Commonly written "Namaste", it is pronounced as "Namastay"
with the first two a's as the first a in "America" and the
ay as in "stay", but with the t pronounced soft with the
area just behind the tip of the tongue pressing against the
upper-front teeth with no air passing (as the t in "tamasha").
- Jai Maharaj
> I have been told it means something like to
> pay homage to the inner light in all living things.
> Can you help me with this???
> [email protected]
I had occasion to post the following in 1993 and 1996:
Subject: Re: Sukhmani says Namaskaar to Brahmins
From: Dr. Jai Maharaj <[email protected]>
Date: Sun, 14 Jan 1996 14:01:55 -1000
In the article <[email protected]>,
of Sat, 13 Jan 1996 07:59:48 -0600,
Rahul Anand Narain <[email protected]> wrote:
>> What is the difference (if any) in saying "Namaste" and
>> "Namaskar"? Are they addressed to or used by different people?
>> Or are they essentially identical? I've heard people using
>> both, but I haven't noticed any pattern. / Linda Nelson,
>> Chicago Online
> Jai Maharaj had a lovely post regarding this. a couple of years
> ago or so. I had had saved it but am not able to locate it.
> Maybe he can repost the article?
There have been several posts on the subject during the last few
years, but I think the following authorized reproduction from
HINDUISM TODAY is one of the best. For subscription and other
information about Hinduism Today, please connect with the Web site
at this URL:
Hinduism today is a full-color, international monthly which has been
published continuously since January 1979.
Copyright 1993 by Himalayan Academy. ISSN: 0896-0801. All Rights
Reserved. Please see full copyright notice at the end of the
N::N "Shake hands and come out fighting." It's the referee's
A::A final counsel to two pugilists about to beat each other's
M::M brains out with clenched fists. Even outside the ring, a
A::A handshake can be a little off-putting. When one returns
S::S to the West from an extended sojourn in Bharat or
T::T elsewhere in Asia, the hand suddenly thrust forward can
E::E seem more ominous than friendly, especially if the hand
offered is that of a stranger. Of course, one soon
acclimates and the menacing aspect of this salutation subsides.
Perhaps that moment of intimidation derives from the history of
the handshake. According to one anthropologist, the handshake
evolved in medieval Europe, during the times of knights. It seems
not all were laudable Lancelots or gallant Gallahads. More than a
few would approach opponents with concealed weapons and when
within striking distance do the needful, driving dagger or
striking sword into the unguarded paladin.
To fend off the fear of a foe's foul foil, knights took to
offering their open and visibly empty hand to each other. It was
a kind of surety, a gesture of trust which said, "See, I am
unarmed, so you may safely let me approach." As the story goes,
soon the gesture itself took on meaning and the less noble, less
lethal man on the street adopted the handshake as the proper way
to greet others.
In much of the world today, people do not shake hands when they
meet. They may hug formally or kiss one another on the cheek, as
in eastern Europe and Arab states. They may bow softly, eyes
turned to the ground, as in Japan and China. The Hawaiian
greeting, termed "honi," consists of placing the nostril gently
beside that of the person greeted, a kind of sharing of breath,
which is life and Pran(a).
For, Hindu(s), of course, the greeting of choice is "Namaste,"
the two hands pressed together and held near the heart with the
head gently bowed as one says, "Namaste." Thus it is both a
spoken greeting and a gesture, a Mantr(a) and a Mudr(a). The
prayerful hand position is a Mudr(a) called Anjali, from the root
Anj, "to adorn, honor, celebrate or anoint." The hands held in
union signify the oneness of an apparently dual cosmos, the
bringing together of spirit and matter, or the self meeting the
Self. It has been said that the right hand represents the higher
nature or that which is divine in us, while the left hand
represents the lower, worldly nature.
In Sanskrit "Namas" means, "bow, obeisance, reverential
salutation." It comes from the root Nam, which carries meanings
of bending, bowing, humbly submitting and becoming silent. "Te"
means "to you." Thus "namaste" means "I bow to you." the act of
greeting is called "Namaskaram," "Namaskara" and "Namaskar" in
the varied languages of the subcontinent.
Namaste has become a veritable icon of what is Bharatiye. Indeed,
there must be a Bharatiye law which requires every travel
brochure. calendar and poster to include an image of someone with
palms pressed together, conveying to the world Bharat's
hospitality, spirituality and graceful consciousness. You knew
all that, of course, but perhaps you did not know that there can
be subtle ways of enhancing the gesture, as in the West one might
shake another's hand too strongly to impress and overpower them
or too briefly, indicating the withholding of genuine welcome.
In the case of Namaste, a deeper veneration is sometimes
expressed by bringing the fingers of the clasped palms to the
forehead, where they touch the brow, the site of the mystic Third
Eye. A third form of namaste brings the palms completely above
the head, a gesture said to focus consciousness in the subtle
space just above the Brahma-randhra, the aperture in the Crown
Chakr(a). This form is so full of reverence it is reserved for
the Almighty and the holiest of Sat Guru(s).
