What is Meant by Good Karma and Namaste?
I used to do business with an India-based company whose employees ended every phone call by saying “Good Karma.” This perplexed me. How should I respond?
Was their ritual sendoff a theological reflection or merely their culture’s accepted way to say goodbye? I considered replying with “God bless” or some such response, but I usually just said “Goodbye,” if I said anything at all.
While karma is a common aspect of many Eastern religions, it’s not absent from my biblically-based perspective, either. Jesus said, “Give and it will be given” and “with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Later Paul wrote, “A man reaps what he sows.” Don’t these passages imply karma, albeit within a biblical worldview?
I’d forgotten about this until recently, as I listened to a series of lectures online. The speaker ended each one, saying “Namaste,” a common Hindu valediction with diverse meanings. The bigger question is what did she mean? Was she implying she was Hindu? Or was she offering a cosmopolitan flare to a possibly diverse audience? Perhaps it was an effort to be cute or countercultural or unexpected. Each time, I envisioned her making a slight bow as she pressed her palms together with elbows extended.
Had we met in person, how should I react? I could respond in kind, repeating her word and duplicating her gesture. Or perhaps, I would nod and say “Goodbye,” giving her my cultural response.
In both of these situations, I desire to communicate respect without implying theological agreement.
What would you do?
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.