You place your palms together in front of you with your fingers pointing up, and with a light bow, utter the word “Namaste” to someone you meet. They return the greeting and, even if you are not sure what it means, you feel just a tiny bit more peaceful. Originating from the Indian subcontinent, it spread throughout North America by chartreuse micro-bus in the 60’s, and has since settled in for the long haul in community center Yoga classes. Though it seems like just another nice, if slightly exotic, way to say hello and good bye, it is much more.
It started out as a more formal, Namaskaram, which means Bow (Namah) and Form (Kar), honoring the shape the other person presents. Implied, though, is recognition that our shapes in this existence are just surface forms on an underlying reality (Maya), and that underneath that surface we are all part of the One ultimate essence (Brahman).
The more common term, Namaste, means Bow (Namah) To You (Te), honoring the essence of you rather than your manifest form. It has been defined in Yoga class as “The Divine within me Honors the Divine within You”, which is a very nice thing to say. Here in the south, we might define it as, “Tell your Soul my Soul says Hey”. Imagine a world where we were all that casually and easily in touch with our own divinity, where we see ourselves and all around us as part of a larger whole. I am guessing the evening news would be downright boring. If only.