The meaning of Namaste has a beautiful and powerful psycho-spiritual origin. “Namaste” is India’s most well-known export to the western civilization. Namaste is a spiritual greeting of respect when you meet any spiritual teacher, fellow student or when greeting someone you honor. One translation is that it means, “I bow down to the divinity within you”. When you honor the divine within another person at the same time you are honoring it within yourself. Namaste expresses the very essence of respect for all of the Presence of God within all of us. In truth, each of us is part of one big family.
Namaste is not a superficial gesture or a mere word, it is a way of showing respect and that you are equal to one another. It is used with all people one meets, from young and old to friends and strangers.
Though it has its origins in India, Namaste is now known and used throughout the world. Much of this has been due to its use in yoga. Students will often bow in respect to their teacher and say “Namaste” at the end of a class. In Japan, the gesture is “Gassho” and used in similar fashion, typically in prayer and healing practice.
Because of its global usage, Namaste has many interpretations. In general, the word tends to be defined as some derivation of, “The divine in me bows to the divine in you.” This spiritual connection comes from its Indian roots.
Namaste According to the Scriptures
Namaste—and its common variants namaskar, namaskaara, and namaskaram—is one of the various forms of formal traditional greeting mentioned in the Vedas. Although this is normally understood to mean prostration, it actually is the means of paying homage or showing respect to one another. This is the practice today when we greet each other.
The Meaning of Namaste
In Sanskrit, the word is namah (to bow) and te (you), meaning “I bow to you.” In, other words, “greetings, salutations, or prostration to you.” The word namaha can also be literally interpreted as “na ma” (not mine). It has a spiritual significance of negating or reducing one’s ego in the presence of another.
In Kannada, the same greeting is Namaskara and Namaskaragalu; in Tamil, Kumpiṭu; in Telugu, Dandamu, Dandaalu, Namaskaralu and Pranamamu; in Bengali, Nōmōshkar and Prōnäm; and in Assamese, Nômôskar.
Folding hands while saying Namaste
We come from the same source of life and return once we pass away from the physical body. Namaste helps to remind us of our common heritage while bringing to life the important need for respecting each other. The other important feature of reciting Namaste when you greet someone is the holding of the hands together over the heart as though in the gesture of praying.
This brings together the two positive and negative polarity energy fields in the body balancing them over the heart. The heart is the strongest source of electrical energy in the physical-etheric body. By balancing your energy there is a union of masculine and feminine polarity in the entire auric field of energy. The psycho-spiritual aspect is engaged because as you bring your hands together at your heart center, literally connecting the right and left hemispheres of the brain. This is a yogic process of unification, the yoking of our active and receptive natures.
Thus, you are connecting the heart centers and heart centers in one loop of energy. Try this on your family and spiritual friends when you see them. It creates a mood of peace, serenity and respect which is far greater than a hand shake or simple hello. In India when we meet somebody, we join hands for Namaste, sort of diffusing ourselves before the meeting. During the meeting, our mood may elevate, aggravate and when we see the same person off again we join hands to bid goodbye, sort of diffusing ourselves after the meeting.- Christopher Lee May
The Spiritual Significance of “Namaste”
The reason we use Namaste has a deeper spiritual significance as well. It recognizes the belief that the life force, the divinity, the Self, or the God in me is the same in all. Acknowledging this oneness and equality with the meeting of the palms, we honor the god in the person we meet.
During prayers, Hindus not only do Namaste, they also bow and close their eyes, in effect to look into the inner spirit. This physical gesture is sometimes accompanied by names of gods such as Ram Ram, Jai Shri Krishna, Namo Narayana, or Jai Siya Ram. It may also be used with Om Shanti, a common refrain in Hindu chants.
Namaste is also quite common when two devout Hindus meet. It indicates the recognition of the divinity within ourselves and extends a warm welcome to each other.
Difference Between “Namaskar” and “Pranama”
Pranama (Sanskrit ‘Pra’ and ‘Anama’) is a respectful salutation among Hindus. It literally means “bowing forward” in reverence for a deity or an elder.
