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Namaskar is considered a slightly more formal version than Namaste but both express deep respect. It is commonly used in Nepal and India by Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists, and many continue to use this outside the Indian subcontinent. In Indian and Nepali culture, the word is spoken at the beginning of written or verbal communication. Origin: The word is derived from Sanskrit (namas): to bow, obeisance, reverential salutation, and (te): "to you". Taken literally, it means "I bow to you". Method: A slight bow made with hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointed upwards, in front of the chest. The gesture can also be performed wordlessly and carry the same meaning. Purpose: To greet another person a friend or acquaintance, to pay respect to an elder, a holy person or a temple deity. Myth: In Hindu view, Brahm dwells in the heart of each being as the individual self. The joining of hands symbolizes the idea that in the meeting of two persons, the Self actually meets Itself. Joining hands also symbolizes humility. Thus when a Hindu joins his hands and says namaskar, he actually says in humility, "I bow to God in you; I love you and I respect you, as there is no one like you." And humility is the greatest virtue taught by every religion.
Uses in South Asian culture
For greeting a peer, a "namaste" with hands in front of chest and a slight bow is considered polite. To indicate deep respect, one may place the hands in front of the forehead, and Reverence for a god or the holiest of persons may be indicated by placing the hands completely above the head. Namaste is also used as a friendly greeting in written communication, or generally between people when they meet. The proper greetings for Muslims and Sikhs are “Assalamu Alaikum” and “Sat Sri Akaal” respectively. But namaste is accepted in India by Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians (in fact all religions). However in Sri Lanka, this usually has a somewhat different meaning. The gesture is used to greet (as well as a parting remark) people with the verbal "Aayubowan", hence it's called Aayubowan. Aayubowan roughly means 'may you live long'.
Symbolism in Hinduism
The gesture is a Mudra, the bow is symbolic of love and respect. Particularly in Hinduism, when one worships or bows in reverence, the symbolism of the two palms touching is of great significance. It is the joining together of two extremities—the feet of the Divine, with the head of the devotee. The right palm denotes the feet of the Divine and the left palm denotes the head of the devotee. The Divine feet constitute the ultimate relief for all sorrows—this is a time-honored thought that runs through the entire religious ethos.
Meanings in global culture
Namaste is one of the few Sanskrit words commonly recognized by NonHindi speakers. In the West, it is often used to indicate South Asian culture in general. "Namaste" is particularly associated with aspects of South Asian culture and Hinduism. It has been viewed in terms of a multitude of very complicated and poetic meanings which tie in with the spiritual origins of the word. Some examples:
* "I honor the Spirit in you which is also in me." * "I salute the God within you." * "I recognize that we are all equal." * "The entire universe resides within you." * "The divine peace in me greets the divine peace in you." * "Your spirit and my spirit are ONE." -- attributed to Lilias Folan's shared teachings from her journeys to India.
The gesture has a subtle effect on the aura and nerve system Bringing focused attention and a collection of one's forces Protects against unnecessary psychic connections:- which are fostered by shaking hands. This might be called a form of purity also-protecting one's energies. As defined by Mahatma Gandhi: In India when people meet and part they often say, Namaste' which means: "I honor the place within you where the entire Universe resides; I honor the place within you of love, of light, of truth, of peace; I honor the place within you, where, when you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us."