There’s a wonderful gesture that pervades the culture of hospitality in India: people put both palms of their hands before their heart and slightly bow their head as they say to us ‘Namaste’.
In its simplest understanding it’s accepted as a humble greeting straight from the heart and should be reciprocated accordingly – ‘Namaste’. It means “I offer my respect to you”. The gesture itself is called a “mudra”, a form of non-verbal communication and is considered to be powerful and prayerful in itself.
On a deeper level of meaning namaste also has emotional and spiritual significance. A good basis of all our social interaction is respect. Namaste physically shows respect and confirms it by word. Beyond that, by playing with the syllables in the word namaste we find that it also means “not me but you”: symbolically giving up our pride in front of another. And the most profound meaning being, “the Divine within me offers respect to the Divine within you”. A recognition that we are all spiritual in nature.
So this simple and ubiquitous greeting has a prayerful meaning on many levels of understanding: a simple social interaction, an affectionate well-wishing and recognition that everyone is touched by God.
As a prayer, it honours the sacredness of each of us and recognises our equality. By sharing this prayer with you today I offer you respect, I recognise that I am not more than you, and I praise God within you. In saying this prayer you’ll miss the mudra of me joining my palms together, but at least I can say,
Namaste. Hare Krishna.