3. Why do we do Namaste?

Indians greet each other with namaste. The two palms are placed together in front
of the chest and the head bows whilst saying the word namaste. This greeting is for all -
people younger than us, of our own age, those older than friends, even strangers and us.
There are five forms of formal traditional greeting enjoined in the shaastras of
which namaskaram is one. This is understood as prostration but it actually refers to
paying homage as we do today when we greet each other with a namaste.
Namaste could be just a casual or formal greeting, a cultural convention or an act
of worship. However there is much more to it than meets the eye. In Sanskrit namah + te
= namaste. It means - I bow to you - my greetings, salutations or prostration to you.
Namaha can also be literally interpreted as "na ma" (not mine). It has a spiritual
significance of negating or reducing one’s ego in the presence of another.
The real meeting between people is the meeting of their minds. When we greet
another, we do so with namaste, which means, "may our minds meet," indicated by the
folded palms placed before the chest. The bowing down of the head is a gracious form of
extending friendship in love and humility.
The spiritual meaning is even deeper. The life force, the divinity, the Self or the
Lord in me is the same in all. Recognizing this oneness with the meeting of the palms, we
salute with head bowed the Divinity in the person we meet. That is why sometimes, we
close our eyes as we do namaste to a revered person or the Lord – as if to look within.
The gesture is often accompanied by words like "Ram Ram", "Jai Shri Krishna", "Namo
Narayana", "Jai Siya Ram", "Om Shanti" etc - indicating the recognition of this divinity.
When we know this significance, our greeting does not remain just a superficial
gesture or word but paves the way for a deeper communion with another in an
atmosphere of love and respect.

4. Why do we prostrate before parents and elders?

Indians prostrate before their parents, elders, teachers and noble souls by touching
their feet. The elder in turn blesses us by placing his or her hand on or over our heads.
Prostration is done daily, when we meet elders and particularly on important occasions
like the beginning of a new task, birthdays, festivals etc. In certain traditional circles,
prostration is accompanied by abhivaadana, which serves to introduce one-self,
announce one’s family and social stature.
Man stands on his feet. Touching the feet in prostration is a sign of respect for the
age, maturity, nobility and divinity that our elders personify. It symbolizes our
recognition of their selfless love for us and the sacrifices they have done for our welfare.
It is a way of humbly acknowledging the greatness of another. This tradition reflects the
strong family ties, which has been one of India’s enduring strengths.
The good wishes (Sankalpa) and blessings (aashirvaada) of elders are highly
valued in India. We prostrate to seek them. Good thoughts create positive vibrations.
Good wishes springing from a heart full of love, divinity and nobility have a tremendous
strength. When we prostrate with humility and respect, we invoke the good wishes and
blessings of elders, which flow in the form of positive energy to envelop us. This is why
the posture assumed whether it is in the standing or prone position, enables the entire
body to receive the energy thus received.

The different forms of showing respect are :

Pratuthana - rising to welcome a person.
Namaskaara - paying homage in the form of namaste
Upasangrahan - touching the feet of elders or teachers.
Shaashtaanga - prostrating fully with the feet, knees, stomach, chest, forehead and arms
touching the ground in front of the elder.
Pratyabivaadana - returning a greeting.
Rules are prescribed in our scriptures as to who should prostrate to whom.
Wealth, family name, age, moral strength and spiritual knowledge in ascending order of
importance qualified men to receive respect. This is why a king though the ruler of the
land, would prostrate before a spiritual master. Epics like the Ramayana and
Mahabharata have many stories highlighting this aspect.

to be contd...3

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