Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami, editor of Hinduism Today magazinje explains: “As a test of how these two greetings differ, imagine you are magically confronted with the Divine. God walks up to you on the street. What do you do? Reach out to shake His/Her hand? Probably not. Though suitable between man and man, it’s an unseemly expression between man and God. We never shake hands with God. I mean, what if your palms are sweating? So, you namaste instead. The reason it feels natural to namaste before God is that it is, in its very essence, a spiritual gesture, not a worldly one. For these and other reasons, Popes never shake hands. Kings never shake hands. Even mothers don’t shake hands with their own children.”
In addition, Satgurur Veylanswami notes: “Namaste is cosmically different. Kings do namaste. Satgurus namaste and mothers namaste to their own family. We all namaste before God, a holy man or holy place. The namaste gesture bespeaks our inner valuing of the sacredness of all. It betokens our intuition that all souls are divine. It reminds us in quite a graphic manner, and with insistent repetition, that we can see God everywhere and in every human being we meet. It is saying, silently, ‘I see the Deity in us both, and bow before It.’ ”
Namaste is frequently used before or after a group yoga class where yogis are invited to bring the palms together, turn to another person and say “namaste”.