A Greeting by Any Other Name …
Being Spiritually inclined, and having an avid interest in various Belief Systems, Religions etc., I love to research Greetings/Blessings from different cultures. I guess this interest also stems from my love of training youngsters in Lifeskills, which often taught me as much as it taught them, but more about that at a later stage …
My longtime favourite greeting is the Hindu greeting Namasté, which you can also see in the right-hand column, .
Namasté is the folding of palms close to your heart, as a way of greeting the other person. It is usually accompanied by slight bowing of head. The hands that are held in unison represent the meeting of spirits. It is often said that our right hand signifies our higher level divine nature and the left hand represents the lower level worldly nature.
Namasté is pronounced as “Nama_stay”. The gesture of greeting is called Namasté and the act of greeting is referred to as Namaskaram or simply Namaskar. In Sanskrit “Namas” means, “bow, obeisance, reverential salutation”; it comes from the root Nam, which carries meanings of bending, bowing, humbly submitting and becoming silent. “Te” means “to you.” Thus “namasté” means “I bow to you.”
In the case of Namasté, a deeper veneration is sometimes expressed by bringing the fingers of the clasped palms to the forehead, where they touch the brow, the site of the mystic Third Eye. A third form of namasté brings the palms completely above the head, a gesture said to focus consciousness in the subtle space just above the Brahma-randhra, the aperture in the Crown Chakr(a). This form is so full of reverence it is reserved for the Almighty and the holiest of Sat Guru(s).
Namasté elevates one’s consciousness, reminding one that all beings, all existence, is holy, is the Almighty. It communicates, “I honour or worship the Divinity within you.” Also it draws the individual inward for a moment, inspires reflection on the deeper realities, softening the interface between people. It would be difficult to offend or feel animosity toward any one you greet as Paramatma.
Aho! Mitakuye Oyasin
The Lakota have a prayer (see post below) Mitakuye Oyasin, We are all One. To define the term ‘Aho’ is difficult as it is used in various ways, but from what I can gather, in Lakota/Dakota it means, ‘I understand’, or ‘I acknowledge you’ and is therefor also often used to preface a prayer, or as a greeting.
Mitakuye Oyasin means “We are all related” or “All my relations” and is a prayer that is offered on behalf of everyone in the world, as the Lakota believe ‘we are all related’.
To pray this prayer is to petition God on behalf of everyone and everything on Earth. Mitakuye Oyasin honours the sacredness of each person’s individual spiritual path, acknowledges the sacredness of all life (human, animal, plant, etc.) and creates an energy of awareness which strengthens not only the person who prays but the entire planet.
To greet one with ‘Aho, Mitakuye Oyasin!’, therefore is to acknowlege one as a relation and to bless one. Aho, Mitakuye Oyasin!
In the Mayan tradition there is a greeting, ‘In Lak’ech’, which means ‘I am you, and You are me’ . ‘In Lak’ech’ is an honouring of each other, and a statement of unity. In Lak’ech is more than an honourable Mayan greeting, it is a moral code; it is a way to live, not only with human beings, but with ALL forms of life in our cosmos!
When one lives the Mayan code of In Lak’ech, we understand that everything we do in this dimension affects all life and spirit in the cosmos, in either a positive or negative way, depending on our actions and motivations. We can say In Lak’ech to each other, to the trees, to the sky, to the birds, to the stars, to the sun and the moon, to our pets, to everything that exists. This action of In Lak’ech is honouring and acknowledging our intimate connection and unity with all life. When we live the code of In Lak’ech we send essential energy filled with love and respect to other life forms. When we practice In Lak’ech, we are producing and sending positive and vital energy to all other forms of life. When we practice In Lak’ech we quit being neutral and take action in a positive way by adding to the positive experience of being connected with all life. When we practice In Lak’ech with a tree, the tree benefits from the interaction. Remember, when you give your energy to any other life form you are also giving to yourself! You do not give your energy away to something separate from yourself; you are giving to another part of yourself!
