Meaning of Namaste

The meaning of namasté

In many yoga and meditation classes you increasingly see teachers and students saying “namaste” after class and placing their hands together at chest height.
Is this a revival of old habits and rituals, or has it become some kind of new habit without knowing the meaning behind it?

Where does Namaste originally come from?

Namasté is a Sanskrit word and is translated as “bow (Nama),  I (as),  you/you  (te)” or “I bow to you/you”.
It is a traditional Indian greeting or gesture of respect.
Usually the word Namasté  is pronounced with a slight bow, the hands are pressed together, with the palms touching each other and fingers pointed upwards, thumbs close to the chest.
This gesture is called  ‘Añjali Mudrā’ or ‘Pranamasana’.

In addition of a polite greeting and a way to say “thank you,” it can also have a deeper meaning.

The deeper meaning of Namaste

The gesture also represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us and that it is located in the heart chakra. Devout Hindus see namaste as the greeting of the gods and you can interpret the gesture as “the divine in me greets the divine in you”
People also translate Namaste as “I greet the light in you”. The gesture is an acknowledgment of the soul in that person, by the soul in the other.
In India you often see people make this gesture to symbolize the meaning, without also speaking.

In short, you could also say that the gesture expresses the realization that we are all essentially one.

Alternative to shaking hands

In the East, bowing is deeply rooted in culture and is also more of a spiritual gesture.
It seems that in the West more and more people find this way of thanking and greeting less strange, and that they no longer see it as something religious, ‘idolatry’ or as something submissive.
In the time of corona, there also seemed to be a revival of this way of greeting and thanking, outside of yoga and meditation classes; a good alternative to shaking hands.

The 'Wai' in Thailand

You also see a similar gesture in Thailand. This is called the  ‘wai’. Here too, place your fingertips and palms together, keep your hands close to your chest and bend very slightly. No special word is used, but often just a usual ‘hello’: ‘sawadee kah’ (if you are a woman) or ‘sawadee krab’ (if you are a man), or thank you; ‘kap kun kah’ or ‘kap kun krab’.
The wai is a beautiful act and also very important in Thai etiquette.
The wai is determined by class, gender and age. These factors determine how high the hands should be held. When greeting, the ‘lower rank’ person starts with the wai and holds their hands higher than the ‘higher rank’ person. But often you keep both your hands at the same height. And sometimes the other person does not respond with a gesture: for example, as an adult you do not greet children with a wai, but the other way around you do.
The wai and (deeper) bowing, for example, goes as follows: the child bows to his parents, the parents bow to their bosses, the bosses bow to the king and the king, who is the highest, ultimately bows to the Buddha. …..

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