Namaste or Namaskar: What Its Meaning and Why We Say It

The word 'Namaste or Namaskar' is derived from the root 'namaha', which means paying obeisance (Namaskar) or salutation. From Science of Justice - 'Namaha' is a physical action expressing that 'you are superior to me in all qualities and in every way'. The main objective of doing Namaste or Namaskar to someone is to derive spiritual as well as worldly benefits.

Namaste or Namaskar
Origin and the meaning of the word 'Namaste or Namaskar '
The word 'Namaste or Namaskar' is derived from the root 'namaha', which means paying obeisance (Namaskar) or salutation.
From Science of Justice - 'Namaha' is a physical action expressing that 'you are superior to me in all qualities and in every way'.

The main objective of doing Namaste or Namaskar to someone is to derive spiritual as well as worldly benefits.

Worldly Benefits
By doing Namaste or Namaskar to a deity or a Saint, unknowingly their virtues and capabilities are impressed upon our minds. Consequently, we start emulating them, thus changing ourselves for the better.

Spiritual Benefits
Increase in humility and reduction of ego

While doing Namaste or Namaskar, when one thinks, 'You are superior to me; I am the subordinate. I do not know anything, you are omniscient', only then does it help in reducing the ego and increasing humility.

Enhancement in the spiritual emotion of surrender and gratitude
While doing Namaste or Namaskar when thoughts like 'I do not know anything', 'You alone get everything done', 'Grant me a place at Your Holy Feet' come to mind, only then does it help in increasing the spiritual emotion of surrender and gratitude.

Gaining the sattva component and faster spiritual progress
  • A. We receive the highest amount of sattva component from the posture (mudra) of Namaste or Namaskar.
  • B. By doing Namaste or Namaskar) to Deities or Saints we receive subtle frequencies emitted by them, e.g. frequencies of sattva or Bliss.
  • C. By doing Namaste or Namaskar to Deities or Saints we also receive their blessings in a subtle form. This helps in hastening spiritual progress.
Q. Why should the eyes be closed while doing Namaskar?
A. 'Joining hands while bowing the head amounts to saluting God or the divinity in the person in front. The eyes are closed while doing Namaste or Namaskar to God or any respected person, to enable one to have the vision of God within us.'

Q. Why should the footwear be taken off while doing Namaskar?
A. While sitting, partaking meals, sleeping, wishing and doing Namaste or Namaskar to Gurus and other elderly people, footwear should not be worn. - Gautamsmruti 9.
  1. Footwear increases the raja-tama components in a person.
  2. Paying obeisance (Namaste or Namaskar) with high raja-tama components will not help in activating the Kundalini (center in the spiritual energy system).
  3. The ability to absorb the sattva component too is reduced, due to an increase in the raja-tama components, leading to little benefit from a Namaste or Namaskar.
  4. Doing Namaste or Namaskar to a Deity, with footwear on, may also invite the wrath of the Deity.’
Q. Why is it not advisable to hold any object while doing Namaskar?
  1. A.1. While doing Namaste or Namaskar if an object is held in the hands, usually the fingers and their tips are in a curled position and not straight. As a result, the sattva component received is unable to enter the tips of the fingers.
  2. The sattva component emitted towards the seeker, strikes the object held and bounces back. Also, at times, instead of the person absorbing the sattva component, the object may absorb it.
  3. If the object in the hand is raja or tama predominant, and if it is touched to the forehead or chest while doing Namaste or Namaskar, then the raja-tama components from it may enter the body of the one who is doing Namaste or Namaskar.
Q. While doing Namaste or Namaskar, why are men not supposed to cover their head, whereas women are advised to cover their head?
A. One should not do Namaste or Namaskar with footwear on, covering the head or holding any objects. (But women should cover their head with their saris and only then do Namaste or Namaskar) - Apastamb Dharmasutra 1.4.14.19

While doing Namaste or Namaskar the Kundalini gets activated at the chakra which is touched by the folded hands. This leads to the absorption of the Sattva component in greater proportion in the body. Sometimes due to the activation of the Kundalini, Sattva component starts entering the body through the head. But at times the distressing energies try to take advantage of this and mix black energy with the Sattva component. The potential to activate the Kundalini is higher in men as compared to women. Hence they are hardly affected by this negative energy. Contrary to this, as women are more vulnerable, they get affected by distressing energies to a greater extent and thus they can experience distress. That is why, when doing Namaste or Namaskar, women are advised to cover their head with the ends of their sari.

