What is the Meaning of Namaskar or Namaste?

We explore the meaning of namaskar or namaskaram – a once ubiquitous part of Indian culture – as Sadhguru explains the science and significance behind the gesture.

Indian culture is incredibly complex and resembles a chaos of mind-boggling proportions. But beneath this seeming chaos is a scientific foundation that is thousands of years old. Often, the practices that we label today as blind superstition have very logical explanations behind them. The series “Why We Do What We Do” looks at the basis behind the various elements of Indian culture and explains how even the minutest detail was geared towards a human being’s immediate and ultimate wellbeing.

In today’s episode of Why We Do What We Do, Sadhguru explores the meaning and significance of the gesture of namaskar or namaste. Once an ubiquitous part of Indian culture, this gesture of bringing the palms together and bowing down, is born of a profound understanding of the human system.

Read in Telugu: నమస్కారం ఎందుకు?


When you see a person, whether it is in your workplace, on the street, at home or anywhere else, the nature of human intellect is such, the moment it sees, it will make a judgment – “this is okay in that person, this is not okay in that person. He is good, he is not good, he is beautiful, he is ugly” – all kinds of things. You don’t even have to consciously think all this. In a moment, these assessments and judgments are made. And your judgments may be completely wrong because they all are coming from your past experiences of life. They will not allow you to experience something or someone the way they are right now, which is very important. If you want to work effectively in any field, one thing is, if someone comes in front of you, to be able to grasp them the way they are right now is most important. How they were yesterday does not matter. How they are this moment is important. So, the first thing is you bow down. Once you bow down, your likes and dislikes become mild, not strong, because you recognize the source of creation within them. This is the intention behind doing namaskaram.

The Hand of the Creator

There is no piece of creation without the hand of the creator operating in it. The source of creation is operating within every cell and atom. This is why in Indian culture, if you look up at the sky, the culture taught you to bow down. If you look down at the earth, you bow down. If you see a man, a woman, a child, a cow, a tree or whatever, you bow down. And it is a constant reminder that the source of creation is within you too. If you recognize this, you are paving the way towards your ultimate nature every time you do namaskaram.

There is another aspect to this. Your palms have a lot of nerve endings – something that medical science has also discovered today. Actually, your hands speak more than your tongue and your voice. There is a whole science of mudras in yoga. Just by holding your hand in certain ways, you can make your whole system function in different ways. The moment you place your hands together, your dualities, your likes and dislikes, your cravings and aversions, all these things are leveled out. There is a certain oneness to the expression of who you are. The energies are functioning as one.

Making Yourself into an Offering

So namaskaram is not just a cultural aspect. There is a science behind it. If you are doing your sadhana, every time you bring your palms together, there is a crackle of energy – a boom is happening. On the level of your life energy, there is a giving, or you are making yourself into an offering to the other person. In that giving, you will make the other being into a life that will cooperate with you. Only if you are in a state of giving, things around will work out for you. This is so for every life. Only if it gets the cooperation of all life around itself, it manages to prosper.

Editor’s Note: If you liked this post, check out other posts of the series Why We Do What We Do.

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5 years 10 months ago

Rangaraja Iyengar/ Mudra Iyengar.
Hearty Namaskaras at your Lotus feet Sadguruji. I was extremely happy to see the information about "Namaskara" which is in practice Aasethu Himachala in our Bharat. Humbly I would like introduce me as an RSS and Vidya Bharati Karyakartha and Yoga Pramukha of Dakshina Bharat ( Kerala, Karnataka & Tamilnadu). I have written a book on "Mudras" in Kannada "Yoga Mudra Prapancha" translated to English "The Science of Yoga Mudras". It has come out in Hindi and Malayalam also Tamil version is on the way. ( I am 81 years Young) I am a visitor to U S, from Bengaluru, Bharat, For the first time I was introduced to your name by my children who are ardent devotees of your thoughts. Hence forth i will be in touch with "ISHA". Namaskaras.

