Namaste is made up of two root words: Nama and Asti. “Nama” means salutation or greetings and “asti” means our very essence. It also means the bones and our body’s skeletal structure, since it forms the very basis, the very essence of our bodies.
So, then what does the word Namaste really mean and why do we greet another person with this particular word of greeting (instead of Pranaam- which is another word for greeting or salutation). Also, typically when we greet Namaste, we join our hands and bow our heads slightly in front of the other person. Are these mere traditions or is there some concrete meaning behind all this??
Vedic Culture being the scientific culture that it has been, there is reason and meaning behind each word and action. Then of course over time many of those actions became traditions and then over the very long history which has had cultural influences and onslaughts from moguls and the British, some of these traditions have either been superstitiously distorted or people have forgotten their real meaning and so many a times they seem like empty repetitions of dogmatic actions.
But it is good that India is now experiencing its own cultural renaissance and is working towards renewing and reviving its true and authentic culture and incorporating it with innovative technology and modernization.
So anyways, coming back to Namaste. When we greet someone with the word namaste then we are acknowledging the divinity within them. It could be anyone- a friend, a foe, a stranger- but the very fact that they are alive; they have that divine essence within them- the Brahman or Paramatma which is the supreme consciousness. So, basically by greeting them Namaste we are acknowledging and paying respect to that divine essence within them.
Then the next question comes up, why do we join hands in greeting and bend our head (bow slightly) when we say namaste?
Each of the fingers in our palms signify a certain element. Our bodies and for that matter everything in creation is made up of these five elements or tattvas as it is called in Sanskrit. I will do another video to explain that in detail- but coming back to why we join hands in greeting is that we bring all these five elements within us together.
These five elements are Fire, Air, Water, Earth and Ether called Agni, Vayu, Varun, Prithvi and Akash respectively. So, by joining our fingers we symbolically bring together all our own core building blocks- and why we do that? The key is held in the fact we bow our head slightly in front of the other person.
As we all know energy flows from high to low. Also, it is innate within us that when someone approaches us with humility it tends to instigate our own kindness and humility and we tend to be “kinder or nicer” than we would have been otherwise. So, when we bow to the other person, we are opening ourselves to receiving all the energy goodness from this other person and at the same time, if they do not feel those nicer emotions towards us, we are somewhere silently initiating their innate behaviors by approaching them with love, our own essence and humility.
So next time you say Namaste to someone don’t simply say it as another new age greeting word, but say it with this understanding that you are not only greeting the divinity within them, but you are approaching them with your own core essence and that you are bringing your own building blocks together and are approaching that individual or group of people with love and humility so that your interaction can be the highest that could possibly be in that scenario.
Doing this is powerful. If you consciously observe your interactions, you will notice that the ones where you initiated the discussions with Namaste went very differently, very positively than when you simply greeted them and proceeded with your conversation.
It is true that in professional or business situations it is not possible to steer away from the norm of Hand-Shake. But then joining hands in fact allows for an even better flow of energy between individuals, so it makes it even more important, that you approach with your highest, most conscious and best intent.
So, next time you shake hands with someone or even greet them verbally, do it while mentally greeting them Namaste- acknowledging the divinity within them- approaching them by brining your highest self and bending your head slightly in greeting, so as to be open to the energy flow between you.