Living the wisdom of In Lak’ech can also be applied to the unseen worlds. The realm of Spirit benefits by our positive interactions with it. A subtle action of living In Lak’ech is honouring all life by giving back to that which gives to us. Instead of always just taking fromSpirit by asking for insight and direction, give back your heart, love, and appreciation to the unseen worlds and to the Great Spirit. The world of the Great Spirit is where we came from, and without it we would not be here at all. Remember, you are that unseen world and that world is YOU! When you give to that unseen world you are giving to yourself.
Shalom is the Bible’s word for peace. Shalom is the hope of the prophets: enemies reconciled, injustices righted, hurts healed, fears calmed and communities prospering. God’s mission is to bring the whole of creation into harmony; peace with God, peace between the nations, peace with the created order.
Shalom – שלום (sha-lome) “When we hear the word peace we usually think this means an absence of war or strife but, the Hebrew meaning of the word shalom has a very different meaning. The verb form of the root word is shalam and is usually used in the context of making restitution. When a person has caused another to become deficient in some way, such as a loss of livestock, it is the responsibility of the person who created the deficiency to restore what has been taken, lost or stolen. The verb shalam literally means to make whole or complete. The noun shalom has the more literal meaning of being in a state of wholeness or with no deficiency. The common phrase ‘Shalu Shalom Yerushalayim’ (pray for the peace of Jerusalem) is not speaking about an absense of war (although that is part of it) but a wish that Jerusalem (and by extension all of Israel) is complete and whole, and goes far beyond the idea of “peace”.
‘Shalom Aleichem’ (or Sholom Aleichem; Shalom Aleikhem) (Hebrew שָׁלוֹם עֲלֵיכֶם shālôm ʻalêḵem; Yiddish שלום־עליכם Sholem aleychem) is a greeting version in Hebrew, literally meaning “Peace be upon you.” The appropriate response is “Aleichem Shalom,” or “Upon you be peace.”
This form of greeting was traditional among the Ashkenazi Jewish communities of Eastern Europe, but is not common among Israelis. It is used in plural – so as to greet multiple people – even when greeting a lone individual. A religious explanation for this is that one greets both a body and a soul, but it ought to be noted that many plural Hebrew words are used in reference to something singular.
There are many more beautiful greetings that serve as blessings too, and I will do a further post at a later stage, as I do not want to make this post too long, but in parting I leave you with these interesting little factoids:
Live Long and Prosper!
The Jewish Origin of the Vulcan Salute ~ the most famous Jewish influence on Vulcan culture is the ‘live long and prosper’ hand gesture. This “Vulcan salute, ” as it has come to be called, was invented on set by Leonard Nimoy, during the filming of the second-season opener, “Amok Time”. In this episode, Spock goes into something like a male estrus cycle, called ‘pon farr’ in the Vulcan language. Comparing himself to a salmon swimming upstream to spawn, Spock tells Kirk that he must return to Vulcan to mate with his betrothed bride, T’Pring, or die trying.
Nimoy felt that there should be some kind of distinctive greeting among Vulcans, akin to a handshake or a bow. Alan Dean Foster’s novelisation, based on an early script, had Spock kneeling before the Vulcan matriarch, T’Pau, who places her hands on his shoulders, like royalty dubbing a knight, but Nimoy didn’t care for this, as previous episodes had already established that Vulcans are touch-telepaths, therefore a touch on the shoulders would be an invasion of privacy. Instead, Nimoy drew upon his own Jewish background to suggest the now-familiar salute.
The Vulcan greeting is based upon a blessing gesture used by the kohanim (koe-hah-NEEM) during the worship service. The kohanim are the genealogical descendants of the Jewish priests who served in the Jerusalem Temple. The sacrificial system ended with the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in the year 70. C.E. but a remnant of the Temple Service lives on in the “kohane blessing” ritual (duchenen in Yiddish) that is performed on certain holy days.
