Namaste: what is the meaning of this Indian greeting?

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What does the Indian greeting mean?

When we hear the Indian greeting “Namaste”, many of us think of a yogi, or at least a person who folds his hands in front of his heart and bows respectfully. But what exactly does Namaste mean and what is the Indian greeting all about? In the following article, we will explain.

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What is the meaning of Namaste?

The word “Namaste” comes from Indian Sanskrit, one of the oldest languages still in use today. In Sanskrit it means:

nama as te (Sanskrit) नमस्ते = bow I you.

The Namaste translation is “I bow to you!”

However, for people like yogis who consciously use this greeting, the figurative meaning of Namaste is much more than the mere translation.

When do you use the Namaste greeting?

The Namaste greeting is more than a “hello” among yogis. It is based on the Hindu belief and the assumption that there is a divine spark in every human being and that one’s own soul honours the soul of the other person with this greeting.

Mahatma Gandhi’s famous statement to Einstein about the Namaste greeting beautifully expresses the intention behind it:

“I honour the place within you where the entire universe resides. I honour the place of light, love, truth, peace and wisdom within you. I honour the place within you where, when you are there and I am there too, we are both one.”

– Mahatma Gandhi

In Hindu countries, such as India, this respectful greeting is part of everyday life. In Western countries, Namaste is generally used among practitioners of yoga and mediation. Thus, a yoga teacher greets and bids farewell to his students with Namaste, and they in turn show their respect to the yoga teacher by returning the greeting.

How exactly does the Namaste greeting work?

While in most cases the Namaste greeting is said aloud, it is also sufficient to simply perform the corresponding gesture. This is called the Anjali Mudra – and goes like this:

  • Place your hands in front of the chest or heart chakra with the palms facing each other. The fingertips point upwards.
  • Through this hand position you want to unite both halves of the brain.
  • Then, with eyes closed, tilt your head towards the heart.

There is another variation of the Anjali Mudra, which is used to express even more respect.

  • For this, the hands are held as described above.
  • While tilting the head, the tips of the index fingers touch the area between the eyes – the so-called third eye.

In yoga, the third eye represents the centre of energy in the body.

How do I respond to Namaste?

Since Namaste is not just a greeting or a farewell, but a kind of union or connection between the people who meet, you respond in the same way as you are greeted. This lets your counterpart know that you have noticed their reverence and treat them with the same respect.

Do only Hindus use the Namaste greeting?

Born from the ancient scholarly language of India, Namaste is used today not only by Hindus but, as mentioned earlier, by many yoga practitioners, meditators and followers of the Hindu faith around the world.

How are yoga and the Namaste greeting connected?

In Yoga practice, many words from Indian Sanskrit are used, and so both teachers and students use the Namaste greeting formula. The yogis are on the one hand concerned with appreciating the other person and on the other hand with connecting together, whereby the roles of teacher and student are suspended. According to yoga practitioners, the Namaste greeting creates a special atmosphere and creates a pleasant mood in the room.


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