Namaskar is one of the six types of Pranamas:
1. Ashtanga (Ashta=eight; Anga=body parts): Touching the ground with knees, belly, chest, hands, elbows, chin, nose, and temple.
2. Shastanga (Shashta=six; Anga=body parts): Touching the ground with toes, knees, hands, chin, nose, and temple.
3. Panchanga (Pancha=five; Anga=body parts): Touching the ground with knees, chest, chin, temple, and forehead.
4. Dandavat (Dand=stick): Bowing the forehead down and touching the ground.
5. Abhinandana (Congratulations to you): Bending forward with folded hands touching the chest.
6. Namaskar (Bowing to you). The same as doing a Namaste with folded hands and touching the forehead.
Sadly, the practice of Namaste has become less commonly used and is being replaced by the western greeting of just saying “hello”.
Impact of Western Society on the Indian Culture
~ Rajalakshmi Joshi
Indian Culture, which is one of the oldest & richest cultures, is now under serious threat as western culture is making its strong base in India and slowly and gradually wiping out the Indian culture. It had already made its presence in Metro’s & now slowly heading towards other parts of India. Westernization has greatly affected our traditions, customs, our family and our respect and love for others.
The concept of joint families is fading fast, and everyone wants to remain aloof. Now nobody is interested in other’s affairs and only cares for himself which is totally contradictory to our Indian culture that teaches us to be a part and parcel of the society, sharing each other’s Joys and sorrows. All our rich values and traditions are slowly dying down, Western Culture is taking its place. People are blindly following it without knowing the consequences. Westernization has given rise to single families.
Marriages are breaking & our tolerance and patience has exhausted. The most affected are our new blooms, which have yet to sprout. They find themselves stressed and isolated in this new atmosphere, since there is no one to take care of them. They no more get the care and love of their Grandparents. They find themselves in crutches to be taken care by others. It is very unfortunate that the new sprouts remain untouched and cut off from our great moral values and sanskaaras. In today’s Scenario both husband & wife are working.
There is no one at home to look after them and to cultivate the sanskaaras in them since our elders who use to give these sanskaaras to their grand children are no longer with them. In many cases it is not deliberate but in majority of cases the children prefer to remain away from their parents which is very unfortunate.
There’s no harm in taking good things from the west, but this does not mean that we should become slave to their culture, and misrepresent our identity. It is understandable that India is a growing country, so it is necessary of knowing all the cultures and their traditions. To some extent it is fine, but it is wrong to pretend and behave like Westerners and discard our own culture. We have to preserve our identity.
It is shocking to see that Indians are forgetting their culture. On the contrary westerners are looking towards Indian spirituality for solving their personal, social and national problems. They are coming to India to find peace through Yoga and Meditation. India has earned a good name in the field of Yoga and Meditation abroad. Our gurus are giving teachings to westerners how to relax & how to keep themselves fit and away from diseases.
It is very unfortunate that today’s generation has very little knowledge about their culture, traditions and roots. This is not their fault but the fault of their parents who do not enlighten them about their roots, rich cultural and heritage. Contradictory to it, Parents feel proud in giving their children western Sanskaras, and they are brought up in western atmosphere. Thus, they are kept miles away from Indian culture.
There is no harm in giving knowledge of other cultures and traditions as Indians have made their presence in every part of world, but it is necessary that they should have knowledge of their own culture, traditions and language. We should also take care that our new sprouts are well versed with Indian culture and its values. It is the responsibility of parents to cultivate our rich culture and heritage in their children.
No doubt the western culture is versatile and teaches self-dependence, but this does not mean that we should forget our culture and blindly follow the westerners. We should always feel proud that we, the Indians have such a rich cultural heritage which is very rare and should be carried forward and cultivated in the minds of our New blooms who are going to be our future.
Karnavedha Sanskar – Importance of Ear Piercing in Hinduism
In India, this is called as Karna(ear) Vedha(piercing) ((Sanskrit: कर्णवेध) and is one of the Shodasha Samskaras (16 ceremonies) performed on a human between birth and death.
Ear Piercing or Karna Vedha is an ancient ceremony performed on both male and female in many countries.
This is seen across cultures in almost all continents where human civilization inhabited.
