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NAMASTE

To: talk.religion.newage
From: ad656@FreeNet.Carleton.CA (Jai Maharaj)
Subject: NAMASTE (9406.namaste.jm)
Date: 49940622 

 NEVER SHAKE HANDS WITH GOD

 N::N  "Shake hands  and  come out fighting."  It's the referee's
 A::A   final counsel to two pugilists about to beat each other's
 M::M   brains out with clenched fists.  Even outside the ring, a
 A::A   handshake can be  a little off-putting.  When one returns
 S::S   to  the  West  from  an  extended  sojourn  in  Bharat or
 T::T   elsewhere  in  Asia, the hand suddenly thrust forward can
 E::E   seem more ominous than friendly, especially  if  the hand
        offered is that  of  a  stranger.  Of  course,  one  soon
acclimates and the menacing aspect of this salutation subsides.

Perhaps that  moment of intimidation derives  from the history of
the  handshake. According  to one  anthropologist, the  handshake
evolved in medieval Europe, during the times of knights. It seems
not all were laudable Lancelots or gallant Gallahads. More than a
few  would approach  opponents  with  concealed weapons  and when
within  striking  distance  do  the  needful,  driving  dagger or
striking sword into the unguarded paladin.

To  fend off  the fear  of  a  foe's foul  foil, knights  took to
offering their open and visibly empty  hand to each other. It was
a kind  of surety,  a gesture  of trust  which said,  "See, I  am
unarmed, so you  may safely let me approach."  As the story goes,
soon the gesture itself took on  meaning and the less noble, less
lethal man on the street adopted  the handshake as the proper way
to greet others.

In much of  the world today, people do not  shake hands when they
meet. They may hug formally or  kiss one another on the cheek, as
in  eastern Europe  and Arab  states. They  may bow  softly, eyes
turned  to  the  ground,  as  in  Japan  and  China. The Hawaiian
greeting, termed  "honi," consists of placing  the nostril gently
beside that of  the person greeted, a kind  of sharing of breath,
which is life and Pran(a).

For, Hindu(s),  of course, the  greeting of choice  is "Namaste,"
the two hands  pressed together and held near  the heart with the
head  gently bowed  as one  says, "Namaste."  Thus it  is both  a
spoken  greeting and  a gesture,  a Mantr(a)  and a  Mudr(a). The
prayerful hand position is a Mudr(a) called Anjali, from the root
Anj, "to  adorn, honor, celebrate  or anoint." The  hands held in
union  signify  the  oneness  of  an  apparently dual cosmos, the
bringing together of  spirit and matter, or the  self meeting the
Self. It has been said that  the right hand represents the higher
nature  or  that  which  is  divine  in  us,  while the left hand
represents the lower, worldly nature.

In   Sanskrit   "Namas"   means,   "bow,  obeisance,  reverential
salutation." It  comes from the root  Nam, which carries meanings
of bending,  bowing, humbly submitting and  becoming silent. "Te"
means "to you."  Thus "namaste" means "I bow to  you." the act of
greeting  is called  "Namaskaram," "Namaskara"  and "Namaskar" in
the varied languages of the subcontinent.

Namaste has become a veritable icon of what is Bharatiye. Indeed,
there  must  be  a  Bharatiye  law  which  requires  every travel
brochure. calendar and poster to include an image of someone with
palms   pressed  together,   conveying  to   the  world  Bharat's
hospitality,  spirituality and  graceful consciousness.  You knew
all that, of course, but perhaps  you did not know that there can
be subtle ways of enhancing the gesture, as in the West one might
shake another's  hand too strongly to  impress and overpower them
or too briefly, indicating the withholding of genuine welcome.

In  the  case  of  Namaste,  a  deeper  veneration  is  sometimes
expressed  by bringing  the fingers  of the  clasped palms to the
forehead, where they touch the brow, the site of the mystic Third
Eye. A  third form of  namaste brings the  palms completely above
the  head, a  gesture said  to focus  consciousness in the subtle
space just  above the Brahma-randhra,  the aperture in  the Crown
Chakr(a). This  form is so full  of reverence it is  reserved for
the Almighty and the holiest of Sat Guru(s).

It  is  always  interesting,  often  revealing  and  occasionally
enlightening  to  muse  about  the  everyday  cultural traits and
habits  each  nation  and  community  evolves,  for in the little
things  our  Big  ideas  About  Life  find  direct  and  personal
expression. Take, for instance,  the different ways that American
and  Japanese  tool-makers  approach  the  same  task.  A saw for
cutting lumber,  if designed in the  U.S., is made in  such a way
that the carpenter's stroke away  from his body does the cutting.
But in japan  saws are engineered so that  cutting takes place as
the carpenter draws  the saw toward himself. A  small detail, but
it yields a big difference.

The American saw can, if  leaned into, generate more power, while
the Japanese saw provides more control and refinement in the cut,
requiring  surprisingly less  effort. Each  has its  place in the
global  toolbox. each  speaks --  like the  handshake and namaste
greetings --  of an underlying  perception of man's  relationship
with things.

