There is a very common greeting used throughout Southern Asia that, translated literally, means “to bow in reverential salutation, let it be, to them,” where “them” is God (it’s a custom in Sanskrit to address God in plural reverentially). The word is one of the few Sanskrit words non-Hindu speaking people around the world easily recognize: Namasté.
Namasté is usually accompanied by placing the palms of the hands together with the fingers pointing up and held close to the chest bowing to the person being addressed. The person being addressed, however, is obviously not a God; or are they?
The concept of namasté, pronounced nah-mah-STAY, is to greet and honor not just the Divine essence (however that is perceived), but the Divine essence residing within the person addressed. Thus, many non-literal translations have been given that attempt to encompass all the multi-religious and non-religious meanings of the word, such as:
- “I honor the Spirit in you which is also in me.” — attributed to author Kabir Chopra
- “I honor the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells, I honor the place in you which is of Love, of Integrity, of Wisdom and of Peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are One.”
- “I salute the God within you.”
- “Your spirit and my spirit are One.” — attributed to Lilias Folan’s shared teachings from her journeys to India.
- “That which is of God in me greets that which is of God in you.”
- “The Divinity within me perceives and adores the Divinity within you.”
- “All that is best and highest in me greets/salutes all that is best and highest in you.”
- “I greet the God within.”
- “I honor the Light in you.”
The latest translation is part of a new movement, The Namasté Project, which challenges us all to find the divine light in the people we interact with in our everyday lives.
They admit right up front that it won’t be easy. There are more people in the world waiting to irritate and aggravate us than there are waiting to please and delight us.
The wonderful thing is, all those irritating, aggravating SOBs have a piece of the Light, of the Divine, within them that mirrors your own piece, and if you can find that Light, recognize and honor that piece of the Divine, your experience and perception, your interactions and how you live your life will change in ways that will seem miraculous.
I call this enlightened ability empathy, they call it namasté. Call it what you will, it’s better than a good thing, Martha; it’s the right thing.