These days, nearly everyone knows what namaste means ... the Divine in me sees the Divine in you.
But how many really live, breathe, practice and become namaste?
How do you honor the Divine within someone you just don't like, or within someone who has been unkind to you? When we're being taught at every turn about Namaste and Unconditional Love and Compassion and Being Present and Forgiveness and Oneness, why is there so little love in the world today? Why are there more
wars, more divorces, more broken families than ever before?
I learned the answers to these questions a few
years ago when I was struggling with nearly all my relationships, both in my
personal and in my professional life. I was eager to heal my relationships and
move on, so I followed the path many of us follow when confronted with such
challenges. I read books promising inner peace, lasting relationships, deeper
spirituality and unmitigated success. I soaked myself in workshops and
retreats. But nothing seemed to be changing.
Desperate, I picked up the phone and called my
father in Mumbai, India. "What am I doing wrong?" I wanted to know.
My father said calmly, "I'm glad you've started a
journey toward growth and understanding. But the journey you have chosen is an
intellectual one. It's about learning what to do and what to think. It's about rules and laws and techniques and
processes. It's taking you into your head, away from your heart."
I frowned. I wasn't sure I understood.
Lovingly, my father continued, "Son,
relationships and spirituality are not ascensions of the mind. They are
ascensions of the soul."
He cleared his throat and added, "The journey
you need is one in which you learn to become Namaste—where you learn to see the Divine in
everyone around you. Such a journey will transform you from the inside out. It
will transform all your relationships. And it will transform your world."
I wanted to protest: "But I've been careful to
choose books and courses that are specifically about transformation, about
transforming from within — about being the change."
But something told me he hadn't finished his point.
I decided to remain silent and listen.
What followed was a conversation I'll never
forget—a dialogue of enlightenment and transformation, of love and
liberation, of perspective and wisdom.
The Critical Difference
My father asked me to consider two people:
The first person is very expressive of her love for
you. She hugs you whenever she sees you. She tells you often how happy she is
to have you in her life, how proud she is of your contributions. When you are
upset, she engages you in a conversation, inviting you to get things off your
chest. When you become introspective, she holds your hands in hers and asks you
what's wrong. And she is diligent about asking you questions that get you to
open up about yourself—questions like, "What brings you joy in
life?" and "What is your vision for yourself?"
The second person is not very expressive about her love for you. However, her face
lights up whenever she sees you. She is very attentive to you every moment you
are with her. When you talk to her, she is so focused on what you're saying,
you immediately sense how special you are to her. She notices even the little
things about you, and you are often surprised at how she saw things in you that
you didn't see in yourself, such as the time you were particularly stressed and
she took you for a walk along the beach. When you asked her how she knew that
would calm you, she mentioned noticing the peacefulness in your face the last
time the two of you strolled along the ocean.
which of these individuals do you think you will form a deeper, more
long-lasting bond?" Father asked.
The answer was easy. "The second one," I
replied. Then I hastily added, "What's interesting is that when you
started describing the first person, I thought she sounded wonderful. Any
friend who asks and inquires so much about you is worth her weight in gold. I
had no idea that something crucial was missing until you started describing the
father responded: "It's only in contrast that you can see that the first person has mostly
an intellectual understanding of Love and Namaste. She has a great grasp of all
the techniques and processes—what to say, what to ask, what to do. But
she operates mostly from her head. She doesn't see from her heart and it's
likely she doesn't know how."
where he was going with this, I added, "Yes, I can see that now. I can see
how everything she does and says would a bit like a scripted performance."
agreed. "Her connection with you would always feel somewhat inauthentic.
You would never feel truly, deeply understood by her the way you would with the
all my reading and learning, I had completely missed this small but critical
difference between knowing
Namaste and becoming Namaste. What
else had I missed?
in Plain Sight
interrupted my thoughts. "Would you indulge me a bit more?"
I felt like I was
on the cusp of a breakthrough. "Sure," I replied, trying not to sound
He asked me to
imagine myself at an oasis in the midst of a vast desert. A traveler approaches
If you were like the first person, you would
lovingly ask the traveler how you could be of service to him. Staggering toward
you, the traveler would mumble, "Water." You would bring him a glass
of water and wish him safe journey as he continued on his way. As you watched
the traveler disappear into the distance, you'd be glad you had been kind and
generous to a complete stranger.
If you were like
the second person, you would see immediately that any traveler trudging through
the vast desert would be thirsty, hot and tired. Without even asking, you would
welcome him with a refreshing cool glass of water, offer him a place to rest
his tired feet and invite him to take a few moments to wash his hands and face
and freshen up. As the traveler bade you farewell, you would have felt happy
for the opportunity to take care of a fellow human, not at all aware that you
had gone beyond what most would consider basic "decent" behavior.
It suddenly started
clicking in my head and I couldn't contain myself any longer. I blurted,
"It sounds like, when you become Namaste, you become more alert, more aware, more observant of others.