It is always interesting, often revealing and occasionally
enlightening to muse about the everyday cultural traits and
habits each nation and community evolves, for in the little
things our Big ideas About Life find direct and personal
expression. Take, for instance, the different ways that American
and Japanese tool-makers approach the same task. A saw for
cutting lumber, if designed in the U.S., is made in such a way
that the carpenter's stroke away from his body does the cutting.
But in japan saws are engineered so that cutting takes place as
the carpenter draws the saw toward himself. A small detail, but
it yields a big difference.
The American saw can, if leaned into, generate more power, while
the Japanese saw provides more control and refinement in the cut,
requiring surprisingly less effort. Each has its place in the
global toolbox. each speaks -- like the handshake and namaste
greetings -- of an underlying perception of man's relationship
In the West we are outgoing, forceful, externalized. We are told
by Ma bell to "reach out and touch somebody." We are unabashedly
acquisitive, defining our progress in life by how much we have --
how much wealth, influence, stored up knowledge, status or
whatever. Every culture exhibits these traits to some extent, but
in the east Mother is there to remind us, "Reach in and touch the
Self." here we are taught to be more introspective, more
concerned with the quality of things than their quantity, more
attuned with the interior dimension of life.
So, there you have it, the whole of Eastern and Western culture
summed up in the handshake which reaches out horizontally to
greet another, and Namaste which reaches in vertically to
acknowledge that, in truth, that there is no other.
As a test of how these two greetings differ, imagine you are
magically confronted with the Divine. The Paramatma, Almighty,
walks up to you on the street. What do you do? reach out to shake
His hand? Probably not. Though suitable between man and man, it;'
an unseemly expression between man and Paramatma. We never shake
hands with paramatma. I mean, what if your palms are sweating?
So you namaste instead. the reason it feels natural to namaste
before Paramatma is that it is, in its very essence, a spiritual
gesture, not a worldly one. By a handshake we acknowledge our
equality with others. We reveal our humanity. We convey how
strong we are, how nervous, how aggressive or passive. There is
bold physicality to it. For these and other reasons, Popes never
shake hands. Kings never shake hands. Even mothers don't shake
hands with their own children.
Namaste is cosmically different. Kings do namaste, Sat Guru(s)
namaste and mothers namaste to their own family. We all namaste
before the Almighty, a holy man or even a holy place. The namaste
gesture bespeaks our inner valuing of the sacredness of all. It
betokens our intuition that all souls are divine, in their
essence. It reminds us in quite a graphic manner, and with
insistent repetition, that we can see Paramatma everywhere and in
every human being we meet. It is saying, silently, "I see the
Deity in us both, and bow before Him or Her. I acknowledge the
holiness of even this mundane meeting. I cannot separate that
which is spiritual in us from that which is human and ordinary."
And while we are singing the praises of Namaste, it should be
observed how efficient a gesture it is in an age of mass
communication. A politician, or performer can greet fifty
thousand people with a single Namaste, and they can return the
honor instantly. In such a situation a handshake is unthinkable
and a mere waving of one hand is somehow too frivolous.
There are other, more mystical meanings behind Namaste. The nerve
current of the body converge in the feet, the solar plexus and
the hands. Psychic energy leaves the body at these junctures. To
"ground" that energy and balance the flow of Pran(a) streaming
through the nerve system, Yogi(s) cross their legs in the lotus
posture, and bring their hands together. The Anjali Mudra acts
like a simple Yog(ic) Asan(a), balancing and harmonizing our
energies, keeping us centered, inwardly poised and mentally
protected. It closes our aura, shielding us psychically. It keeps
us from becoming too externalized, thus we remain close to our
intuitive nature, our super consciousness.
Here are some insights into Namaste from a number of Hindu(s):
o Namaste elevates one's consciousness, reminding one that all
beings, all existence is holy, is the Almighty. It
communicates, "I honor or worship the Divinity within you."
Also it draws the individual inward for a moment, inspires
reflection on the deeper realities, softening the interface
between people. It would be difficult or offend or feel
animosity toward any one you greet as Paramatma.
o Namaste is a gesture of friendship and kindness, also of
thanks or special recognition. Mystically it is called
"Namaskara Mudra" in the Agami(c) Pooja, and it centers one's
energy within the spine.
o I've heard it means "I salute the Almighty within you." The
true Namaste gesture is is accompanied by bowing the head and
shoulders slightly. This is a gesture that lessens our sense
of ego and self-centeredness, requiring some humility to do it
well -- whereas shaking hands can be quite an arrogant event.
o Touching the hands together puts you in touch with your
center, your soul. namaste puts you forward as a soul, not an
o The gesture has a subtle effect on the aura and nerve system.
bringing focused attention and a collection of one's forces,
so to speak. It also protects against unnecessary psychic
connections which are fostered by shaking hands. This might be
called a form of purity also -- protecting one's energies.
This form of acknowledgment is so lovely, so graceful. Just
look at two people in Namaste and you will see so much human
beauty and refinement.
Copyright 1993 by Himalayan Academy. ISSN: 0896-0801. All Rights
Reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced, stored in a
retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means,
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise,
without the prior written permission of the publisher.
End of Forwarded Article.
Edited, formatted for electronic media by Jai Maharaj <[email protected]>