The actual blessing is done with both arms held horizontally in front, at shoulder level, with hands touching, to form the Hebrew letter “shin.” This stands for the Hebrew word for “Shaddai”, meaning “Almighty [God].” Nimoy modified this gesture into one hand held upright, making it more like a salute. Technically then, the Vulcan greeting is not the same as the ceremonial Jewish blessing, but the resemblance is close enough to evoke instant recognition among knowledgeable Jews.
In addition to the salute itself, the ceremonial use of “Live long and prosper” and it’s lesser-known reply, “Peace and long life,” also show a strong Jewish influence. The format is similar to a traditional greeting in Hebrew: “Shalom aleichem” (peace be upon you) and the answer, “Aleichem shalom” (upon you be peace.) Muslims have a similar greeting in Arabic.
I See You!
OK, so having brought Star Wars into the conversation, I cannot leave out the most popular movie of recent years, Avatar!
When the Na’vi meet, they greet each other with, “I see you”. The phrase is more than a simple greeting though, “I see you” is an acknowledgement. A good metaphor for this concept is ‘The Force’ from the Star Wars movies; it is an invisible field of living energy that spreads across the galaxy and connects every creature in it to every other. In Avatar, the natives of planet Pandora realise this connectedness of all things too. Only, they call it ‘Eywa’ instead of ‘The Force’.
What this acknowledgement means is, simply put, empathy. It means that you acknowledge the other as one like yourself. It means that the ‘I’ and the ‘You’ are the same – parts of a bigger whole. Empathy and compassion are at the root of all great religions of the world. What this awareness does is that it makes the individual recognise his place in the world. It makes him humble (like Yoda from Star Wars) and it makes him care for the world around him (like the Na’vi in Avatar).
Here again, it is possible that this form of greeting was taken from another culture, this time African culture:
The Zulu greeting, “Sawubona” means “I see you” and the response “Ngikhona” means “I am here”. Inherent in the Zulu greeting and in the grateful response, is the sense that ‘until you saw me, I didn’t exist; by recognising me, you brought me into existence’. A Zulu cultural saying clarifies this, “Umuntu ngumuntu nagabantu“, meaning “A person is a person because of other people”.
This form of greeting is also shared by the Samburu, an ancient tribe of Kenyans who are brothers to the Masai people. When one of them approaches another, they will pause, face each other, look directly in each others eyes for 5 -15 seconds, say something and then continue on their way. When they do this, they are greeting each other. “One of them says, ‘I see you’ connecting through the eyes, the other replies, ’I am here’. The greeting also means something similar to, “Until you see me I do not exist. When you see me, you bring me into existence.” This speaks to our deep connectedness and that we are all One.
If you’ve done any work in the personal growth, self-development, life-coaching, transformational education or spiritual study fields then you know the importance of “being present” and “being in the here and now. This African greeting is a simple method for becoming present and connecting at a heart level. We can do it anywhere, anytime, and with anyone.
How many times have you heard the old adage “The eyes are the windows to the soul”? When we connect with the soul, who we truly are, all things positive are present—joy, acceptance, compassion, understanding, cooperation, loving, peace of mind, humour, ease, simplicity and more. This is the nature of Soul; and isn’t this what we truly want, a positive experience in life? Soul is always in the eternal now, the present. Connecting with Soul, or Spirit, in this Samburu and Navé way is guaranteed to bring us into the present. Do this more frequently, and for longer periods, and we have more of what we want.
One of the things that I have noticed is that Western Culture is very externalised, as in Telkom’s “Reach out & Touch Somebody”, whereas Ancient, African and Eastern Cultures are more introspective and remind one to “Reach in and touch Self”.
Maybe there is a lesson to be learned here … that we should not concentrate so much on how much we have — how much wealth, influence, knowledge, status or whatever; and rather focus on the quality of things than their quantity, be more attuned with the interior dimension of life? All I know is that many of these greetings resonate far more with me than a “howzitt”!