Namasté is both a spoken Indian expression and a symbolic gesture that people use when greeting each other or in parting. Pronounced “na-ma-stay,” the term derives from Sanskrit and literally means “I bow to you.” It’s more commonly translated as “the divine light in me honors the divine light in you” or “the God within me greets the God within you.” Namasté is the recognition that we are all equal and share a common divinity.
To perform the namasté gesture, place your palms together in a prayer position in front of your heart and slightly bow your head. You may also close your eyes if you wish. In the West, people usually speak the word namasté as they bow, but in India it’s understood that the gesture alone carries the same meaning. To indicate especially deep respect, you may put your hands together in front of your forehead (the site of the mystic third eye), gently bow your head, and bring hands down to your heart. There’s also a third form of namasté, in which the palms are raised completely above the head. This gesture shows the most reverence and is only used to venerate God and the holiest gurus.
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 performing namasté unites these two aspects and attempts to connect with the individual before him or her. Bowing also expresses love and respect.
In the United States, many yoga instructors close their classes by performing namasté as a sign of appreciation and honor for their students, inviting them to connect with their own heart and truth. Westerners who have adopted the term and gesture generally endow it with a deeply sacred intention. In modern Southeast Asia, on the other hand, some individuals use namasté more informally to greet others in everyday life. Nonetheless, many people in India and elsewhere believe that the greeting is more than a simple “hello” or “hi” and use it to recognize that everyone shares a common divinity.
We have chosen the name Namasté for our newsletter because its meaning reflects the Chopra Center’s mission to honor the sacred nature of our readers and promote the union or integration of the mind, body, and spirit.
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