Walkabouts and wonders

"A life not examined is a life not lived" – Socrates

Namaste Nation

Not my pic, unfortunately - its just very difficult to hold the camera and namaste at the same time

Not my pic, unfortunately – its just very difficult to hold the camera and namaste at the same time

Like many Europeans, I think I first encountered “Namaste” in a Thai restaurant; in my case, somewhere in North London.  Even then, without even knowing its meaning or history (it can be traced back more than 4,000 years) it made me pause; momentarily stilled in my quest for culinary sensation and satisfaction.

Here in India, and especially in this hill region, I see or receive this greeting very frequently, virtually everywhere I go, and have learnt to use it myself as an alternative to my more usual “hello, how are you?”

Make the comparison –

When we say “hello”, in English, we are using a word derived from an anglo-saxon term which roughly means, ”Oi, you there”. It is a straightforward demand for attention which, coincidentally, starts with the name of a place we’d all prefer not to go . Of course, like me, you may suspect that you are already there and are looking for a way out).

Whereas “Namaste” carries a delightful spectrum of meanings. It can be delivered with full formality, bowing, hands pressed together, below the chin, but eyes always up; as you might be welcomed into someone’s home – or one handed, with a nod to an old friend, as you walk across the road. At its most basic, the expression means,”I see you”, an acknowledgement rather than a demand. At its most profound, it translates as “I greet the inner spiritual intelligence that you are”. (Where you are in that spectrum is sometimes, but not always, indicated by the positioning of the hands and the depth of the bow – the higher, the deeper, so to speak.

Any direct transposition of tradition between cultures is a tricky thing. There are many features of  Indian culture that are very attractive, but you can discover quite a lot of connected features that aren’t; the same is true of Western culture, too. But I wonder what we could do to to try and bring a bit more conscious acknowledgement of other human beings into our western ways, and what it might be like if we succeeded.

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