Sweet Philosophy: NAMASTE – The art of saying ‘Hello’


NAMASTE – The art of saying “hello”

With all love and respect in my heart
I clasp my hands together in front of my chest
I bow my head lightly
With my eyes all closed: “Namaste”
to anyone who reads this.
“Namaste” means “Hello” and also means “Thank you!”

Wait, in case you want to know:

–      What is philosophy?

–      Philosophy is what philosophers are trying to do: describe SILENT by WORDS and NOISE. They make noise and make a mess about everything – out of nothing, and say, “we are trying to find out The Truth”. Look at this: When a philosopher want to say “hello”, she tends to write an essay about “how to say hello” instead of just saying “hello.” Oh , it’s me haha

“Hello”

I remember the first time I was tough to say ‘hello’ to everyone. It was 25 years ago, and it was the first lesson I got from primary school. No. Let me make it right. The first lesson about the school I had learned was that I hate school, all school. At least the school of four walls is never for me. I was crying the whole damn first year when my dad took me to the nursery school. You did not read it wrong: I had been crying for the entire year, every morning, not just a week or a month or a few months but for 12 months. I was so young back to that day to remember everything, but this is what my dad keeps telling me, and my dad never lied, so I trust him. Only him with a sweetheart can handle me for the whole year crying like that, on his back, through many hills and trees to the first school because we lived in a small village.

I can imagine myself as a fat baby girl, very stubborn, keep crying and saying, “Good morning teacher” in tears and nose-running water. At the same time, all I want to say is, “Good morning and also goodbye, teacher, please let me go home”.

Live in a small village that not many people around and the whole day just playing with some friend in the garden. I never had the idea of saying hello to someone every day like that.

Kids all over the world seem to have a common sense about nursery school: they know their childhood, their freedom, and their heaven is gone since they enter the class with the angry, serious, long-face teachers. My whole life, I never seen any teacher do smile more than frowns. If they smile, somehow their smile was so fake, the way teachers in nursery school smile to every kid when they enter the class and know so well those all little monsters are impossible to control. Poor teachers and also poor all the kids, of course, mediocre myself too.

The first lesson about school was it was a prison where takes all my freedom and joy away.

The second lesson I remember was when I came to primary school. The teacher told us, “When you see the older, you say “Xin Chao” (‘hello’ with a bit formal) to them, and it is a good and right thing to do”.

My friends and I were so innocent, so we took that advice very seriously: We say hello to everyone we met on the street when we were walking back home. No matter we know them or not, or they know us or not. It was fun. We were walking on the beautiful village road and never let anyone pass us without screaming to them so loudly, and all-together “Con Chao X” – with “con” means you as a kid, “Chao” means hello and X depend on that is man or woman, old or young. We have many different pronouns in Vietnam, not just I-You as English.

Not only we saw it fun, but people on the street also seems to love it too. They all smile and laugh and say hello back to us, no matter they were walking or on bicycle or motorbike. They were so friendly to a group of strange kids do a peculiar thing. We love it. We said hello too much that when we reached home, we all have throat pain. But I still love it. I love the way people smile and say hello back after you smile and say hello to them, even they are just strangers.
You can call me old-school, but I still like it after 30 years, I still love to see people, especially stranger, smile and say hello back after I smile and say hello to them.
Real hello, read smile, not just a sticker or an emotion on the social network.

I love that good feeling of a friendly world so much that I still kept doing it when I backed home.

That time, my family had a relative, an old lady from my parents’ hometown so far in the north. She came to visit my family and stayed for a few days. She looks a bit fat but kind and friendly. Why fat people always seem more approachable than skinny. I was fat back to those days too, maybe that’s why I was so friendly. I still feel the fat people seem more approachable, from those days until now.
She was in huge trouble those days because I never let her pass me without saying “hello” to her. No matter I met her in the living room, kitchen, the yard, or even on the way to the toilet.

First, she was friendly enough to say hello back and even gave me an excellent complement to my parents, ‘That little girl is such a good girl’. I have heard it and of course, I love it so much. Since then, I have always loved to hear the (good) honest compliments, and I know so are you. Yeah, we are all the same somehow, I know. Just feel so good, right!

When I love something, I always try to get more of it, again and again. Like if you are my boyfriend and said, “You are so sweet and beautiful,” I usually say, “What? Sorry? What did you just say?”, then you have to repeat it. People thought I have bad ears sometimes, but I don’t mind at all if a little misunderstanding can give so much joy. I’m so “smart”, am I?

Back to that fact, when I do one thing and feel good, I tent to do it again and again. So unfortunate that old lady, after a few times saying hello back to me, she got tired. What to do? She was old at that time. Of course, she could not have enough energy to give back to a seven-years-old kid, always full of energy like me.

