14 March 2018
Hatha Yoga practitioners often conclude their session by uttering namaste.
Reading commonly used explanations for its meaning, you might find “I bow to you” and perhaps a reference to each component from sanskrit being nama as “bow”, as as “I” and te as “to you”.
However, those are mere transliterations– too literal.
Consider various forms greetings within English speaking cultures: a wave of the hand, a handshake, a hug, a kiss. Each conveys some connection albeit on a spectrum indicating some level of emotional distance or intimacy.
Similarly, bowing as a more formal gesture is but one type of salutation. Bow is taken too literally by the oft cited translation from sanskrit.
Exploring various writings within the Vedic tradition, you will find references to saluting the divinity within.
Other explanations include accounts of monks traversing a jungle and encountering dangerous animals yet emerging unscathed. These monks persevered by saluting the divinity within each of the wild animals seen and unseen.
That is, from a posture of being spiritually centered the monks elected to see not the exterior beast but the true essence within each of us.
In Western culture and tradition, the same might be attributed to the Old Testament story of Daniel in the lions den, when looking beyond it as mere fable or attributing the positive outcome to the celestial grandeur of intervention by a cartoon parental figure.
This, I strongly believe, makes a more correct translation of namaste being salute the divinity within.
Now when watching the short movie, If Gandhi Took A Yoga Class (2015, CollegeHumor), you may better appreciate the exchange just before the closing logo:
Gandhi: You don’t know what that means!