According to Jesus we can be so fixated on proper doctrine that we forget the weightier matters of spirituality, thing such as justice, mercy and faith, all of which fall under one word -- love.
On the Wikipedia web site, I read the following regarding namaste. “One hand represents the higher, spiritual nature, while the other represents the worldly self. By combining the two, the person making the gesture is attempting to rise above their differences with others, and connect himself or herself to the person they bow to. The bow is a symbolic bow of love and respect.”
I like that statement. I also read that when one brings their palms together there is more significance to this gesture. I discovered that it represented the joining together of two extremities: 1) the feet of the Divine and 2) the head of the devotee. The right palm represents the feet of the Divine while the left palm represents the head of the devotee. In addition, I read that the “Divine Feet” constitute the place of ultimate solace for all sorrows. Paraphrasing one web site, it said that when we humble ourselves and touch the feet of the divine, it is in that place that we will experience forgiveness for all our sins.
As I continued to search the internet I found a very interesting teaching on the feet of the divine. Though written long ago for a different culture, I think that there is a rather profound message for us today in the following.
“Nowadays if a person 1) due to his crooked ways does not fit in the society, or 2) if someone does not have any qualifications to pursue any other vocation, or 3) if someone is just lazy to work and earn his living and that person becomes a Pandit or Pujaaree, Mullan, Bhaaee or Granthee, Padre, Rabbi, clergyman, cleric, preacher, Guru or spiritual teacher, Yogi, Sant or Saint, Swami, Raagee, Paathee, prophet, and so on -- beware! He has found a well paying business indeed, wherein there need not be any investment and therefore, it is a safe activity of all gain and no loss! Also, there is not need to toil.”
The teaching continues:
“it cautions us not to ever touch the feet of such hypocrites; because they are not what they appear to be. Not to touch their feet simply means not to accept, approve, encourage or glorify their crooked ways. In other words, it means to beware of false prophets, and not to become a victim or a part of their corruption. They will harm you, for a blind person cannot lead another blind person. One unlighted lamp cannot light other lamps.
...fake people adopt religious factors and features only for the sake of bread, not for spiritual cause. Also, they are lazy for they live in a sense of weakness. They expect others to take care of all their needs. Their motto is sex, money, name, fame, power and status.
Generally, many people especially of Indian origin when they see somebody wearing saffron or claiming to be a Holy man, they fall on his feet. He may be a first-class thief under his outer covering, but nonetheless he is revered! Because, in ignorance, people readily accept anyone who says I will show you God, or who says I am God. Instead of searching the Truth ourselves, we accept such rascals who come along claiming to be Holy or God. Such thugs and swindlers are pullulating nowadays every where in the world. (Pullulate = to spread rapidly)
If one is not alert, he can be easily distracted, cheated, trapped and snared into their net of corruption. Global mankind must be on the alert as this is what it means when he says don’t touch their feet.”
I think those words are very relevant for all of us today regardless of which religious or spiritual group you may be a part of. And based upon what you have read I think you can understand how it became a tradition to touch the feet and in fact, wash the feet of a true elder or religious leader of your faith.
Let’s say that when a Christian met Jesus, he/she bowed before Him and touched His feet with their head as a sign of humility and also recognition that He is their Lord, their teacher, Saviour, etc. Would any Christian see that as idolatrous or non-biblical? I doubt it. (In fact, many Christians would validate that action based upon their belief that Jesus is God.)
However, many people would be against namaste because they would view it as a promotion of eastern religions. If I promoted such a thing, I would be guilty of taking a pagan tradition and incorporating it into Christianity. I would be mixing Christianity and paganism, something totally unacceptable.
Well, there are a couple of problems with that position. In Christianity Christmas and Easter are celebrated and both come out of what we call paganism. There is no Christmas tree in the Bible, at least not one used in biblical celebrations, nor will you find any Easter eggs. The fact is that many Christians in the past would never celebrate Christmas due to its pagan origins. Messianic Judaism etc. celebrates Chanukah which is not mandated in the Bible and often Passover Seders include elements that again aren’t biblical. I am not going to get into any more detail but it is clear that we often judge without equal weights and measures and use a double standard to justify our actions while rejecting others. Greeting one another with namaste just might bring out one of those double standards.
