More and more you see in yoga and meditation classes that teachers and students say “namasté” after class and thereby put their hands together, chest height. Also since the corona outbreak you see this gesture as alternative for shakings hands.
Is this a revival of old habits and rituals, or has it become some sort of new habit without knowing its meaning?
Where did Namasté originally come from?
Namasté is a Sanskrit word and is translated as “bow (Nama), I (as), you / you (too)” or “I bow for you”.
It is a traditional Indian greeting or a gesture of respect.
Usually the word Namasté is pronounced with a slight bend, the hands are pressed together, the palms touch each other and fingers point upwards, thumbs close to the chest.
This gesture is called ‘Añjali Mudrā’ or ‘Pranamasana’.
In addition to a polite greeting and a way of saying “thank you”, it can also have a deeper meaning.
The deeper meaning of Namasté.
The gesture also represents the belief that there is a Divine spark in each of us located at the heart chakra. Religious Hindus see namaste as the greeting of the gods and you can interpret the gesture as “the divine in me salutes the divine in you”
People also translate Namasté as “I salute the light in you”. The gesture is thereby 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 talking.
In short, you could also say that the gesture expresses the realization that we are all essentially one.
Alternative to handshaking
In the East, bowing is deeply ingrained in culture and 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 it no longer sees it as something religious, ‘idolatry’ or as something submissive.
In this time of corona, there seems to be a revival of this way of greeting and thanking, outside of yoga and meditation classes, as a good alternative to shaking hands.
The ‘Wai’ in Thailand
In Thailand you also see a similar gesture. This is called the ‘wai’. Again, put your fingertips and palms together, keep your hands close to your chest and bend slightly forwards. 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 nice gesture 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. In a greeting, the one in the “lower rank” starts with the wai and holds the hands higher than the one in the “higher rank”. But often you keep your hands at the same height. And sometimes the other person does not answer 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) bow goes , for example, like this: the child bows to his parents, the parents bow to their bosses, the bosses bow to the king and the king, who has the highest status, eventually bows to the Buddha .. …..