Namaste or Namaskar
- the world and the gesture to greet someone is well known to the world - where both hands are joined together with palms touching and hands near the chest of the person.
It is common to see the foreigners visiting India to do so and say Namaste to Indians. Quite a few western movies too show the person folding his / her hands to the other person when the situation demands a polite representation of the point or making a request.
Perhaps not many of us, including the Indians are familiar with the full concept of Namaskar.
It is the code of traditional etiquette in India (or rather Bharat Varsha) to do Namaskar or Namaste or Namaskaram while greeting the other person. The same is the way while praying to God / worshipping the Deities. This method of greeting or wishing someone is the traditional Hindu way, but not restricted to Hindus alone in the Indian Society.
The meaning of the word
The root word is 'Namaha’ which means 'I salute’ or 'I pay obeisance'. Namaskar or Namashkar or Namaste are derivatives of this word.
In Namastey - Namah and Te are derived from Sanskrit language.
Namah's equivalent words in English are 'bow', 'adoration', 'reverence'. Te means 'to you'
So the combined word Namaste means 'I bow to you in reverence'
Like the word 'Hello' and its expression, each society and culture has its own equivalent. The Hindus say Namaste but its actual meaning and the respect conveyed is much deeper than the almost mechanical 'Hi' or a bland 'Hey'.
The advantage of Namaskar
By the act of doing Namaskar to an elder or a spiritually acclaimed person (such as a Saint or Guru) or to the Deity, one is paying obeisance through an act of salutation.
That way the person doing the Namaskar makes himself (or herself) the recipient of sattvic components through subtle frequencies (of bliss and higher level of spirituality) emitted by them.
This leads to increase of positivity in us through Sattvic Gunas such as better humility, reduction / mitigation of ego and an attitude of gratitude.
Our physical and subtle bodies absorb the good virtues and their importance is impressed upon our thinking. Slowly but steadily, we start changing & becoming a better person. This makes our character stronger as we start following the path of good and truth.
Why Namaskar is preferred over handshake
In case the person is negative (due to depression, guilt, hate, anxiety, jealousy) the touch through handshake can transfer these undesirable emotions - which are categorized under Rajas and Tama Gunas.
The spiritual depth of the concept of Namaskar:
The reason why we do Namaskar has a deep spiritual significance also. It recognizes the belief that the life force, the divinity, the Self or the God in me is the same in all. Acknowledging this oneness with the meeting of the palms, we honor the God in the person we meet.
There is reverence conveyed by one person to the other by doing Namaskar. The literal meaning implied is 'I recognize the God in you and I bow to you'. Another equivalent of this expression could be 'prostration and solutions'.
Our ancient culture and religion emphasizes that God is omnipresent. God is not away from us residing somewhere high in the sky or in the heaven. Thus the concept of Namaskar teaches us to remember that God is everywhere and in everything. It is believed that there is atman (soul) in all and atman is a part of the Supreme. Therefore, we all are one. Hence, the divine message is to love everyone because no one is different from the other.
Namaste in Prayers:
When worshipping or praying, Hindus not only fold their hands but also bow and close their eyes, to connect with higher powers. This physical and mental gesture combined is sometimes accompanied by chanting the name of God or reciting a "Stotra", "Chalisa" or a "Mantra".
Can Namaskar be casual too?
Namaste could be just a casual as well as a formal greeting to an elder person or wishing a person of same age or an act of worship. However, there is much more to it than meets the eye. The real meeting between people is the meeting of their minds. When we greet one another with Namaste, it means, 'may our minds meet', indicated by the folded palms placed before the chest. The bowing down of the head is a gracious form of extending friendship in love, respect and humility.
Forms of Namaste
a. Namaskar to a person of the same age group
Join the hands together and take the thumbs at the centre of the chest. This form or mudra makes the fingers the antenna for receiving Sattvic frequencies of the universe. The closeness to the chest is to activate the anhat chakra. This increases the humility in the person, at the same time creating a circle of bliss around the person.
b. Namaskar to an elder
Same as (a), but the hands are raised together and in front of the forehead (the site of third eye) and the head is slightly lowered to convey deep respect.
c. Namaskar while praying
Join the fingers and thumbs of both the hands but the fingers should be loose (and not rigid or straight). The thumbs should not join the fingers. The inner portion of the palms should have some space between then. The eyes are closed, head is bowed and the hands could go completely above the hand. This is the highest form of reverence.
Another Signification of Namaste
Bringing the hands together is a highly symbolic gesture. According to tradition, the right hand represents the higher self or the divine within, while the left hand represents the lower, worldly self. By pressing the palms together, the person doing Namaskar unites these two aspects and at the same time tries to connect with the individual before him or her. Universally bowing expresses love and respect.
Clearly Namaste is not just a social habit or a cultural aspect. There is a deep science behind it. If one is doing sadhana, every time one joins palms together, there is a crackle of energy - a boom is experienced. With regard to interaction with others, there is a symbolic giving, or making and offering to the other person. In this process one will cooperate with other.
With a better understanding of the word and the concept of Namaskar, it is hoped that this beautiful way of greeting and wishing wil bring in more love, respect and humility in our society.
Namaskar and Namaste to you dear reader!