Namaste: Etymology and Meanings

Namaste (pronounced Naa-ma-stay) is a greeting in the Hindi language from India. The ‘namaste’ greeting has become popular in recent years, especially among the New Age thinkers in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. In the West, the namaste greeting is often associated with the spirituality of India – and it can mean anything from a simple greeting to a spiritual recognition of the divine nature of another person. In India, the namaste greet is usually is typically accompanied by a gesture – placing one’s palms together and bowing slightly to whomever is being greeted or welcomed.

Psychic Nefertari You might think ‘Namaste’ is a simple greeting like ‘Hello’, but it is much more than that. The word ‘namaste’ comes from ancient Sanskrit (from which much of the Hindi language is derived). And, when it comes to Sanskrit, nothing is simple because Sanskrit is not just about naming ‘things’, it is a language founded on spirituality as well as the material naming and categorizing of ‘things’.

When you break down the word ‘Namaste’ you find many levels beyond ‘hello’ or greetings. The first part of namaste is ‘nama’ (pronounced namaha) which can be loosely translated as ‘salutations’ and ‘homage’. ‘Nama’ can be further broken down to ‘na’, which is loosely ‘not’ and ‘ma’ meaning ‘me’ or ‘myself’. So, translated ‘nama’ comes out as ‘no ego’ or ‘in submission’. The Sanskrit word ‘te’ is basically ‘you’ … not just the physical you, but also the mind, life and spirit of you. A literal translation of ‘namaste’ is something like ‘greetings with respect to all of who you are from my humble self’ or ‘greetings to all of who you are without ego on my part’. A Namaste greeting has a great deal to do with humility. It is acknowledging that no person is set above another. You might think the translation stopped there. However, as mentioned, with ancient Sanskrit few words or combination of words is simple. Sanskrit is all about depth of meaning, layers of meaning, so the language expresses the complexities of life itself.

The Namaste greeting is usually always accompanied with the gesture of bringing both palms of the hands together in front of the heart and a subtle bowing the head. This gesture is called the ‘mudra’ or the ‘mudra of namaste’. The gesture symbolizes bringing two together as one in heart (or bringing two hearts together in harmony – heart to heart). Since life is considered scared in Hinduism, the Namaste greeting has been interpreted as acknowledging the divine spark of life in ‘me’ is the same in ‘you’. Hence the reason some interpret Namaste as, ‘The divine Life and Spirit within me greets the same divine Life and Spirit that is you.’

For the more spiritually and mystically minded, there are is deep symbolism and meaning in the Namaste greeting. For example, the bringing of the two hands together symbolizes bringing together the opposites to form oneness. The five fingers of the left hand represent the five sense and the five fingers of the right hand represent the five avenues of knowledge.

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When pressed together the meaning is that when the five senses are in harmony with the avenues of knowledge and wisdom, right karma can be pursued.

Some people feel the very sounding of the word ‘Namaste’ is a kind a mantra. A mantra is a chant, set of words or sounds that can assist one with meditation or harmonizing with the universe. ‘Mantra’ is also a Hindi word from ancient Sanskrit and once referred to Vedic hymns. The Vedics are ‘The Vedas’, the oldest spiritual scriptures known to man and written, of course, in ancient Sanskrit.

You may think the Namaste greeting is a bit unusual. But, if you understand this unique greeting for what it is, you should be flattered and honored. It is someone’s way of greeting you with humility and acknowledging how valuable you are because the universe went to great effort created you – all of you.


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