Painter and digital Thangka artist Jampay Dorje aims to bring “Thangka painting into a modern era” with spectacular art, lessons for students, and a life-long project to illustrate all of the 11 Yogas of Naropa
Buddha teaches us to view every meal as if we were reluctant cannibals: Samyukta Agama Sutra 373, the Four Nutriments
Letting Go — letting go of past, letting go of future, letting go is the hardest thing to do: Na Tumhaka Sutta
Becoming Gesar, the fearless Buddhist: How to overcome fear in uncertain times, according to Pali Sutta, Mahayana Sutra and Tantra
The Hand of Buddha defeats the three poisons : Vajrapani (literally, “Vajra Hand”) — Guardian of Shakyamuni Himself; Vajrapani, the power of the mind to overcome obstacles such as pride, anger, hate and jealousy
Tonglen video: Why giving and taking practice is an important kindness meditation and Bodhichitta practice; how to do it: taught by Zasep Rinpoche
Understanding Dependent Co-Arising is critical to Buddhist practice: The Great Causes Discourse Maha-nidana Sutta
Pali Sutta for Our Age: Old Path White Clouds: Walking in the Footsteps of the Buddha by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Book Review of a Classic
The bridge between science and Buddhism, atoms and no atoms, theism and athiesm; Yidam deity meditation and the Cognitive Science of Tantra
“Every one has Buddha Nature.” A teaching video: Venerable Zasep Rinpoche with mantra chanting by Yoko Dharma
Cankama Sutta: Walking Meditation Sutra: put some mileage on your Buddhist practice with formal mindful walking
Milam Sleep Yoga: lucid dreaming can bring us closer to experiencing non-dualistic “reality” than waking meditation
2017 Tsog Dates: Happy Dakini Day — Introducing the Wisdom of the Female Enlightened Dakinis
Guan Yin and the ten great protections of the Goddess of Mercy: Avalokiteshvara, Bodhisattva of Compassion
The Maha Samaya Sutta: The Great Meeting Sutra: refuge from fear in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
Soma Sutta: Sister Soma gets the better of Mara — what difference does being a woman make in Buddhism? None
Healing video: full Medicine Buddha guided meditation with Venerable Zasep Tulku Rinpoche; with Medicine Buddha Mantra chanting by Yoko Dharma
Phurba or Kila: the most potent of wrathful ritual implements in Vajrayana Buddhism, symbolizes the Karma activity of the Buddhas
Happy Birthday Venerable Zasep Rinpoche: May the pure white light of your peerless wisdom shine undiminished until the end of existence
Buddha: How to protect wealth, associate with virtuous friends and relate to your spouse, employer, children: guidance for lay practitioners in Sigalovada Sutta
“Mind is the creator of our own happiness or suffering”—Venerable Zasep Tulku Rinpoche teaches Lojong  Seven-Point Mind Training
The Path of Purification? No, my friend. Ratha-vinita Sutta (Chariot Relay Sutra) teaches us not to confuse the seven purifications, with the destination, Nirvana
Atisha’s Great Praise: 11th century wisdom.
Why Buddha Nature is one of the most important understandings in Mahayana Buddhism and why Tathagatagarbha Buddha Nature is not the soul
Why do Buddhas and Enlightened Beings need offerings? The simple answer: they don’t. The better answer is…
Book Review: Tara in the Palm of Your Hand: a guide to the practice of the twenty-one Taras in the Surya Gupta lineage
Amitabha Sutra: cutting delusions with one-pointed blissful contemplation of Amitabha Buddha and the Pure Land
Reviving the genuine Dharma ritual art traditions: an interview with Vajra artisan and craftsman Rigdzin Pema Tuthob
Great Compassion Mantra: Purification, healing and protection, the Maha Karuna Dharani Sutra — benefiting all beings
Video: Why is Mantra important to daily practice? For protection: “We are human beings. We have many problems.”
A Sutra for Troubled Times: Usnisa Vijaya Dharani Sutra and Mantra— Purify Karma, Eliminate Illness and Prevent calamities
Naked wisdom for degenerate times: Vajrayogini, enlightened wisdom queen, leads us to bliss, clear light and emptiness, despite modern obstacles
Headed for darkness or light? Of world’s 7.5 billion people, Tamonata Sutta says there are four types of people, two headed to darkness
Interview Lama Dr. Shannon Young: Dzogchen teacher focuses on bringing Dharma practice into daily life and bridging heritage with modern life
H.H. 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinley Dorje in Canada for one month, arrived in Toronto for teachings
What’s so special about Hayagriva? This wrathful Heruka emanation of Amitabha, with horse head erupting from fiery hair, literally neighs with the Hrih scream of Wisdom
Namaste: Respect Overcomes Pride, a Universal Greeting, and a Sign of Reverence

