We are a one world community, and early-on ancient peoples — even before written history — came up with ways to relate to each other and the world with language. I first became aware of the salutation, “Namaste” (nah-mas-tay), in the early 1970s when I began to study and train in yoga and meditation practices, along with other eastern, Indian and South Asian philosophies. My first spiritual teachers in these philosophies were Meher Baba, Ram Das and Alan Watts where the term first came to my awareness. As I became an advanced student and yoga meditation instructor, Namaste became a more common way of respectfully greeting others, and ending yoga classes. Deepak Chopra, one of my most inspiring teachers, closes all of his 21-day meditations with Namaste.
Namaste has its roots in the ancient language of Sanskrit. Namaste: “nama” means bow, “as” means I, “te” means you. Literally, it means, “bow I you,” or “I bow to you.” Further, the spirit (or light) within me bows to the spirit (or light) within you. Essentially we are made of the same stuff it is acknowledging; we are of the one light, the one spirit and we honor each other in that oneness when we truly see that relationship in each other, beyond all constructs of ego. In this greeting we lay the ego and separation aside.
When expressing this greeting usually, classically, one brings the palms of the hands together at the center of the chest over the heart chakra center and gives a gentle bow to another and says, “Namaste.” In India it is enough to bring the hands together in a prayer pose or Anjali mudra and bowing. The word Namaste is unnecessary, as it is implied. Namaskar is another more formal version of Namaste, which has the same meaning.
The term and the philosophy from which it springs has been around for many millennia. Namaste has had a significant worldwide growth in usage over the 20th and 21st centuries with the spread and popularity of eastern philosophies, teachings and practices. Among the many forms of greeting one another, Namaste has grown most popular having spread far beyond its South Asian (India) origins. I now use it to close most of my correspondences as well as greeting and closing my visits with friends, family and even in business. It feels good to me, sharing in such a respectful way, and it is a reminder of who we really are as a part of the sacred oneness of all manifest spirit.
Similarly, in the west the Lakota Sioux occupied and thrived in the heartland of what is now the USA. From their culture came very sacred practices. many of which were centered around the sacred sweat lodge where prayers and sacred chants and devotional practices evolved such as potluck and gift blankets. I wish to share a sacred term and its meaning, which parallels the meaning of Namaste: Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ, which has its roots in the ancient Lakota Sioux sacred dialects and has expanded in usage to many other native and non-native cultures, though not as widespread as Namaste.
Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ means “all my relations” or “we are all related,” i.e., we share a quality of oneness that is familiar to all of creation as one light expressing as the many. When entering into sacred ritual or ceremony such as the sweat lodge or inipi, Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ is reverently uttered, acknowledging the sacredness of the process and oneness we share with all life. Similarly, Namaste has that same sacredness, though use is much more widespread and common worldwide. Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ is still mostly heard and shared in sacred ceremony to native cultures.
Purists feel that sacred words of this nature on the one hand belong to the culture they were born into and should remain for their ceremonial intentions lest they get watered down, while on the other hand they should be shared open heartedly for all to experience in the sacred way they were intended. I feel in my spiritual growth I have been moved deeply by exposure to these sacred sayings and time honored terms and the culture that gave them birth.
Namaste and Mitákuye Oyás’iŋ.