If you look up the meaning of “namaste” in Wikipedia you get a stripped down, basic definition: ‘namas’ means ‘bow’ and ‘te’ means ‘to you’ – “I bow to you.” It’s described as a respectful greeting. But there is a great deal more to the word, and especially to the gesture, than that.
A few years ago I learned that holding your hands palms together in front of your heart, bowing slightly to the person facing you, and saying namaste meant , “The god in me greets the god in you.” It’s best if, smiling slightly, we not only face the other person but look into their eyes. That’s more than a pleasant hello or, as I’ve been seeing recently, a sign off on an e-mail note. In India, in Hinduism, namaste is not simply a social ritual, it’s not ordinary politeness. It is spiritual.
So, how can we understand the greeting? It raises two questions – what is the nature of this god, and how did it become part of me and part of you?
An article written by John Van Auken, a director of the Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.), for a recent members’ publication, provides a clear discussion that is especially helpful in considering those questions. He writes,
“If we … just for a moment consider the concept of God objectively, we may see that it is a curious doctrine. It is founded upon the human belief that there is an omnipotent, omnipresent consciousness within which all life has its being and was the source of all life and is the destiny of all life!”
This consciousness is known by many different names such as God, Brahma, Allah, Elohim, or Wakan Tanka. Some cultures do not personalize the power with a name or image but consider it as, “impersonal, infinite, and unknowable.” And, Van Auken continues,
“In an attempt to expand humanity’s understanding of God, some cultures delineate the power into its parts, most commonly known as a trinity.”
The concept of trinity is not an expression of triple gods, but a way that many belief systems have used to make sense of the complex nature of the one all-encompassing power. There are many examples of the tripartite god: Ra, Mut, and Amon Ra is the most common form found in ancient Egypt; Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva in Hinduism; and The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in Christianity. The first of the three is the creator that brings everything into existence, the second is a helper or savior who interacts with us, and the third, Van Auken writes,
“…is a mystical quality of God that is known only through an inner, transcendental awakening and union.”
I really like the analogy for this three-part truth that came from Edgar Cayce, the profound psychic whose readings are central to the A.R.E.
In reading 1158-12 Cayce said,
“Material things are the shadows of that which is spiritual in its essence. Now you experience that H2O is water – everywhere.”
Van Auken is superb at re-phrasing the psychic, channeled texts which can be difficult to understand, and here he explains Cayce’s example of the experience of water,
“Our physical bodies are solid matter (ice), our mental and emotional bodies are fluid (liquid), and our soul/spirit bodies are cloud-like (vapor).” All three are the same – water in different forms and conditions: solid, liquid, and vapor!”
Here’s a form of the trinity that we each can experience in our own lives: the solid body, the fluid mind, and the cloud-like spirit.
In the role of the Creator, one part of the Trinity constructed humanity to include the god in me and the god in you,
“According to many religions, especially ancient Hinduism, the Maker put a little of Him-Herself in each of us during the initial creation. This means that at a deep level we are gods within God, little ‘I am’s’ within the great I AM.”
“Brahma put its eternal spirit into all of creation. The eternal spirit takes no form but is expressed by the life in any form. The individual spirit of a creature is always connected to the original, omnipresent, eternal spirit. “
In modern Western cultures we rarely acknowledge the presence of the spiritual dimensions and we diminish, or “normalize,” the transcendent aspects of life. We’ve made “namaste” a simple, common greeting, and we’ve also diminished the ancient spiritual practices of yoga by turning them into mere physical stress reduction and body-enhancing exercises.
It was refreshing to read that the Yoga Journal does include a more profound perspective. On their webpage they write,
“The gesture Namaste represents the belief that there is a Divine spark within each of us that is located in the heart chakra. The gesture is an acknowledgement of the soul in one by the soul in another.”
That is our true nature, and we acknowledge it when we face another embodied trinity, we bow and say “namaste” – the divine in each one of us is bowing and being bowed to.
The knowledge of the multi-dimensional nature of existence and of ourselves is not limited to any one religion or culture. That we are all connected, that oneness is the essence of the cloud-like level of spirit, is hard to see from the denser mental level of water, and often invisible from the realm of ice, the completely material realm.
Van Auken goes on to say,
”The human and the divine abide together in us. The great challenge is to integrate these two in the proper order. … When we look around, we see multiplicity, diversity, and separateness. You are there, I am here. Your thoughts are yours; mine are mine. Oneness is not evident. Yet from Edgar Cayce’s trance-like connection, he saw and taught oneness.”
Religions around the world came into existence to conceptualize and teach profound wisdom about the nature of reality but then were hijacked by worldly concerns. (See Edgar Mitchell’s post in WINN, June 9, 2016, “The Courage We Need for Today”). We have triumphed in the hundreds of years of the Age of Science in mastering the physical world. Perhaps we can now recognize the other dimensions of reality and acknowledge the divine. Perhaps we will find our common humanity after we’ve recognized our common divinity. That would change the world.
* * *
John Van Auken’s article, “God as a Trinity in Oneness,” appeared in the Spring 2017 issue of The Cayce Quarterly.