Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Why do we do Namaste or Namaskar?

Yesterday one of my critics put a query about my views on Namaste and Namaskar

Vedic knowledge has two components: Shruti and Smriti. While Shruti is original knowledge, Smriti is interpretation. The Upanishads are the interpretations of the Vedic texts by people.

When I write on Vedic text, it is my interpretation based on my understanding of the literature. 
I have written KK Aggarwal ki Ramayana or KK Aggarwal ki Hanuman Chalisa. These are not intended to offend anyone but are my interpretations, which people may or may not agree with.   

Understanding spirituality is not everyone’s cup of tea. It has taken me 30 years of reading to understand what consciousness means in the Vedic sense. The Bhagavad Gita says that only……… in many thousands will hear, listen, know and practice it.

Understanding spirituality cannot be done simply by translating the written Sanskrit phrase as there is much more to it. If spirituality could be interpreted only by translating from Sanskrit into literal terms, then none of the Upanishads would have come into existence. I write on all religions including Christianity, Islam, Sikhism and Jainism apart from Hinduism.  

Just to recapitulate, why do Indians greet each other with Namaste?

The two palms are placed together in front of the chest and the head is bowed whilst speaking aloud the word Namaste. So the steps involve two hands, folded and placed in front of chest, head bowed. 

But, there is much more to it than meets the eye. 
a.   Literal meaning: In Sanskrit, namah + te = Namaste. It means – I bow to you – my greetings, salutations or prostration to you. Here ‘you’ is not the body but the consciousness.  You have the same consciousness as that of mine. In Vedic terminology, ‘I” represents ego, ‘HE’ represents consciousness, ‘You” represents that it’s the same consciousness in you and me. 
b.  Mythological meaning: Namaha is also interpreted as "na ma" (not mine). It has a spiritual significance of negating or reducing one’s ego in the presence of another. This interpretation has nothing to do with the Sanskrit translation.
c.     Spiritual meaning: The real meeting between people is the meeting of their minds. When we greet another, we do so with Namaste, which means, "may our minds meet," indicated by the folded palms placed before the chest. 
d.     Namaste also has to be read with the word Namaskar: NAMASKAR (NAMAH + OM + KAR). Namah means we bow to you, OM signifies consciousness and KAR means shape or form. OMKAR therefore signifies manifestation of OM, the UNIVERSE or the cosmos.  In Namaskar there is no mention of “te” as in Namaste.  Namaskar signifies I bow to the consciousness present in you, which has the same interpretation as the mythological meaning of the word Namaste.

With Namaste we also bow down and often close our eyes.  The bowing down of the head is a gracious form of extending friendship in love and humility. 

The spiritual meaning is even deeper. The life force, the divinity, the Self or the consciousness in me is the same in all. Recognizing this oneness with the meeting of the palms, we salute with head bowed, the Divinity or the consciousness in the person we meet.

That is why sometimes, we close our eyes as we do Namaste to a revered person or the Lord – as if to look within. The gesture is often accompanied by words like "Ram Ram", "Jai Shri Krishna", "Namo Narayana", "Jai Siya Ram", "Om Shanti" etc. indicating the recognition of this divinity.

When we know this significance, our greeting does not remain just a superficial gesture or word but paves the way for a deeper communion with another in an atmosphere of love and respect.

When you bow to say Namaskar and if you try to get angry at this time, you cannot. The body posture does not allow you to do so. For an angry posture you must have expansion of the chest wall and not the flexion of the chest wall.

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