Common between male and females, it is intended to open the inner ears of the child for receiving sacred sounds. This rite has deep mystical and symbolic significance. It is believed that merely hearing sacred sounds has merit in that it cleanses sin and nurtures the spirit.
In China, this Acupuncture and Acupressure is done at a particular point on ear and it is believed to cure or prevent asthma.
Behind the ear lobe there is a natural, small microscopic depression which contains nerve endings linked with diseases like bronchial asthma, cough and tuberculosis.
Chinese science of acupuncture states that the root cause of some diseases lies in the subtle regions of every organ in the body.
When that area is punctured, the related disease is eliminated. Study of this science was done and recorded in the Vedas much earlier and the sanskar of piercing the ear lobes was already implemented on both genders of kids.
The metal (like gold or copper) earrings are believed to help in maintaining the flow of electric current in a human body. It is also believed that ear piercing helps in maintaining the regularity in the menstrual cycle of a girl.
This part of the ear is the intuitive, Third Eye, or psychic point. It is very important that only gold, and not silver, be worn here on the ear lobe. Gold, combined with an amethyst or emerald (which are both traditionally regarded as very spiritual stones), will have an added positive effect on the function of intuition.
Ayurveda researcher and surgeon on ancient India, Susruta (6th century BC) says, “Ears of a child should be bored for protection (from diseases in his opinion) and decoration.” He explicitly prescribes the boring of ears for preventing hydrocele and hernia.
Susruta gives a very cautious procedure of the ceremony. He says that the ceremony should be performed in the sixth or seventh month, in the bright half and on an auspicious day. After the preliminaries the child should be put on the lap of the mother or the nurse. Then the child should be fondled and persuaded by means of toys. Now the surgeon should pull the ears with his left hand and bore them slowly at the natural holes which are visible in the sunlight. If the ears are tender they should be pierced with a needle, if stiff with a probe. After boring oil should be applied to the ears by means of a cotton thread or bougie.
Father of Western medicine, Hippocrates, wrote about ear piercing and earring wearing around 470 BC as a remedy and treatment for menstrual problems. Galen also wrote about the same thing. In ancient times, if there was a deficiency in energy or chi, gold earrings would be placed in a pierced acu-point for stimulation. Silver earrings were used if there was excessive energy.
Ancient people treated diseases of feminine Yin organs via earrings in the left ear and diseases of the male Yang organs via the right ear. The left side of the body is the feminine side and the right side of the body is masculine.
The belly button is the seat of eroticism and sexual passion. It arouses sexual passion. This is why most belly dancers have their belly buttons pierced.
All other modern day piercings like tongue, eyebrows, nipples, sexual organs etc are simply Fad and only to express their taste. They have nothing to do with health or spirituality.
A Vegetarian Ethical Diet for Peace and Plenty
~ R. P. Jain, director of Motilal Banarsidass
Vegetarianism affords an ethical diet for peace and plenty. It is good for health, spirituality, sound ethics, balanced ecology and favorable economics. These are among the reasons a plant-based diet beats meat eating.
In India, the land of AHIMSA (nonviolence) people have traditionally been vegetarian. Hailing from a family of staunch vegetarians, I consider myself fortunate to be living in harmony with the principles of nature. As a follower of Jainism, I strongly advocate a vegetarian diet, which I find superior not only from a moral stance, but also from the health and culinary points of view. Guests at our home, coming from both vegetarian and non-vegetarian backgrounds, are always overwhelmed with what they describe as the unbelievable taste and richness of our vegetarian cuisine.
Sadly, in recent times many Hindus, Jains and Buddhists, especially of the younger generation, are no longer so strict about our precepts and have taken to non-vegetarian food, mostly following the misconception that meat-eating is healthy. Truth must be told; a vegetarian diet is actually much healthier than one based on animal protein. It is argued that there is a lot of protein in meat and eggs, but we do not need so much concentrated protein in our diet. There is plenty of protein in nuts, seeds, pulses and dairy products, which are also far easier to digest.