This creates a barrier between the head and the distressing energies and prevents them from penetrating the body of the woman. However, to some extent, this also blocks benevolent frequencies from entering the women. (Benevolent frequencies are subtle than negative frequencies; hence they enter a woman to some extent even though the sari covers her head.) However, the proper posture of Namaste or Namaskar gives maximum Sattva component to an individual and hence women too get required benefits. This shows how God takes care of every devotee. Doing Namaste or Namaskar without these restrictions is equally effective if the devotee does it with spiritual emotion.

Do you Namaste or Namaskar? And do you really even know what Namaste or Namaskar means? Have you heard your yoga teacher say it at the end of class and either ignored it or wondered what the heck it means? There are so many different definitions for this powerful Sanskrit word.
Here are several:
  • I bow to you.
  • I am a reflection of your divine light.
  • I salute all that is divine within you.
  • The spirit in me honors the spirit in you.
  • The light in me honors the light in you.
  • May the divine in me honor the divine in you.
What lovely honors to bestow on to another individual, right? Typically, Namaste happens at the end of a yoga class but really can be done at any time you choose. When we put our hands together in front of our chest in Namaste (prayer) position, it is a sign of acknowledging others but also it is a reminder to acknowledge our own balance. To me, it is a hand gesture that represents Ahimsa.

What is Ahimsa?
Ahimsa is a concept. It is the total and complete absence of violence from one’s mind, body, and spirit. Ahimsa is about refraining from violent words, actions and thoughts towards oneself and towards others.

Yet in our hectic, scattered, technology driven world we often forget the concept of Ahimsa. And even if we do find time to offer energy and time to other people and things, we don’t always give that same respect, kindness and compassion to ourselves. It is something so simple yet so hard for people to do. As author and teacher, Jon Kabat-Zinn, states, “We are called human beings not human doings.”
Therefore, Namaste or Namaskar is a word that gives us the chance to respect, acknowledge and honor the light within. Instead of dissipating our energies outwardly towards everything that attracts our eye. Namaste allows us to respect the balance that we create through the discipline of yoga and meditation.

When we are able to say the simple word ‘Namaste’ and harness the true meaning of it for ourselves, then our awareness of Namaste can be reflected out into the world and to the people we connect with.

How do you Namaste?
It’s easy and doesn’t take a lot of time. You are new to this whole Namaste thing? No problem, let’s practice it together right now:
  • DO:
  • Take a deep sigh of relief.
  • Begin to relax and feel your breath.
  • Enjoy the simple rhythm in and out of your nostrils.
  • Let your mind flow and rest in the silence.
  • Inhale Peace.
  • Exhale Love.
  • Feel every limb in your body letting go.
  • Savor the moment.
  • Breathe.
  • SAY:
  • With all the power of my arms,
  • With all the intelligence of my mind,
  • With all the love of my heart,
  • I honor and respect
  • The soul, spirit, beauty, light, power – within me.
  • Namaste
Nice job… see how easy that was! Remember to Namaste every day.
+Prof: Koti Madhav Balu Chowdary


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THE YOGI GUIDE: Namaste or Namaskar: What Its Meaning and Why We Say It
Namaste or Namaskar: What Its Meaning and Why We Say It
The word 'Namaste or Namaskar' is derived from the root 'namaha', which means paying obeisance (Namaskar) or salutation. From Science of Justice - 'Namaha' is a physical action expressing that 'you are superior to me in all qualities and in every way'. The main objective of doing Namaste or Namaskar to someone is to derive spiritual as well as worldly benefits.
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