Namaste: Respect Overcomes Pride, a Universal Greeting, and a Sign of Reverence

To many Buddhists, “Namaste” is more than a commonly spoken greeting. It is not just a salutation, it’s a sign of genuine respect and good will. More importantly, bowing to another helps us overcome the obstacle of pride, a major obstacle to Buddhist practice. The mudra Anjali, which is associated with “Namaste”—the hands clasped in front of the heart, fingers pressed (see below)—is ubiquitous to nearly all schools of Buddhism, and has it’s root in Hindu practice, and the greeting “Namaste.”

(Please note, a counter-point feature in Buddha Weekly, Anjali Mudra is a Universal Buddhist Greeting —— Not “Namaste”, is found here>>)

 

Prayer is a form of meditation. It is consciously incorporated into Buddhist mediations of any type when we set our motivation "to obtain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings."
Namaste as a spoken greeting, and the accompanying  gesture Anjali  serves many purposes. In spiritual activities, the mudra Anjali, indicates we are making a “divine offering”. In Buddhist context, it is the “cure” for pride, one of the great obstacles in our practice. In day-to-day life it indicates respect, literally meaning “I bow to you.”  Also, in acupuncture terms, the tips of the fingers activate certain energies. There is a “subtle body” activation when the tips of fingers are pressed together.

 

Used Everywhere: Not Just a Spiritual Greeting

Namaste is not a Buddhist-specific greeting, and it has its origins in Hindu practice. In India it is an polite greeting. In Buddhism, it is typically a sign of great respect when used together with the hands pressed in front of the heart, symbolic of the bow.

Respectful full-prostration bows are important to devout Korean Buddhists, one of the six essential practices.
Respectful full-prostration bows, beginning with the Namaste-Anjali hands clasped gesture, are important to devout Korean Buddhists, one of the six essential practices.

 

Variations on the spoken greeting is Namaskar, Namaskaram or Vanakkam. Yet, many Buddhists, regardless of their home language, use “Namaste” as their standard greeting—not because of cultural roots, but due to the many layers of meaning behind the simple word. It means much more than “Hi” or even “Bless you”, and literally could be translated as “I bow to you.” Actually, it implies, “I bow to the Divine in you” as both Hindu and Buddhist traditions teach that all beings have Divine (or Buddha Nature, as it’s called in Buddhism). From India, the greeting expanded to many parts of Asia—and in a spiritual context, particularly in Buddhism—around the world. Namaste replaces “hello” as greeting where deep respect is offered.

 

Monks prostrating.
Bowing to the Three Jewels: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. The bow starts with hands in traditional “Namaste” — joining both hands with the tips of all fingers together — then touching head (crown chakra), throat (throat chakra) and heart (heart chakra) before prostrating to the knees. In formal practice, this may also include the full prostration to the ground.

 

Namaste is used as both a spoken and written greeting for welcoming guests, relatives, strangers. It is also a parting good-bye. In the Buddhist context, when spoken, it is nearly always accompanied by a bow, usually with hands pressed together in front of the chest. For those who practice with Mudras, this is known as Anjali. If Anjali mudra is performed without words — for example, a greeting at a distance — the word “Namaste” is conveyed regardless.

Namaste is Sanskrit: Not Just a Word, but Stimulates Recall

Of course, Namaste is rooted in Sanskrit, the mother of languages, a language much older than even Latin. The word Namaste is the combination of “namah” — to bow — and “te” — to you. Namaste literally means “bow to you.”

In some traditions, rooted in Hinduism, which carries over to Buddhism, the Anjali mudra used for Namaste is said to activate pressure points — think in terms of Acupuncture — which activate the pressure points in eyes, ear, mind. To press them together activates these pressure points, helping us to remember the person we are greeting: their face (eyes), name (ears) and personality (mind).