You understand them in a new way and you see and notice things you didn't
Father added, "You see the world in a totally
different way." I could hear a smile in his voice. "You see people at
their essence. You understand what they are experiencing and wanting and
needing, without having to ask them. You notice the small but important details
that others skim over. Your experience of the world around you changes."
So this is the
key, I told myself. The truth
about others is right before us to see. Hidden in plain sight. But most of us
don't see it. I wonder what blinds us?
My father sighed.
"Unfortunately, practically all our avenues of learning today—our
schools, our colleges, self-help books, professional courses—don't teach
us how to see. They teach us what
to do and what to think. We get so focused on doing and thinking that we
don't see the Divine that is right before us. The end result is these
techniques and rules and processes actually get in the way of our becoming
Namaste. The tools we think will help us are actually the very things that
block our vision."
My stomach churned
with self-recognition. I laughed nervously. "I think the reason we want to
learn what to do and what to
think is that doing so makes us
feel safe. It gives us a sense of control. If someone gives me a 'proven'
process or a step-by-step formula, it feels a lot easier, a lot more
accessible, a lot more achievable."
I heard him sigh again. "But the sad reality
is all this do this and think
that advice we've been getting over the
last several decades has done us little or no good. All these laws and formulas
and processes are the very reason Namaste is just a concept for most people.
Oneness, Unconditional Love, Compassion, non-Judgment, Forgiveness—they
are just words, abstract ideals, things everybody knows about and talks about but few ever become."
That's when I heard
his message. Namaste is not something you do or even think about. It is
something you see and experience—not with your head, but with your heart.
Seat of Compassion
I had more
questions. "There's one thing that's confusing me. You keep talking about
Namaste and Oneness and Compassion in the same breath. But aren't they
Without missing a
beat, he responded, "They're different and yet they're the same. When you
become Namaste, everything else follows. You inevitably become Love and
Compassion as well. Judgment flies out the window and you become non-Judgment.
The drama that so many experience around Forgiveness becomes a thing of the
past and you become Forgiveness. And you become One with the Divine, One with
all people, One with all creation, One with all of life."
He exhaled loudly. "Namaste is the seat of
everything else. And there's nothing to do, nothing to think. In fact, the more
you think about it, the less you attain it. For example, if you think about
acting in an unconditionally loving way, the very fact that you had to think
about it makes your love very conditional."
This was such a simple and profound point. Why
had no one told me about it?
Father wasn't finished. "And if you have to
think about being non-judgmental, it's too late!"
I felt a tightness
in my throat. "How do I learn to see the Divine within everyone?"
I sensed his pride as he lowered his voice. "Remember that old
saying—seeing is believing? I've found that, more often than not, you
must believe it before you will
see it. Believe it—Believe that the Divine is within everyone. If you
believe it, you will see it."
I sat up. "Well, that's easy to say. What if I
don't like someone? Or if I don't care for what they do? How do I believe the
Divine is within them?"
"Can I answer that question with a question?"
Although my father couldn't see it, I couldn't resist throwing up my
hands in a mock gesture. "Okay."
times has the Divine Presence done something in your life that you didn't care
I thought about that for a moment. "A few. I guess."
didn't believe any less in the Divine, did you? You didn't question Its
Divinity, did you? You just knew that the full significance of whatever was
happening would unfold in time, right?"
"Right," I responded tentatively.
"In the same
way, when someone's behavior seems inappropriate to you, all it means is you
are unable to see its true significance in the moment. It doesn't mean the
Divine isn't present within them."
I squeezed my eyes
shut. "What if, no matter how hard I try, I just can't see the Divine
that stop you from believing," he cautioned. "Just believing is
enough even if at first you don't see it." Sensing my puzzlement, he went
on. "If you'll stay with the belief, you'll find a big change coming over
you. The way you think about the other person will change. All the emotions
about him that ruled you in the past—the judgment, the hurt, the
resentment, the disappointment, the fear—will be replaced by a quiet
respect and a desire to understand. The way you talk to him will change. Even
the way you sit with him will change. Because when you believe the Divine is within him, you will act like the Divine is within him."
I chewed on my lower lip. "What will this accomplish?"
His voice became
tender. "All the things we talked about earlier will then happen without
you even thinking about them. You will become more alert, more aware, more
observant. You will start noticing things you didn't see before. You will feel
the Divine within you. You will sense the Divine within him. Instead of merely
knowing the words, 'the Divine within me sees the Divine within you,' you will
live and breathe them. And your relationship will move to a deeper, spiritual
Looking back on that conversation today, I feel
grateful to my father for so lovingly starting me on a completely different
type of journey. A journey toward becoming and being rather than
thinking and doing. This journey can be unsettling, because there are
no signposts, no rules, no laws. But ultimately, this is a journey on which you
experience Love and Compassion and Oneness in a way that words simply cannot
describe. A journey where you change your world—and possibly even change
the world around you, too.
Footnote from Aman
In my travels across the country, many of you have asked me about the origin of my book, Yes, You Can Change the World. Now, you know.
What a world of difference it makes when you change how you see the world.