Vegetarianism supports mental and physical health as well as spiritual cultivation. Fruits, vegetables, pulses, nuts and milk products provide a balanced diet, which does not make our system toxic. This is primarily because when an animal is killed, it becomes dead matter. In the case of many vegetables, if we eat part of the vegetable and re-plant another part, it can grow again; it is still a living organism. It is a healthy sign that more and more people in the US, UK, Europe and other parts of the world are taking to a vegetarian diet in modern times, chiefly due to health reasons. There is a growing acceptance in the West that vegetarianism connotes a more positive way of living than flesh eating. In India, the pilgrimage destination of Haridwar still enjoys the status of being a vegetarian city. Even in Japan, known to be virtually 100 percent non-vegetarian, you can now find vegetarian restaurants. My friend Martin Gluckman, who runs the Vedic Society and teaches organic and Ayurvedic cooking in South Africa, hails Indian vegetarianism in the following words: “India has the world’s greatest cuisine and most variety of dishes, boasting to its amazing cultural and spiritual heritage. It has a time tested vegetarian cuisine offering a delight for all senses and the heart.”
India can be proud to have the world’s largest per-capita number of vegetarians (I have read reports of more than 40%). No other country can make such a statement of humanity and nonviolence. The vegetarian culture and lifestyle are India’s greatest achievement and gift to the world. Only in years to come will the true value of this gift be known.” It is important that we remain vegetarian not only for our health and nutrition, but from the points of view of spirituality, compassion, ethics, ecology and economics as well. When we see the end product of meat in the supermarket or leather in the shoe store, there is a long chain of violence that created it. These products endorse and perpetuate violence in our society, which contributes to the terrorism that is rampant across the world. Eating habits reflect upon a human being’s thoughts, speech and behavior. A non-vegetarian diet makes one prone to violence. By moving away from food of violence we can move rapidly toward world peace.
Albert Einstein affirmed, “It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.” When a helpless animal is killed by a deliberate act of violence, it dies in great dread. Its body is flush with hormones produced by fear. These toxic substances enter the body of the person who eats the flesh and adversely affect his or her body and mind. I have always wondered, how can the carcass of an animal that died in mortal fear give good health and refined, spiritual inclinations to its consumer?
Additionally, meat production is one of the most environmentally damaging industries in terms of pollution and inefficient use of agricultural land. According to a 2006 report from the United nations Food & agriculture Organization, livestock production is responsible for more greenhouse gasses than all the motor vehicles in the world, plus it severely degrades land and water. It is also necessary to remove the myth and argument that vegetarians will not get enough food if non-vegetarians do not eat meat. This is a fallacy. It has been conclusively proven that more people can be sustained on vegetarian food than a diet based on meat. Live- stock occupy over 30 percent of our planet’s land surface, and 33 percent of global arable land is used to grow their feed, pointing to why a meat-based diet requires seven times more land than a plant-based diet. Thus, one of the easiest ways to help restore our environment and feed more people is to stop raising and killing animals for human consumption. We have no right to take the life of an animal when we cannot give it.
Economically, a vegetarian diet is preferable to a non-vegetarian diet. The same energy one can get from meat and eggs one can get from pulses and cereals. It actually costs three or four times as much money to produce an equivalent amount of calories from animal sources as from vegetable sources. Some people may worry that self-control and too much care about nature would hamper development and bring about poverty. We know too well, however, that the more we consume, the more expensive things become, leading to the growth of the destitute class. Reckless commercial development also results in economic and social crises, bringing further suffering to the poor.
AHIMSA does not deny economic development; it only exercises self-control, limits our desires. Desires are endless. More and more desires give rise to materialism and extraordinary greed, far beyond basic human needs and sustainable consumption. Greed results in the destruction of the very roots of our life. If we want to prevent the world from becoming a barren desert and our societies from growing into monstrous systems of injustice and suffering, self-control and nonviolence appear as the only reasonable answer – not only for Jains, but for people of any creed. For any spiritual being, the destruction of life, be it in the air, the water or on the ground, is undesirable. But even if you do not subscribe to this principle, you will agree that reckless destruction of life could eventually lead to mankind’s own demise. Jainism is not the only Indian school advocating nonviolence and self-control as central principles. Buddhism and Hinduism equally preach them.
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