Students sometimes ask me why we say “Namaste” as a closing to our yoga practice. I usually explain that in India, where yoga originated, Namaste is a traditional salutation or greeting. Used in this way, Namaste is much like the word “Aloha”, in Hawaii, which is often used as a salutation of hello or goodbye. However, just as Aloha also has a higher meaning – love, compassion, peace – so does Namaste.
I’ve read many translations of Namaste’s higher meaning but the one that really resonates with me is this: “The Divine within me acknowledges and bows to the Divine within you.” This translation is a perfect reminder that we should look beyond the veils that obscure our True Vision; our ability to see that we all emanate from the same divine place. This is called developing Right View.
Wrong view causes us to categorize people, seeing this person as “good” and that person as “bad” and yet another we hold indifference towards. When we think like this we really haven’t investigated the true meaning of Namaste. We seem to place people in these categorical boxes not to gain a true understanding of the world around us but to make us feel safer. Categorizing people increases our conventional knowledge but it does nothing to increase our right understanding and wisdom. We sometimes take comfort in knowing that “this person is a person I like” and “that person is a person I don’t care for too much”. We cling to our wrong views because they make things seem stable and permanent; they give a sense that we’ve figured it all out and that we know what’s what. The problem is that things are not stable and permanent. Just like everything else, the people around us are constantly changing, constantly evolving.
In each us of is the capacity to do both good and evil. But neither of these states is a permanent characteristic of any of us. No one possesses intrinsically good or intrinsically bad qualities. If you don’t believe me, sit in meditation and watch your mind closely. Sometimes we do think good thoughts. Sometimes we think bad thoughts. Other times we think neutral thoughts. These states of good, bad and neutral are simply part of being human. We all experience these transient traits. But problems arise when we forget that these traits are indeed transient. Problems arise when we see a person get angry and we then hold in our minds that “that’s an angry person”. We think we know who he or she is and we place that person in the box marked “Angry and Undesirable People”. All we see is “angry person” and we fail to acknowledge that we too become angry sometimes. We fail to see with Right View that just as anger within us is impermanent, so too is it impermanent in the other person.
When we learn to see beyond the conventional characteristics of other people and are willing to see the “divine within”, we bring ourselves into spiritual alignment with all those around us. We’re able to see, with clear vision, ourselves in others and others in ourselves. We’re able to empty all the categorical boxes in the mind and then the boxes themselves begin to disappear. We’re truly able to acknowledge and bow to the Divine within ourselves and others.
~ Namaste ~ Craig