It’s a greeting used very commonly by Indians and, for those of you who have ever been to a yoga class, its most likely something you are familiar with.
At the end of a yoga class, before you walk out the door, the teacher will usually lift their hands together, clasp them and slightly lower their head and say “Namaste.”
This simple gesture where the forehead meets the tips of your fingers in your gently clasped hands is one of the most beautiful salutations that can be made to a person.
“Namaste,” the class will respond before rolling up their mats and going on their way – to run back into their cars, grab the kids from daycare, make that run to Starbucks.
What is lost in that exchange is the absolute beauty of the word.
Translated from ancient Sanskrit, the word roughly translates to:
“In you I see the divine.”
What a powerful thing to say. What a powerful word to bestow upon someone. And how often is it lost without any understanding of it’s true beauty?
A few years ago, I was at work when an instant message popped up on my screen from an old friend. He had never been a fan of Indian food, mainly because of lack of exposure to it and apparently had to share his recent findings.
Him: Guess where I am?
Me: no freaking clue
Him: I’m on a project in Bangalore! And you were right! I am loving the food.
Me: What, is it better than that crap you call food that you get in Ireland?
(again, ignorance can run both ways. I am sure Irish food is just lovely. I am positively sure. Like 87% sure.)
Him: Ha ha. No seriously. Sambar and dosa for breakfast. So good.
My mouth started salivating as I looked at the stale bagel on my desk. Rumble. Ughh. I needed to turn the subject away from food.
Me: Have you learned any Hindi?
Him: Not really. Everyone I work with speaks English.
Me: Ok – well you should know this one. Namaste.
Him: What is that?
Me: It’s a greeting. It means in you I see the divine.
Silence. I could see . . . typing in the background.
Him: Well, I never knew you felt that way about me. This is awkward.
Me: No. It’s just a greeting. You should learn it. Appreciate and say it while you are there.
Him: Yeah, anyway – I uh . . gotta go.
He probably made a hasty retreat back to some good food while I was stuck with my nasty old sesame bagel.
“Namaste to me,” I thought as I threw the stale bagel in the trash.
But isn’t it true?
Can you imagine if we each looked at each other and acknowledged that within each of us – there is something divine, something special, something that matters and means more than all the bazillions of cells that comprise our bodies.
That every child’s smile.
Every stranger’s tears.
Every hope that lingers in the hearts of people you will never know across the world.
Every dream that grows in a young person’s hearts about their destiny.
That all of it, in some way, is divine?
I know. I know. You are now thinking about that jerk that ran the four way stop sign in his mini van practically running you off the road this morning.
Or you are thinking about the horrific act of violence that swept the Ohio high school last week killing several teenagers. Children.
Or you are thinking about two towers falling and collapsing with the hearts and dreams of everyone within.
Or maybe you are just thinking that in a world where you have to say WTF? about the unspeakable actions of so many – how can there be a glimmer of anything divine in some of the souls on this planet.
How do you reconcile that?
I just think, in the most simplistic way possible, that if we spent more time embracing the divinity within each of us and realizing that we are all part of this crazy messed up world together, maybe – just maybe – we would all believe in ourselves a littler more.
And in embracing ourselves – we would all be just a little more tolerant. A little more empathetic. A little more respectful.
And a lot more loving.
I think about Martin Luther King, one of my my most cherished heroes and I think about the belief system he espoused based on the ones that Henry David Thoreau and Mahatma Gandhi had all embraced in their teachings.
Divinity and truth and humility and love. They are not always things that come easy. They are often hidden by personal scars, by propogandized teachings, by intolerance.
Divinity is not just the belief in God. If that were the case Christian zealots who espouse intolerance towards their fellow man and Islamic fundamentalists who can bomb a marketplace full of glorious life in the name of Allah would be the spokespeople for divinity.
But that is not divine. That is mind numbing intolerance, a lifetime of programming the very divinity that exists within a person out.
I say “Namaste” to you. To that special place inside of you where your spirit can cut past the bullshit, where it sees the beauty in everything and is not marred by years of conditioning and programmed prejudices. Cut past the bullshit and be glorious.
Because you ARE divine.