What is Namasté?

If the spiritual traditions of yoga could be encapsulated in one word, it might be namasté. ( click the link for a pronuciation https://youtu.be/m7D__dHkBgc).

This Sanskrit word brings a sense of oneness, and an understanding of the true nature of reality. At the base level, namasté is a salutation of respect and reverence. A traditional Indian greeting, it literally translates to “I bow to you” (namah or namas, meaning bow, and te, meaning you). However, there is a much deeper meaning to this traditional greeting. One of the most common translations of namasté is “The divine light in me bows to the divine light within you.” There are many beautiful meanings and translations of namasté, such as:

  • I honor the place in you where the entire universe dwells.

  • I bow to the place in you that is love, light, and joy.

  • When you and I bow to our true nature, we are one.

  • My soul recognizes your soul.

  • We are the same, we are one.

  • I honor the place in you that is the same as it is in me.

The Spiritual Teaching of Namasté

Boil it all down and Namasté represents the idea that all are one. It affirms that beneath the outer trappings (wealth, looks, race, culture, status etc.) that make us appear different from others, we are essentially made of the same stuff. You are more the same than you are different. 

Tantrik philosophy teaches that everything that exists is one Divine consciousness that longs to experience itself in different forms. As a human being, it is in our nature to forget this truth—that every person, thought, feeling, and experience is a perfect expression of the one Divine awareness. When we forget this (by feeling separate, less than, better than, or identifying with any external, impermanent aspect of our ego), we suffer. The teachings say that spiritual practice is the art and act of simply remembering who you are. 

Seeing Others

By saying namasté (and meaning it), you are saying that you see others for their true self. It’s a greeting that confirms identity with the soul rather than external features. What would life be like if you saw others as perfect souls? What if you saw yourself this way? A namasté between two people is a pact made to honor the highest, truest, most authentic parts of each other, and to let their limitations fall away. 


There have been a number of articles recently about ‘white yogi’s’ use of Hindi terms such as namasté. I would suggest however, that this goes against both the sentiment behind the greeting (that we are all essentially the same and to release external differences) and also the definition of yoga itself (which means union). Whilst I do not think appropriating the term for a catchy t-shirt slogan is acceptable. Using the greeting with a true knowledge of it’s meaning and a reverence towards each other as human beings, in my opinion, can only be a uniting and positive practice. I suggest finding the variant of this salutation’s meaning that speaks to your heart and to use it with confidence, love, reverence and unity.

A great graphic from @suzanacolon author of ‘Yoga Mind’

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