Zasep Tulku Rinpoche with a student.
Bowing to a teacher is a sign of respect for not only the teacher, but the teachings he or she gives us. Here a student offers Namaste as Anjali (hands clasped) then bows to receive back a kata scarf as a blessing after a teaching by Zasep Tulku Rinpoche.

In Buddhism, to Bow is a “Cure”

Buddhists typically bow as a cure for negative attachment to ego and vanity, which binds one to samsara. Often, non-Buddhists see the action of bowing as “worship”. However, to bow to an elder, friend, guru, statue of the Buddha, or even a stranger is a sign of respect rather than devotion. The bow of respect contributes tangibly to the path away from attachment. The attachment to ego is literally crushed. And, it’s polite!

The great Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche.
Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche.

 

How low we bow is generally an indication of our degree of respect. To a Buddha statue or relic (or representation of the three Jewels), we might do full body prostrations, fully prone, and multiple times (usually a minimum of three.) To a guru, we might hold our hands higher and bow lower (or do full prostration) as a sign of reverence to the teacher and the dharma teachings he brings. To an elder, we might bow a little lower than to a good friend. To parents, in some parts of Asia, such as Korea, it is often traditional to fully bow to the floor when formally greeting parents or in-laws during special occasions such as engagements, weddings, and death anniversaries. The key, however, is we are helping ourselves by subduing our ego — while at the same time being polite and respectful.

Woman standing in meditation with hands held in prayer
Namaste gesture (Anjali) is also a yogic posture. It is often used in standing meditation as shown. Here, in this context, it can be both a sign of respect (for the inner Buddha Nature or Atman in Hinduism) but also as “activation” of pressure points.

 

Even in Business we “Namaste”

Major airlines, service industries, waiters, salespeople, VPs and presidents of companies use “Namaste” to greet their customers—out of an abundance of respect and thanks.

In a more “spiritual” sense, “Namaste” is also non-verbally saying “I honor the place you occupy in the Universe. I honor you with love, wisdom and peace.”

Traditional Namaste greeting does not always carry spiritual significance, and is used in day-to-day life as a respectful greeting.
Traditional Namaste greeting does not always carry spiritual significance, and is used in day-to-day life as a respectful greeting.

 

A Guest Contributor makes the counter point that Anjali Mudra (the hand gesture) and a greeting is the proper form, not the word “Namaste”:

 

Anjali Mudra is a Universal Buddhist Greeting —— Not “Namaste” (A Counterpoint from a Contributor/Reader)

17 Responses to Namaste: Respect Overcomes Pride, a Universal Greeting, and a Sign of Reverence

  1. Namaste is not a Buddhist greeting.

    Namaste is a Hindi-language greeting used by Hindus in India. It is not used outside of Indian communities. ‘Namaste’ etymologically just means ‘bow to you’; words like ‘honor’, ‘universe’, ‘cosmos’, and ‘the divine’ are often added to flesh out a pretty cosmic phrase that is absent in the original. (Comparatively, ‘hi’ is etymologically related to ‘heil’ in German or ‘salve’ (> salute) in Latin, with the gesture of a single hand raised to the other person. Nothing cosmic here, just a gesture of greeting.)

    In Southeast Asia, a traditional gesture of two hands in prayer, called a ‘wai’ in Thailand, is offered; however, ‘namaste’ is not used. Buddhists in East Asian countries, such as China, will also use a ‘wai’-like greeting, but they do not say ‘namaste’. Nor do they use ‘namaste’ in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, etc, or any other Buddhist country.

    Namaste has spread among western Buddhists because of the influence of yoga classes, where Hindu terminology and vocabulary are used.

    But it’s Hindu, NOT Buddhist.

    • Thank you! It’s not really meant to be a discussion of origin (even though the story preambles with “But, where did the word originate, and how did it become so ubiquitous?”) It’s really meant to be a discussion of how and why it’s used, in this case, by Buddhists. But you’re right, the article could be viewed as a discussion on origins because of that opening paragraph—which we’re going to amend. We happily stand corrected:) The modern use, whatever the origins, however, is still a beautiful tradition used by many Buddhists, and it’s certainly a practice of respect that should be encouraged by everyone.

