Tag Archives: #namaskar

Adil Hussain's namaste in Star Trek

Diving Into the Divine Depth of the Namaste

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 


Namaste America: Forget the Handshake

Do you remember where we were before the pandemic hit?

Inequality had reached historical records worldwide, Australia had burned for months on end, autocrats were suffocating democracy in Hungary and Venezuela, and a wave of protests had swept across six continents– from Beirut to Paris, from Hong Kong to Moscow. 

COVID-19 is spreading worldwide, confusion prevails, and some of the leaders of the advanced world seem to embrace a casual approach. We offer a simple pathway to guide that will reduce the virus spread. Coronavirus within the last seven months has brought the whole world to its knees. 

Examine the situation in India: Migrant laborers/working populations are stranded with no job prospects. No way to get back to their home villages, many hundreds of miles away. And no access to medical care. This pandemic, affecting the developed and developing nations, has had the same level of impact. 

Preventive steps are now universally encouraged for COVID19, namely “stay at home” and a virtual lockdown of economies, thus separating the infected from the non-infected. Its compliance had been erratic in the US.

It is time to reframe our approaches to daily living activities, more specifically, how we greet each other. A universal, symbolic one is the handshake. We need to reduce the communicability of infections. 

How can we reduce the spread of infection from one human to another? 

Begin to use Namaste universally. With the ever-present paranoia of touching strangers, the gesture Namaste (verbal and symbolic) can be more than just a phrase we hear after yoga.

When someone uses the namaste gesture, it reflects the intended expression of mutual respect for another person’s personality. It means that everyone extended the utmost reverence. Namaste implies that “the divinity within me respects and honors the divinity within you.” You can reflect this profound thought with one physical gesture.

However, the Namaste gesture itself unrestricted, beyond the Indian American culture. As an example, many cultures around the globe fold their hands when worshipping. In Japan, it can mean conceptually, “I am sorry,” “thank you,” or “please.” As a greeting, this gesture is familiar throughout most of Southeast Asia. 

Namaste dates back to the origins of the Indus valley civilization itself. The Terracotta figures and sculptures are depicting this gesture are dated back to 3000 years, even before the Christian Era. As civilizations blossomed and cultures intermingled, the namaste pose became even more widespread. 

The handshake, on the other hand, is used as a standard greeting in Western cultures. It is a way of agreeing to specific terms of the trust, a show of mutual trust. To prove neither side was carrying weapons. As significant life-saving steps evolve, fortunately, this handshaking might have seen its last days with the pandemonium of the Covid-19 viral infections. Dare we live without shaking peoples’ hands? 

Yes, as it is a preventative step in the spread of infections. 

Consider how interpreted grips are, when shaking someone’s hand:

Like gripping their hand too much? Bone Crunching? Too floppy? Are palms sweaty and clammy? Or are they too dry? Symbolically, as we say sometimes, the individual has “cold hands,” here reflecting a not helpful individual. One sometimes feels that someone extending the hand used some moisturizer (or a sanitizer) before that handshake! 

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. 

The only expected interactive way to reciprocate to a namaste is with a namaste concurrently. It is simple to remember: respect demands respect. Namaste a universal value packed into a single interactive step. 

Even more important is the social distance Namaste provides. One can greet each other across a conference table as an example. Namaste removes the ambiguity, “should I hug them?” “pat them on the shoulder?” “fist bump them?” or “shake their hand?” “peck on the cheek?” and other dilemmas that we encounter, day in and out.

We now realize that the handshakes and hugs need to take a backseat in light of the current coronavirus pandemonium. It is time that the namaste pose might become a universal form of greeting. It has gained significant traction in western civilizations. This step is a viable alternative to the potentially polluting handshakes, hugs, and fist bumps. 

In Western cultures, we only have seen Namaste used by yoga instructors.

Namaste, its meaning, and significance with its health and wellness benefits make it ready to be universally acknowledged. 

So the next time, when having a neighborly chat, start with a Namaste – no language limitations – even from across the yard with a coffee mug in hand.

Reema Kalidindi is a junior at Lower Bucks High School and a lead volunteer at Bharatiya Temple’s school for children. 

Dr. Akkaraju Sarma, M.D., F.A.A.F.P., Ph.D., has academic roots in Anthropology and Internal Medicine. He has practiced medicine in underserved areas in Philadelphia (37+ years). He leads the health & human services programs at Bharatiya Temple for a decade and help.