by Philip Goldberg

Below are a few excerpts from this article, which you can read in its entirety here.

…Thanks to the popularity of yoga, the presence of gurus and swamis, increased travel to India, and the assimilation of citizens of Indian descent, Americans have learned that the hands-at-chest greeting is traditionally accompanied by the word namaste. 

…It is an everyday acknowledgment that we all share the same divine essence at the core of our being, a key Vedantic principle distilled in the mahavakyas (great utterances) of the Upanishads. In short, my essential nature is infinite, eternal Spirit, and so is yours, and so is everyone else’s.

…Namaste tells us in three syllables that we are more than just connected to one another in a sacred web of interlocking existence—we are one another. At the core of our being, we are One. What message could be more important in this era of dangerous tribal animosity than one that reveals the divine unity that undergirds and pervades our endless diversity?

Sure, the gesture can be routine, and the profound implication of Oneness—that we should treat others as ourselves—is easily forgotten or ignored. But if we remember the meaning of namaste when we say it— and especially if we add the customary bow with hands held prayerfully at the chest—we are likely to feel an extra measure of empathy, compassion, and reverence, and subsequently act with kindness and generosity.

“Simply intone namaste mentally while looking at another person, who needn’t have any inkling of what you’re doing. First, sense the divinity within yourself. Then feel or imagine that same sacred Essence within the other person. And allow the two divine sparks to connect energetically and become One.”PG

When we feel a sense of kinship with other human beings, the expression of care, sympathy, and loving-kindness is natural and effortless. As our circle of kinship spreads beyond our families and close associates, we get closer to the saints who know in their bones that we are, at the deepest level, separate from nothing and no one. No single word captures the spirit of that realization as well as namaste.