In the West we are  outgoing, forceful, externalized. We are told
by Ma bell to "reach out  and touch somebody." We are unabashedly
acquisitive, defining our progress in life by how much we have --
how  much  wealth,  influence,  stored  up  knowledge,  status or
whatever. Every culture exhibits these traits to some extent, but
in the east Mother is there to remind us, "Reach in and touch the
Self."  here  we  are  taught  to  be  more  introspective,  more
concerned with  the quality of  things than their  quantity, more
attuned with the interior dimension of life.

So, there you  have it, the whole of  Eastern and Western culture
summed  up in  the handshake  which reaches  out horizontally  to
greet  another,  and  Namaste  which  reaches  in  vertically  to
acknowledge that, in truth, that there is no other.

As  a test  of how  these two  greetings differ,  imagine you are
magically  confronted with  the Divine.  The Paramatma, Almighty,
walks up to you on the street. What do you do? reach out to shake
His hand? Probably not. Though suitable between man and man, it;'
an unseemly expression between man  and Paramatma. We never shake
hands with paramatma. I mean, what if your palms are sweating?

So you  namaste instead. the  reason it feels  natural to namaste
before Paramatma is that it is,  in its very essence, a spiritual
gesture,  not a  worldly one.  By a  handshake we acknowledge our
equality  with  others.  We  reveal  our  humanity. We convey how
strong we are,  how nervous, how aggressive or  passive. There is
bold physicality to it. For  these and other reasons, Popes never
shake hands.  Kings never shake  hands. Even mothers  don't shake
hands with their own children.

Namaste is  cosmically different. Kings  do namaste, Sat  Guru(s)
namaste and mothers  namaste to their own family.  We all namaste
before the Almighty, a holy man or even a holy place. The namaste
gesture bespeaks our  inner valuing of the sacredness  of all. It
betokens  our  intuition  that  all  souls  are  divine, in their
essence.  It  reminds  us  in  quite  a  graphic manner, and with
insistent repetition, that we can see Paramatma everywhere and in
every human  being we meet.  It is saying,  silently, "I see  the
Deity in  us both, and bow  before Him or Her.  I acknowledge the
holiness  of even  this mundane  meeting. I  cannot separate that
which is spiritual in us from that which is human and ordinary."

And while  we are singing  the praises of  Namaste, it should  be
observed  how  efficient  a  gesture  it  is  in  an  age of mass
communication.  A  politician,  or   performer  can  greet  fifty
thousand people  with a single  Namaste, and they  can return the
honor instantly.  In such a situation  a handshake is unthinkable
and a mere waving of one hand is somehow too frivolous.

There are other, more mystical meanings behind Namaste. The nerve
current of  the body converge in  the feet, the solar  plexus and
the hands. Psychic energy leaves  the body at these junctures. To
"ground" that  energy and balance  the flow of  Pran(a) streaming
through the nerve  system, Yogi(s) cross their legs  in the lotus
posture, and  bring their hands  together. The Anjali  Mudra acts
like  a simple  Yog(ic)  Asan(a),  balancing and  harmonizing our
energies,  keeping  us  centered,  inwardly  poised  and mentally
protected. It closes our aura, shielding us psychically. It keeps
us from  becoming too externalized,  thus we remain  close to our
intuitive nature, our super consciousness.

Here are some insights into Namaste from a number of Hindu(s):

o  Namaste elevates  one's consciousness, reminding  one that all
   beings,   all  existence   is  holy,   is  the   Almighty.  It
   communicates, "I  honor or worship  the Divinity within  you."
   Also  it draws  the individual  inward for  a moment, inspires
   reflection  on the  deeper realities,  softening the interface
   between  people.  It  would  be  difficult  or  offend or feel
   animosity toward any one you greet as Paramatma.

o  Namaste  is  a  gesture  of  friendship  and kindness, also of
   thanks  or  special  recognition.   Mystically  it  is  called
   "Namaskara Mudra" in the Agami(c)  Pooja, and it centers one's
   energy within the spine.

o  I've heard  it means "I  salute the Almighty  within you." The
   true Namaste gesture is is  accompanied by bowing the head and
   shoulders slightly.  This is a gesture  that lessens our sense
   of ego and self-centeredness, requiring some humility to do it
   well -- whereas shaking hands can be quite an arrogant event.

o  Touching  the  hands  together  puts  you  in  touch with your
   center, your soul. namaste puts you  forward as a soul, not an
   outer personality.

o  The gesture has a subtle effect  on the aura and nerve system.
   bringing focused  attention and a collection  of one's forces,
   so  to speak.  It  also  protects against  unnecessary psychic
   connections which are fostered by shaking hands. This might be
   called a form of purity also -- protecting one's energies.

o  This form  of acknowledgment is  so lovely, so  graceful. Just
   look at two  people in Namaste and you will  see so much human
   beauty and refinement.

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