In my Living @5 Course, as part of my Tri-Being lesson, I use this wonderful quote by C.S. Lewis: “It is in light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit. [C.S. Lewis—The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses]
As a young man, serving in Panama in the Army, I first encounter the presence of a Higher Power. This amazing experience is described in Chapter Two of my book, Perfect Brightness of Hope. Based on this and many other Holy Episodes in my life, this blog is dedicated to the Eastern greeting and word, “Namaste.” Currently, I begin each class of Living @5 with a simple bow and an audibile “Namaste.” It is amazing how swiftly a sweet spirit enters the “jail classroom.” In researching the meaning of Namaste, I put together a description of this sacred greeting and included it in my @5 course manual for availability to each student. My purpose in this writing is to provide this description that in doing, I might elevate, even if ever so slightly, the Peace and Love on this planet. Just think of the effect if everyone, everywhere, and everytime, greeted each other with this simple gesture.🙏
Namaste: As a test of how these two greetings differ, the handshake and a simple bow repeating the word, “Namaste,” imagine you are magically confronted with The Divine. The Almighty walks up to you on the street. What do you do? Reach out to shake His hand? Probably not. Though suitable between man and man, it is an unseemly expression between a man and a God. We never shake hands with God. I mean, what if your palms are sweating? So you “namaste” instead. The reason it feels natural to namaste before God is that it is, in its very essence, a spiritual gesture, not a worldly one. By a handshake we acknowledge our equality with others. We reveal our humanity. We convey how strong we are, how nervous, how aggressive or passive. There is bold physicality to it. For these and other reasons, Popes never shake hands. Kings never shake hands. Even mothers don’t shake hands with their own children.
Namaste is cosmically different. We all namaste before the Almighty, a holy man or a holy place. The namaste gesture speaks our inner valuing of the sacredness of all. It tokens our belief that all souls are divine in their essence. It is saying, silently, “I see the Deity in us both, and bow before Him or Her. I acknowledge the holiness of even this mundane moment. I cannot separate that which is spiritual in us from that which is human and ordinary.”
Think how efficient of a gesture Namaste is in an age of mass communication. A politician, or performer can greet fifty thousand people with a single Namaste, and the fifty thousand people can return the honor instantly. In such a situation a handshake is unthinkable and a mere waving of one’s hand is somehow frivolous.
Namaste elevates one’s consciousness, reminding one that all beings, all existence is holy, is the Almighty. It communicates, “I honor or worship the Divinity within you.” It draws the individual inward for a moment, inspires reflection on the deeper realities, softening the interface between people. It would be difficult to offend or feel animosity toward any one you greet with Namaste🙏