How adventurous would it be if you were intergalactically taken forward to the 32nd century? I imagine you would be excited to no end! The experience would be even more enthralling if you saw a motivated public servant greeting another with a namaste!
I’m referring to none other than the season finale of Star Trek: Discovery Season 3 which concluded in January of this year. The character of Aditya Sahil, played by National Award winner Adil Hussain, welcomes commander Michael Burnhum (Sonequa Martin-Green) with folded hands as they meet for a second time in the concluding episode.
The internet has been buzzing with an avalanche of praise for Aditya Sahil who stands as an emblem of hope and positivity. The cherry on the cake is that the namaste that has warmed the hearts of so many Indians. In an interview with Positively Trek, Hussain shared how he had requested director Olatunde Osunsanmi to incorporate a namaste! The gesture represented our part of the world in the prestigious sci-fi show that celebrates diversity.
Exploring the etymology of namaste
It’s a simple step with the hands over the heart in a prayer pose with a slight bowing of the head. But embedded in this gesture is a beautiful meaning. Derived from Sanskrit, ‘namas’ means ‘bow’ or ‘salutation’ and ‘te’ means ‘to you’. So the literal meaning is ‘bowing to you’.
As per the tenets of Hinduism, there is a spiritual value ingrained in the gesture. It is believed that the divine and soul are the same in everybody, so greeting someone with a namaste means, “I bow to the divine in you”!
Appreciating the sublime philosophy
Why ‘namaste’ has become the perfect pandemic greeting, an article by Jeremy David Engels, he makes just a casual reference to how the namaste, in lieu of the handshake, has emerged as a lifesaver during COVID-19 and focuses more on the sublime aspect of this timeless Indian tradition.
A spiritual practice endorsed by Ralph Waldo Emerson is akin to the meaning rooted in namaste. The renowned American philosopher had motivated Americans to recognize the divine soul in others every time they spoke, using the metaphor of light to imagine this inner divinity. Engels cites this example to emphasize and draw the connection that the concept of recognizing divinity in others is a sacrosanct part of both Indian religion and the 19th-century traditions of American spirituality.
A very pertinent point is made when the author says that one does not have to be a Hindu, or a Buddhist, or a yoga teacher to say namaste. He says, “Namaste can be as religious or secular as the speaker desires.”
Furthering the dialogue, Akkaraju Sarma writes for India Currents and delves further into the possibility of replacing the handshake with the namaste during the pandemic and beyond. Sarma insightfully mentions that “Aside from its simplicity, the namaste posture implicates mutual fairness. There is no prominent or submissive interpretation implied. Whereas, with a handshake, a person with a firmer grip is seen as more authoritative. In contrast, a person with a less firm grasp is seen as submissive. Namaste levels this field of cognitive conflicts.”
Namaste is so much a part of our lives
Apart from greeting one another, we get to see this gesture on a regular basis in religious rituals and various Indian classical dance forms. With increasing awareness for health and fitness, yoga has become a global phenomenon with namaste being incorporated into the practice worldwide.
Why is namaste an integral part of yoga? A brilliant explanation comes from the yoga journal: “For a teacher and student, Namaste allows two individuals to come together energetically to a place of connection and timelessness, free from the bonds of ego-connection.”
As a meditation technique, an individual joins his hands to submerge deep into the heart chakra which acts as the center of compassion, empathy, love, and forgiveness.
Garnering unity and drawing on humanity
Respect for one another is what constitutes the baseline of humanity. Only when the feelings of empathy and deference for our fellow beings flow through our veins can we boast of a meaningful existence on earth. A reflection from my side. Yes, we do the namaste as a mark of courtesy or to express hospitality and gratitude but it would just be wonderful if, rather than mechanically following the gesture, all of us can practice the philosophy. That would definitely make the world a much better place to live in!
Rashmi Bora Das is settled in the suburbs of Atlanta, GA. She has written for various platforms including Women’s Web to which she regularly contributes. You may visit her at www.rashmiwrites.com