We are virtually nobodies, while the Cosmos is the Ultimate Being

While greeting any one in Hindu culture, one takes the name of GOD, the supreme Brahma. It reminds us that we are nothing, everything is GOD.

This traditional greeting of India has a deeper spiritual meaning. It signifies non–arrogance or negation of ego.

NAMASKAR is made of three words: NAMAH + OM + KAR

NAMAH means NOT ME. It is a negation of one’s identity and hence of one’s ego or arrogance. It signifies that I am nothing.

OM is the sound of life, the primordial sound of nature. In Vedic language, it signifies soul, the spirit or the GOD.

KAR means shape/form of or manifestation of.

OMKAR therefore signifies manifestation of OM, the UNIVERSE, the cosmos, BRAHMA, SHIVA or GOD. OMKAR is omnipresent and omnipotent.

NAMASKAR therefore indicates that I am nothing, while OMKAR is everything. It also denotes respect to the one you say Namaskar. That I am nothing and you are GOD. In Vedantic text we are taught to give respect to atithi (atithi devo bhava).

Try to get angry, when you bow to say namaskar. You cannot, because the body posture does not allow you to do so. For an angry posture you must have expansion of the chest wall and not the flexion of the chest wall.

Other schools of thought


NAM is the root form of NAMAH and has the same meaning as NAMAH – NOT ME. (I am nothing).

AS means “To Be” or “To Exist” … a word derived from Astitva which means existence.

KAR means doer or one who makes or creates. For example, KAR can be seen in the words Kalakar, Chitrakar, Karmkar, Charmkar. In the above words, the suffix kar leads to the meaning of one who creates work.

ASKAR therefore means the creator of all that exists, the GOD.

Namaskar therefore has the same meaning: I am nothing everything is the GOD.

Other meanings

  • Some people interpret NAMAH as “I Bow to”. Ultimately the deeper meaning remains the same. I bow to GOD. Here you are considering the other person as GOD, which is one of Mahavakyas from Chandogya Upanishad in Sam Veda, “Tat Tvam Asi” (you are that).
  • “I salute the Almighty within you.” The true Namaste gesture is accompanied by bowing the head and shoulders slightly. This is a gesture that lessens our sense of ego and self–centeredness, requiring some humility to do it well. Shaking hands can be quite an arrogant event.
  • It is a sign of respect and peace
  • I bow to the God in you; I love you and I respect you, as there is no one like you.”
  • The word ‘Namo’ can be split into ‘Na’ + ‘Mama’ – meaning ‘Not mine’.
  • In Ahirbudnya Samhita, Siva explains the meaning of Namah in three ways:
    • Stula Artha: Gross etymological derivation referring to the inherent nature of the Jeeva as Sesha. Bowing the body is acceptance of the greatness of the one bowed to; when done with the eight angas (limbs), it is ‘Sashtanga’ and is the perfect Namas.
    • Sukshma Artha: Subtle meaning as seen in ‘Nirukta’ when it refers to bowing in thought, word and deed with an understanding of the bowing to be a Sadhyopaya (means).
    • Para Artha: Supreme meaning derived from the Shastras thus: NA indicating the Upaya; MA indicating its importance and S indicating Bhagavan, the Siddhopaya (goal).


Namaste = NAMAH + TE
Namah means Not Me
Te means “they”.
The literal meaning of NAMASTE hence is “Not me, they”. The word they refer to “GOD”.

NAMASTE = that the doer of everything is not me but the Gods.

Other ways of greetings

  • Ram–Ram
  • Jai Shri Krishna
  • Hare Krishna
  • Jai Shri Ram
  • Jai Siya Ram
  • Sikhs say Sat Shri Akal, which means that Truth is the God and is timeless.
  • Sikhs also say Wahe Guruji Ka Khalsa, Wahe Guruji Ki Fateh. This is a declaration that the ultimate victory will be of the Guru and his followers.
  • Muslims say Khuda Hafiz, which means Khuda is the Protector.
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