yoga, ayurvedic healing, and Indian religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

In a well-known episode it so transpired that the great lover god Krishna made away with the clothes of unmarried maidens, fourteen to seventeen years of age, bathing in the river Yamuna. Their fervent entreaties to him proved of no avail. It was only after they performed before him the eternal gesture of namaste was he satisfied, and agreed to hand back their garments so that they could recover their modesty.

The gesture (or mudra) of namaste is a simple act made by bringing together both palms of the hands before the heart, and lightly bowing the head. In the simplest of terms it is accepted as a humble greeting straight from the heart and reciprocated accordingly.

Namaste is a composite of the two Sanskrit words, nama, and te. Te means you, and nama has the following connotations:

* To bend
* To bow
* To sink
* To incline
* To stoop

All these suggestions point to a sense of submitting oneself to another, with complete humility. Significantly the word 'nama' has parallels in other ancient languages also. It is cognate with the Greek nemo, nemos and nosmos; to the Latin nemus, the Old Saxon niman, and the German neman and nehman. All these expressions have the general sense of obeisance, homage and veneration. Also important here is to note that the root 'nama' is a neuter one, the significance of which will be elaborated upon later.

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.

Namaste recognizes the duality that has ever existed in this world and suggests an effort on our part to bring these two forces together, ultimately leading to a higher unity and non-dual state of Oneness.

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