    • The origin of the word ” Namaste’ ” is not the intent of this article . But since you deem it important to put a seperation between Hinduism & Buddhism , I think it should be taken into consideration that the foundation of Buddhism would not be possible without the major influence Hinduism contributed into the Buddhist’s spiritual journey . Sidharthar ( aka Buddha ) was in fact a Hindu prince . It wasn’t until he left his life of royalty & affluence to seek the true meaning of life that Buddhism came to be . He knew there was more to our existance than what his royal family was allowing him to see . It is through his eyes & journey that Buddhism became a spiritual awakening . Upon reaching ” Enlightenment ” did the former Hindu Prince finally reach his achievement & ” BUDDHA ” ( the enlightened one ) became what he was meant to be . Without his Hindu influence Buddhism would not be . Therefore it is important to honor them both . Namaste’

      • At least, here in the West, a common greeting among practitioners of the Buddha Dharma wouldbe, not only convenient, but unifying. Debates on the correct form would have the opposite effect.

        Noting that The Buddha achieved Enlightenment and taught the Dharma within the context of Hindu culture, we can conjecture that he and his followers used or were, at least, familiar with the form “Namaste,” or however it appeared at the time.

        In other words, good enough for the Tathagatha, good enough for me.

        Namaste, y’all!

    • Not necessarily, as then all the evidence in this article would be pointless and a bit Wikipedia-ish and I have met a shaulain monk before and I greeted him with’namaste’ and bowed and he respected me for it

      • Of course he respected you, that’s the buddhist practice.

        The article has been updated by buddhaweekly.com. In the end of the article you can read:

        “A Guest Contributor makes the counter point that Anjali Mudra (the hand gesture) and a greeting is the proper form, not the word “Namaste”:”
        Follow that link for more info.

  2. “Namaste” is the derivation of words “namah” and “te.” The word “te” means “to you.” As such, “namaste” means “I salute or bow to you with respect.”
    “Namaskar” is the combination of words “namah and “kar.” The word “kar,” which has been derived from the verb “kri” means “to do.” As such, “namaskar” means, “I do the act of saluting or bowing with respect.”.

    So that means, Namaskar is a “better” word to say, because it have a more bigger field of respect.

  3. Perhaps the most important thing (to remember, to know or to practice) about using Namaste as an honor and/or greeting is to use it with sincerity and an open heart. The rest will follow and I trust, be well received.

  4. I like this one for a formal greeting.

    In slow motion with clear focus;
    Form the hands in front of the heart, with a slight bow, look into the eyes of the recipient and if they are comfortable with it, place your forehead slowly against theirs.
    No words are spoken and the form is held for a time to allow for connection to the other.

  5. As you now can read in the end of article and as another person mentioned, Namaste belongs to the Hindu tradition, and not the buddhist.

    I myself am a practioner within the chinese Chan Buddhismen (ZEN) with a teacher fromof one of the mainland temples in china. In Chan Buddhism the phrase “Namo amitoufo” or “Namo Amitabha Buddha” is used as a greeting. It meanse homage to the Amitabha Buddha, and the name “Amitabha” means boundless light and infinite life.

    Of course buddhism teach non-attachment and you can use any greeting as you like. But there is a risk that an buddhist from asia is not familiar with the word “namaste” and it’s meaning. A simple bow is enough.

    Namo amitoufo

  6. In Singapore, the Mahayana Buddhist greet each other with Amitoufo with the Anjali Mudra (sometimes without).

  7. I want to address the Buddhist concept of “essential practices”. The only “essential practice” of Buddhism is that there are no “essential practices” of Buddhism.

    While we have not been properly introduced, you will come to understand that i am the Sanat Kumara, and the embodiment of Narada.

    I am the Maitreya.

    Namaste
    jeffery

Leave a reply

Are you a Sentient Being? *

Awarded Top 50 Buddhist Blog

Copyright Buddha Weekly 2007-2017. All Rights Reserved. Please feel free to excerpt stories with full credit and a link to Budddha Weekly. Please do not use more than an excerpt. Subject to terms of use and privacy statement. All information on this site, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote  understanding and knowledge. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, including medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Buddha Weekly does not recommend or endorse any information that may be mentioned on this website. Reliance on any information appearing on this website is solely at your own risk.

Send this to a friend