I realize that I might be labelled rebellious or even heretical if I should suggest adopting a “Hindu” greeting within Christian circles. Being honest, I would not be surprised if there are some people, even Christians, who you would prefer not shaking hands with. If for no other reason, using namaste as a greeting would be much better hygienically. (And bluntly, I could do without some of that “holy hugging” that goes on as well.)
However, that wasn’t what got my attention. Instead, a particular Bible passage came more and more into focus as I read about namaste. Being raised in western culture and ignorant of most aspects of eastern culture is a hindrance to understanding the Bible. We simply miss some of the great truths contained in the Bible.
Summarizing namaste we see that bringing the hands together was a symbol of humility and humbleness. The left hand represented the devotee’s head and the right hand the feet of divinity. Touching the feet was sign of recognition regarding a great spiritual leader and touching the feet of the divine with one’s head was said to be a place where one found forgiveness. As I pondered those facts, I couldn’t help but think of the following story.
Luke 7:36-50 “Now one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. Then when a woman of that town, who was a sinner, learned that Jesus was dining at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfumed oil. As she stood behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. She wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfumed oil. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, if this man were a prophet, he would know who and what kind of woman this is who is touching him, that she is a sinner. So Jesus answered him, Simon, I have something to say to you. He replied, Say it, teacher. A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed him five hundred silver coins, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more? Simon answered, I suppose the one who had the bigger debt cancelled. Jesus said to him, You have judged rightly. Then turning toward the woman, he said to Simon, Do you see this woman? I entered your house. You gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss of greeting, but from the time I entered she has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with perfumed oil. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which were many, are forgiven, thus she loved much; but the one who is forgiven little loves little. Jesus said to her, Your sins are forgiven. But those who were at the table with him began to say among themselves, Who is this, who even forgives sins? He said to the woman, Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
What a contrast between Simon the Pharisee and this woman. Her humility and humbleness burst forth in her actions and certainly differ from Simon’s. Her tears betray her brokenness and desire for love and forgiveness. Not only was she willing to touch the feet of Jesus with her head but she used her tears to wash them, she wiped the dirt off and dried them with her hair and she kissed them. In fact, Jesus makes it a point to mention the kissing of His feet a second time, pointing out that she was continually kissing them. Can you think of a more humble action than kissing the feet of someone and doing it in the presence of people who look down upon you? Here you are, kissing the feet of this one called Jesus, while the religious guru at this event, as viewed by most people, wouldn’t even provide water for Jesus’ feet.
What a message we see here. The actions of this “sinner” suggest that she indeed recognized Jesus as a great religious leader/teacher and perhaps even divine whereas Simon, the Pharisee, was sitting there thinking, if this man was really a great religious leader or prophet, he would know better than to let this woman touch him. And what was the result? Remember the teaching regarding namaste that says it is at the feet of the divine that one receives forgiveness. What does Jesus say to her? “Your sins are forgiven.” The woman found forgiveness at the feet of Jesus. In Jesus, she saw God manifest and expressed and so she came with humbleness and humility to wash and anoint the feet of her Lord/Master.
So now you know the rest of the story regarding namaste and what prompted the e-mail. Some would say that we have the Bible and we don’t need to go outside it at all. I understand that view. However, I have used the planets, sun, moon and stars to teach spiritual truths. Jesus used wheat, tares, the lily, yeast and a myriad of other things to teach spiritual truths. There are spiritual truths within the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. All of creation contains spiritual truths so I think we would severely hamper our quest to understand and experience God if we limited ourselves to the Bible alone.
Personally, I am going to look for God in everything and whenever and wherever I find something that helps me raise my consciousness of God, myself and this universe, I will be thankful and gladly share it with others. Regardless of the religion or who the author is, if I discover a divine truth being taught in a wonderful way, a spiritual principle explained is such a way that it makes it easier to understand and apply, I am going to grab it, seek to experience it in my own life and share it with those who are interested. I am not offended if you disagree. That is your right.
In conclusion, from now on, every time I see someone greeting another person using a namaste gesture, my thoughts will be much different than they would have been not that long ago. Yes it is prominent within Hinduism and other eastern religions but that will not stop me from contemplating my oneness with God and oneness with other people. I will definitely think about the woman some 2000 years ago who showed us a wonderful example of humility and humbleness.