Namaste has definitely grown to be more than an expression, but it’s important to not forget that it has a very deep and profound cultural meaning for people in Southeast Asia. That’s not to say that everyone outside this region of the world who says Namaste isn’t using it genuinely, based on what it means.
What does Namaste mean exactly? We’ve covered that in other blog entries here, but the way it is most commonly explained is that it is saying ‘The divinity in me bows to the divinity in you’. It’s going to be a good thing if people can at least be aware of this and not be so shallow to assume it’s something people say when doing yoga. It’s an expression that people in Hindi and Sanskrit cultures used to acknowledge other’s spirituality.
Now it may be that you only speak and understand English. While that’s unfortunate, it’s also plenty common here in this part of the planet. So, if you were to hear someone use the Namaste expression to you, then your response would likely be something like ‘Thank you, you too’. Which is perfectly fine and will still be well received if the person who is saying it is using the expression with true intentions.
But what about authentic responses to saying Namaste? You may never get to the corner of the globe where this term got its start, but if you can answer Namaste with one of these replies then you may give someone a pleasant surprise.
Replying with the exact same terms is actually very common, and again this is because it’s a way of saying you have the same reverence for the other person’s spirit as they have for yours. You can also respond this way when the person you are speaking to is younger than you.
2. Namo Namah
‘Namo Namah’ is another phrase you can use to reply here. Just like with Namaste, it means I am making the same expression of respect towards you that you are making towards me. It can also mean that identify themselves as being humble and loving and looking for a good time. It is common to do the Anjali Mudra when you choose to reply with Namo Namah, and this is when you press your hands together along with a shallow bow.
You can reply to Namaste by saying Namaskarah when the person you are speaking to is older than you. The ‘karah’ part of it is the differentiation in saying I see your divinity while also giving you more reverence based on the fact you (the speaker) are older. This will also usually be done with the Anjali Mudra but in some instances, the person may prefer you say it with a little wiggle of the hips instead. That will usually be related to age and gender.
4. Sukhino Bhava
Saying this in response to Namaste is essentially you are saying ‘I wish you happiness’ and quite often his response is given when the speaker is younger than you are, and you have a more casual relationship with them rather than a person who is in your immediate family or something similar.
5. Jeete Raho
The translation here is ‘God Bless You’ and as you can see this is an equally reverent reply that will be very well received if someone says Namaste to you. It is an indication that you wish for them to have the best in health, wellness, and spiritual prosperity. It’s going to be well received for sure, so if you can remember it and pronounce it well then go for it.
6. Namaste Khush Raho
Say this in response to Namaste and you’ll be saying ‘be happy’ to them and it’s a very colloquial way of replying. It will work well in less formal scenarios where people are exchanging greetings very loosely. But it’s not appropriate to reply to people who are older than you this way. Do not make Bobby McFerrin’s ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ jokes either as most people from this part of the world will not be familiar with the song. Whistling the melody before you say ‘Namaste Khush Rao’ would probably be okay though.
This is the last one of the responses to Namaste that we’ll look at here. It is unlikely that the person greeting you with Namaste will be a spiritual leader, but in the event, they are then replying to Namaste with ‘Pranaam’ is a supremely respectful way to respond to them.