"I honor the place in you where the entire universe dwells,
That place in you that is Light, Love, Truth, Peace,
When you are in the place in you and I am in that place in me,
There is only one of us, Namaste."
The first studio I taught for was called Namaste Yoga. The owner, Veronica, would always end her class with a Thich Nhat Hanh quote, “We sit together, the mountain and me...until only the mountain remains. Namaste.”
The word breaks down in to Namaḥ = reverence and te = divinity. When combined, the visarga at the end of Namaḥ turns to an ‘s’ and you get Namaste. In the context of ending a yoga class, it’s the perfect word to point to the potential in all of us to be kind, compassionate, grateful and equanimous. Though the word can also mean a more formal hello, the intention behind it is the key.
I am aware that some people are suggesting that yoga teachers using the word, "Namaste,' is an example of cultural appropriation that can be offensive to people of Indian descent. To that I ask, what is cultural appropriation exactly? Seems like a phrase used more and more by people who are trying to scare other people into submission for reasons they may not even comprehend. If we want to play it safe then perhaps don’t call it yoga, don’t use any Sanskrit, or postures too as that would be appropriating from the gymnastics community...don’t even speak a word at all, because all language is appropriated from other cultures. Don’t eat because all food is appropriated from the earth and don’t breathe because that air doesn’t belong to us either. Perhaps then we can be safe or...morally superior?
Seriously, who could be actually be offended by such a reverential greeting? I have friends from native Hawaiian ancestry who taught me to say 'Mihalo' which also does not translate perfectly into any English word as well. It’s a beautiful word. However, another person of Hawaiian ancestry might be offended if I use it. Trying to please everyone is impossible. Although I do believe there are versions of cultural misappropriation that can be offensive and injurious...this is not one of them.
Bullies take on all kinds of forms and often do to others what was done to them. The word Namaste points to a way of seeing beyond appearances to the same potential for benevolence, compassion, gratitude and equanimity in all of us. I will not apologize for doing that nor for using a perfect word that points to it. Namaste.