Namasté, More Than Just A Word

OMNamasté is often assumed to mean I bow to the god(dess) in you.  This is not absolutely correct.  Namas means salutation or homage and comes from nam(ati) which means to bow or bend.  Te is a masculine plural third person pronoun, in other words it means they.  Literally namasté means I bow/bend/salute/give homage/respectful deference to them.  Yes, I bow to the god(dess) in you would be an acceptable translation of the intent of this word but so also would I respect you or I honor our mutual humanity.

One thing I have noticed is that in the Yoga community, namasté is usually first uttered by the instructor and then repeated by the student.  Why do I find this significant?  In Western society, it is common place for the commoners to throng around the noble in hopes of being noticed or recognized by this grand figure in some way.  A good stereotypical image of this is the rock star mobbed by swooning teenaged girls.  By the instructor first bowing and saying namasté, the instructor acknowledges that he is merely another commoner or, more correctly, avers that his students are just as noble as he.  Taken this way, this act of bowing and uttering namasté is a grand expression of humility.

So, what do I take this gesture to mean?  That depends upon the situation:  As an instructor, I acknowledge my fellow Children of God, my brothers and sisters.  I am also reminding myself that it has been my privilege to teach these students and that I must earn that privilege every time I teach.  Finally, I am reminding my students that they are each worth knowing, full of great potentials and that I care about each of them.  As a student, I feel I am expressing my gratitude that toward my instructor for the time spent teaching me and for what I have learned about myself during that class/session.  What if the instructor and I did not click or I found the class to be a waste of time?  I am still grateful for the instructor’s time and for having learned, at the very least, something I should not do as an instructor.

With that in mind, it is with heartfelt gratitude that I say, Namasté.