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Meaning And Symbolism Of Sashtanga Namaskara

Meaning and symbolism of ‘sashtanga namaskara’ as explained by Sri Ramana Maharshi.

Sashtanga namaskara means that eight limbs of the body, namely, two hands two legs, two arms, chest and forehead, touch the ground while saluting. The idea behind this type of obeisance is that the person doing it says, 'the body which touches the earth, will resolve itself into that earth ultimately, and the ‘I' in me will continue to be “I” alone'. That idea must be known to oneself by enquiry. Without knowing it, there is no use in doing these namaskaras.

With meaningless namaskaras people want to secure all the benefits: 'Swami must give them whatever they desire, be it a bag of clothes or money'. Whenever they do namaskara, I feel afraid I must be beholden to them. I must act according to their wishes. I must fulfill all their desires. I must conduct myself carefully after knowing their minds. Not only that. Just by bowing to me, they get a sort of right over me. When people like us suffer like this; what about Ishwara Himself? He must be beholden to ever so many; he must act according to the wishes of people; he must give boons to people. When Swamitvam itself has so many troubles, what about Ishwaratvam?

If anyone refrains from prostrating before me, I feel very happy because I need not be beholden to him. A jnani need not prostrate before anybody. Nor need he give his blessings to anybody. That is because his mind remains always submerged. He is deemed to be doing namaskara at all times.

Some people feel offended when they prostrate before a jnani and he does not respond with another namaskara nor even raise his hand and bless them. But the fact is, before the others have prostrated, the jnani will have already prostrated lower, his mind having been dissolved.

Even blessing (ashirvadham) is similar. The submerging of the mind itself is a blessing. The jnani's mind remains always submerged; That being so, who is the one to bless? What is it that is done?"


"This namaskara was originally meant by the ancient sages to serve as a means of surrender to Cod. The act still prevails but not the spirit behind it. The doer of namaskara intends to deceive the object of worship by his act. It is mostly insincere and deceitful. It is meant to cover up innumerable sins. Can God be deceived?

The man thinks that God accepts his namaskara and that he himself is free to continue his old life. They need not come to me. I am not pleased with these namaskara. 

The people should keep their minds clean; instead of that they bend themselves or lie prostrate before me. I am not deceived by such acts.