“Nam-ma-stay”

by Danielle Tatik

In 2016, t-shirts reading “Nama-stay in Bed” and “Namaste Bitches” are a common occurrence all over California. The term “Namaste” (pronounced: Nam-ma-stay), has assimilated itself into modern western culture. Heard and overheard everywhere, from the local yoga studio to Soul Cycle classes. This term has become as cliche as it is popular. It denotes the spiritually conscious thinker akin to the stereotype paired with Prius drivers in 1999 and reusable eco friendly shopping bags in the early 2000’s. “Namaste” is almost as common as spending all day in yoga pants. Even people who don’t partake in this culture have heard the word before and can in some way identify what it might imply. The question I have is, does anybody really know what it means and where it came from?

Ask someone what “Namaste” means and you will most likely get something similar to the following responses: “The divine light in me sees and honors the divine light in you”, “I honor the place within you which is love, peace, and light”, and “peace”. These are all beautiful messages to be sending. If we all saw the love, peace, and light in each other as well as ourselves the world would absolutely be a more peaceful place. Prejudice, hate, elitism, and exclusion wouldn’t be an issue if we all saw the awesomeness we see in ourselves in others. It is highly possible these “spiritual hipsters” are on to something with the use of “Namaste”. However, before I boldly claim the power of Namaste to ignite a world peace movement, let’s examine the root of its origin.

Namaste translates directly from the Hindu religious tradition as “I bow to you”. It comes from the root word “nama” which is a verb meaning “to bow”. “Te” is the grammatical ending meaning “to” in the accusative form, adding up to “I bow to you”. “Nama” can further be broken down to “na-ma” or “not mine”, carrying the spiritual significance of reducing one’s ego. Therefore, “Namaste” is used when in prostration, and when paying homage to God. It is often accompanied by a slight bow of the head with hands in prayer at the center of the chest. “Namaste” has also assimilated itself into Hindu culture as a customary greeting. In this more causal use, it is a cultural courtesy with spiritual significance. The significance being, “the God in me is the same in all”. For this to make sense, it is important to understand the context. Hinduism is a religion and culture made up of many Gods and Demi-Gods possessing different qualities yet all stemming from the same source. Each family has a particular God they worship, bow to, and pray to daily. The point of this daily prayer is to diminish the ego and surrender to a higher power at work, God. By consistently doing this, good karma is built up leading you towards enlightenment, and until then giving you a sense of inner peace to share with those around you. Using “Namaste” as cultural courtesy in this context exemplifies the importance Hindu culture placed on accepting all forms God.

The context of “Namaste” is important because of its powerful religious meaning in Hindu culture.The culture of Hinduism as I have experienced it is one of a ritualized life. The daily and mundane become special and sacred through paying homage to God and reducing the ego. Using “Namaste” is essentially an assimilation of Hindu culture’s way of turning the mundane into sacred as well as acknowledging the spirituality in all beings.”Namaste” has paired itself seamlessly with the blossoming westernized yoga movement brining with it a sense of oneness, love, and ego free living. Knowing this, maybe it’s no too bold to wonder if “Namaste” can ignite a world peace movement. However, before you go tattooing “Namaste” on your body, make sure you agree with the religious context it carries. Before you replace “hello” with this spiritually relevant phrase when being friendly to a stranger, know that you are imposing on them a connection to an idea of God they might not agree with.

In 2016, t-shirts reading “Nama-stay in Bed” and “Namaste Bitches” are a common occurrence all over California. The term “Namaste” (pronounced: Nam-ma-stay), has assimilated itself into modern western culture. Heard and overheard everywhere, from the local yoga studio to Soul Cycle classes. This term has become as cliche as it is popular. It denotes the spiritually conscious thinker akin to the stereotype paired with Prius drivers in 1999 and reusable eco friendly shopping bags in the early 2000’s. “Namaste” is almost as common as spending all day in yoga pants. Even people who don’t partake in this culture have heard the word before and can in some way identify what it might imply. The question I have is, does anybody really know what it means and where it came from?

Ask someone what “Namaste” means and you will most likely get something similar to the following responses: “The divine light in me sees and honors the divine light in you”, “I honor the place within you which is love, peace, and light”, and “peace”. These are all beautiful messages to be sending. If we all saw the love, peace, and light in each other as well as ourselves the world would absolutely be a more peaceful place. Prejudice, hate, elitism, and exclusion wouldn’t be an issue if we all saw the awesomeness we see in ourselves in others. It is highly possible these “spiritual hipsters” are on to something with the use of “Namaste”. However, before I boldly claim the power of Namaste to ignite a world peace movement, let’s examine the root of its origin.

Namaste translates directly from the Hindu religious tradition as “I bow to you”. It comes from the root word “nama” which is a verb meaning “to bow”. “Te” is the grammatical ending meaning “to” in the accusative form, adding up to “I bow to you”. “Nama” can further be broken down to “na-ma” or “not mine”, carrying the spiritual significance of reducing one’s ego. Therefore, “Namaste” is used when in prostration, and when paying homage to God. It is often accompanied by a slight bow of the head with hands in prayer at the center of the chest. “Namaste” has also assimilated itself into Hindu culture as a customary greeting. In this more causal use, it is a cultural courtesy with spiritual significance. The significance being, “the God in me is the same in all”. For this to make sense, it is important to understand the context. Hinduism is a religion and culture made up of many Gods and Demi-Gods possessing different qualities yet all stemming from the same source. Each family has a particular God they worship, bow to, and pray to daily. The point of this daily prayer is to diminish the ego and surrender to a higher power at work, God. By consistently doing this, good karma is built up leading you towards enlightenment, and until then giving you a sense of inner peace to share with those around you. Using “Namaste” as cultural courtesy in this context exemplifies the importance Hindu culture placed on accepting all forms God.

The context of “Namaste” is important because of its powerful religious meaning in Hindu culture.The culture of Hinduism as I have experienced it is one of a ritualized life. The daily and mundane become special and sacred through paying homage to God and reducing the ego. Using “Namaste” is essentially an assimilation of Hindu culture’s way of turning the mundane into sacred as well as acknowledging the spirituality in all beings.”Namaste” has paired itself seamlessly with the blossoming westernized yoga movement brining with it a sense of oneness, love, and ego free living. Knowing this, maybe it’s no too bold to wonder if “Namaste” can ignite a world peace movement. However, before you go tattooing “Namaste” on your body, make sure you agree with the religious context it carries. Before you replace “hello” with this spiritually relevant phrase when being friendly to a stranger, know that you are imposing on them a connection to an idea of God they might not agree with.

Despite the religious implications of “Namaste”, it still can mean a simple “peace”, or hipster friendly “I honor the place within you which is love, peace, and light”, and it can add meaning to your spiritually minded fitness lifestyle. This is possible because of the heavy western assimilation “Namaste” and yoga culture in general has gone through. I am not encouraging the end of the “Namaste” fad. Rather, I am encouraging you to be informed and Nama-stay in context when using such powerful phrase.

Despite the religious implications of “Namaste”, it still can mean a simple “peace”, or hipster friendly “I honor the place within you which is love, peace, and light”, and it can add meaning to your spiritually minded fitness lifestyle. This is possible because of the heavy western assimilation “Namaste” and yoga culture in general has gone through. I am not encouraging the end of the “Namaste” fad. Rather, I am encouraging you to be informed and Nama-stay in context when using such powerful phrase.

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