The first time I heard the term “namaste” I repeated it back to the person addressing me because I had seen the other students in my yoga class do the same. I exchanged smiles and nodded my head with my hands brought together as if in prayer. It looked cool. It felt cool. And in my sweaty, yet thoroughly relaxed state of yoga bliss, I felt like it made me look as if I was in on something. I wasn’t really. I didn’t have a clue.
Now I’m sure there are some of you who will scoff at yoga in general, and if the fact that I brought it up has already turned you off to the point I’m trying to make then I’m sorry. There is a point to be made here and it isn’t all earthy or new-agey. It’s just a simple point that I think most of us can appreciate. It’s a concept known as respect.
I looked up the meaning of Namaste (I’ve decided to capitalize it from now on because I want to, please bear with me) on Wikipedia:
A “reverential salutation”, nice. I don’t know you but I’ll bow to you and revere your presence, very nice. Makes us feel almost like friends.
I will show you “adoration”, ok that’s pushing it. Why would I do that? You’re not even all that cute.
Obeisance, huh? Let’s look that one up, it sounds a lot like obedience and I’m not too keen on that one. Ok, Wikipedia tells me it means submission. Submit to you? Me? No, I don’t think so. Not happening. I’m not tapping out.
So far I wasn’t enjoying the definition much, but as I read on I realized that this was simply the literal definition of the Sanskrit terms. It was not the meaning of the word. In more modern times, the root meaning of the Sanskrit terms have come to give the word Namaste the meaning of “the spirit in me respects the spirit in you.” It can also be interpreted as “the divinity in me bows to the divinity in you.” That I like.
Now buckle-up kids, here is where the ride gets bumpy. I began to wonder how I could apply this to my everyday life. To apply the concept of Namaste to our lives we have to believe two things. We have to believe in God and we have to believe that the divine dwells within us since we are all creations of said God. Considering that the majority of people in this world believe in a divine being of higher power, we should be pretty well covered there. The beauty of this is that it doesn’t matter which God(s) you choose as yours, so long as you have one (some) you’re all set! Relax athiests, don’t get your nose out of joint, I wouldn’t dream of leaving you out. You just need to find another thing all humans have in common – perhaps the need to feel loved will suffice.
To look at another human being, bring your hands together as if in prayer and bow saying “Namaste” means “the divinity in me bows to the divinity in you”. Saying to yourself “I first aknowledge the equalness we share because God dwells within us both the same” is an interesting idea. Now, apply that (in your mind of course, no need to look ridiculous) to everyone you see. Remember kids, this includes the slow-poke driving in the fastlane, the next door neighbor whose teenager just took up the drums and the UPS guy who smashed your package clearly marked fragile. It’s not easy.
Namaste is respect, earned or not, for everyone around you simply because you share a creator. It is facing one another on equal footing regardless of color, creed, sex, financial status, marital status, age, belief system, or sexual orientation, it really doesn’t matter. You look upon them first with respect because the divine within them is the same as the divine within yourself.
Take a minute and think about that. Mull it over a bit. Bear in mind that the majority of the people you encounter will not be doing you the same service, however, your attitude and demeanor will change. It’s harder to flip someone the bird on the freeway when you’re looking at them through the eyes of Namaste. It’s not a faith system, it’s not a New Age religion, it’s not even the Golden Rule, it’s just an ancient greeting/farewell in a language called Sanskrit. It’s just a different way of viewing people around you. I like myself more when I remember to think of Namaste. I treat people better and I smile easier. I’d even venture to say that for short periods of time I may even be a better person. At least I try to be, which should count for something, but Karma is an entirely different post.