6 years ago

Namaskaram Sadhguru. As usual I was taken over by the wealth of information by this article. Knowing that a simple gesture as Namaskar has such a profound singnificance, makes me bow down to the Indian Culture.But sad part is,still this gesture is not very predominant in our daily lives and may be misconstrued as just a show.Again, it is dominant in the political scenario in India where politicians may not even be aware of the depth of this gesture. My point is, anything should be done with awareness for it to work right? And this does not just stop with a gesture. When I do my Surya Kriya in the mornings, especially during the Namskaram posture, I am aware of the energies in my system much more than when I do the other mudras." Will it not be wonderful to "recognize the source of creation...." in ourselves and others!!!!

5 years 9 months ago

Namaskaram Guruji. Guruvay Pottri, Guruvay Pottri, Sadhguruvay Pottri.

6 years ago

excellent information, My pranam to sadguruji- Dr Kumar

5 years 5 months ago

"... you are making yourself into an offering to the other person."
This is perfect wording. If only we in the West kept such a custom - we might not be so unfulfilled!
Namaskaram Sadhguru _/_

6 years ago

Namaskaram Sadhguru..

3 years 8 months ago

Thats his opinion. Pple need to learn to accept different pple. This goes to all! So what if its weird ? All of humanity seems to be wired the same! Ridiculous! Be different!

6 years ago

It is same as Vanakkam in Tamil which is Namaskaram in Sanskrit, Right?

3 years 4 months ago

Rightly said and explained in a straight manner which can be understood by anybody. Thanks

6 years ago

If nerve ends in your hand carry any energy (why nerve ends at my belly won't carry it?) it will be more appropriate to shake hands with others for that unifying and acceptance affect, instead of folding your hands in namaste. Secondly, what if instead of bowing I bend backward, will the creator in me feel bad and leave?

3 years 4 months ago

Its the media ( movies in particualr ) which can change all that not just the humble or noble namaste gestures. Unfortunately they keep churning out "less" mind / soul stimulating movies.

6 years ago

I don't understand how we can greet the person in front of us by bending over backwards which can be interpreted as repulsion. Shaking hands is acknowledging the person you meet as a fellow human being. However, folding hands in namaste is acknowledging the inherent divinity or God in the opposite person. That is a hell of a lot of difference.

3 years 4 months ago

Namastey has its grace and Good morning has its own grace and need. Dont get mixed up.

6 years ago

Bending forward is an yielding stance while bending backward is pure argumentative stance; and shaking hands is best avoided as a sign of camaraderie and "unifying and acceptance" ,best known to the scientific community as the cause for spreading disease and contaminating matters!Frequent hand washing is not advocated without concrete evidence to the revealed truth..take care friend to be humble and keep your palms to yourself lest someone infects you with a deadly germ!

2 years 6 months ago

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6 years ago

How beautiful it is to bow and hold
Both palms together in a "namaskar"
Then see the divine in the opposite fold
And return the greeting in sweet "sweekar" !

But now we are living in an age of good mornings, evenings or afternoons even if the weather be dull or anything but good. It is like the "hello", which you automatically say even if its your enemy calling. Lots of things have changed for the worse. Sri (man) has been twisted to be supposedly more respectable "sir" or even Sab by which we addressed our Briitish masters before independence. We have a long way to go backwards to rediscover our glorious traditions.

5 years 11 months ago

Namaskaram Sadhguru

5 years 11 months ago

Subash, you are funny indeed, none of the things that you have mentioned is there in the article, it doesn't mention nerves in belly an bending backward, you have introduced for the sake of argument.

For shaking hand part, there's no mention of transfer / unifying impact of energy via physical touch, it is your brain child, may be that's how you feel unified.

For the sake of your argument, how can you use the belly for greeting even if it has more nerves, I cannot imagine and next time bow down by bending backward, rest the person whom you would be greeting will explain you, why its not a wise idea