The Power of Namaste

ST. PAUL, MN, March 21, 2010: (The following talk was delivered at the St. Paul Interfaith Network’s Interfaith Seder by HAF Managing Director Suhag Shukla.) Namaste. Nam – as – te. Three syllables and one simple word that has the potential to bring peace between peoples, peace between nations and most importantly, peace within ourselves. Literally translated, namaste means, “The Divine within me bows to the same Divine within you.” And despite its conciseness, this one word encompasses the essential teachings of Hinduism. But, in terms of its potential power, it transcends Hinduism and Hindus.

Hinduism is a richly diverse family of philosophies, traditions and practices strung together by certain core, essential beliefs. Essential to Hinduism is also the concept of pluralism. This pluralism and resulting diversity, in the context of Hinduism, is exemplified in the various ways Hindus have defined our relationship with the Divine. This relationship is characterized by a beautiful spectrum that ranges from absolute duality to absolute non-duality and perspectives in between these two. If I may, I cite an oft given example of water in the form of a drop and the ocean to better explain these two concepts. Those ascribing to absolute duality would say that while a drop of water and the ocean share the same qualities, the same characteristics, the drop of water can never be the ocean. Those ascribing to non-duality would say, that yes, the drop of water and the ocean, do indeed share the same characteristics and qualities and are thus, one in the same.

But regardless of where one falls in the spectrum of these beliefs; regardless of this name one calls God by – be it Krishna, Christ, Yahweh or Allah; regardless of gender, race, religion, caste, nationality, sexual orientation, age, we are part of Vasudhaiva kutumbakam –that is we are members of a world family which shares the quality of Divine oneness. And so we share unity not only in Diversity, but unity in Divinity. If lived to its fullest intent, the meaning of namaste helps us draw all the walls that separate us and feel the hunger of others, feel the pain and suffering of others and also share in the joy of others. Three simple syllables, one simple word that asks each of us to do one simple thing — to see divine and be Divine. Namaste.

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