After that, she just smiles and “Uhm…” back to my hello. I didn’t understand why people can change their attitude so quickly. Where were the friendly face and sweet hello back? I tried harder to find it again, so I “hello” to her even more.
Now looking back all this, I feel sorry for that old lady. I was such a-pain-in-the-ass but a good-pain that you don’t want but you can’t refuse either.

Just by accident, I heard her told my parents: “That little girl is strange. She says hello to me anywhere she saw me, even when I was going to the toilet or just left the toilet, she was there and said “hello”. Then I saw her again in the kitchen and she said hello to me again. Sometimes I have a feeling that she is just following me to say hello. What to do?”.

She and my parents laughed. I was hiding feel so guilty, ashamed, regret for my friendly-shit-attitude. I thought people suppose to be friendly all the time, but no, they don’t—such a big lesson in life. And nothing’s wrong with them, sometimes we just don’t realize our friendliness is just annoying, then it’s our fault.

I stopped saying hello to her since that day and lost the joy from saying hello to other guests come to my house. My parents had a grocery shop so people in the village and also the strangers kept coming and leaving. I did not say hello to anyone after that and hate the most the idea when someone strangers come, and my parent tells me so say “hello” to them.

Karma of “hello”

Oh, I just remember a perfect story about this that I want to tell you. This story was about a little boy that was the same my age when this story happened, and he lived in Indian, an interesting country with much fascinating religion and colorful culture. Just read it and tell me: who is the real pain-in-the-ass concern to “saying hello” to strangers. Even the distant – relatives are still strangers because your parents know them, not you. If you live in a Vietnamese family or an Indian family, you would see that there is no way to know all the distant – relatives.

So in India, you don’t only say hello to the older, but you have to touch their feet to show your respect. Anytime a distant-relative come to visit Rajah’s family (the boy’s name), his father would call him and say, “Touch his feet, he is a distant relative.”
Rajah refused it and said: “I will not touch his feet unless I find something respectable.”
It happened many times, so after that, his father learned that every time any relatives came, he told Rajah: “You go and play somewhere out. Or you had a little sick for a while, let’s go to the doctor and check.”
Rajah said: “Is there someone who will come and visit us?”
The father said: “Yes, that’s true. And it’s better if you go out because it is very embarrassing. We told you to touch the old man’s feet, and you said, ‘Let us wait. Let me see something respectable, and If I feel respect the old man, then I will touch his feet’.”
Rajah said: “But what’s wrong? I just want to see what they have done good that makes everyone respect. And no one ever could tell me anything. How can I respect someone without knowing anything about him? If I just do it as a robot, then how do you expect me to be honest and truthful?”.
There is a truth in his words, so the family could not tell him to do anything. They just so worry when the relatives came to visit. They did not ask him to touch their feet anymore and hope it save them from trouble, but not because it’s… Rajah. He was not a normal boy in any way.
Sometimes in the middle of the meeting or the meal, Rajah just laughs, laughs, or dances around, making noise. The family said, “Why you dance here? You can go to the yard and dance.” (We know Indian that they dance anywhere even in the advertisements or a music video or in the movies…)
Rajah said: “I will dance anywhere I want. There is no law that said I could not. You can talk in the yard too, why you don’t do it?”
They said: “Why are you laughing? What are you laughing about?”
He said, “Why can not I? Laughing for nothing is better than talking for nothing like what you are doing. Life is so short. Time is priceless, and you are talking about the weather, the price of rupees… For what? Why have to talk about things that everyone knows and no one can do anything about it? If you don’t have anything real and matter to talk, why not just sit silently or dance? It is more fun than looking at all long-faces and boring conversation.”

Yes, now you know who is the real pain-in-the-ass, don’t you?

This little boy is my hero, my symbol of a spiritual rebelution. I have collected and translated his awesome childhood stories, and they are a priceless treasure for me. Those stories are diamonds. They are smart, humorous. Some many messages and ideas has been changing my life, from the root to the branches. I will share with you those storied in this book as my way to touch his feet full of love, grateful for his existent.

I was so surprised about what happened to him did happen to me too, a different way but still the same essence, different situations but the same condense.

His way was strong. My way was soft. We are Yin-Yang somehow to complete the whole idea of a spiritual revolution. At least that is what I hope you can feel. Think about them, my stories are nothing, but somehow I still tell, just for you to have different views for one issue. It’s always better to have more pictures. More views give us more compassion and understanding about others also ourselves.

About more view, yes, damn it, such karma happen to me after being the pain to that old lady. I was the pain that day, and now I’m, “the ass”. The pain comes to me precisely as karma to what I have done.

I had lived alone in a small peaceful house for four years before my neighbors came and built their house in front of my house. They live there with the whole big family: one old grandparents couple, their daughters and their daughters and sons’ children, and I can’t count but maybe 5 or 6 kids from 2 years old to 7 years old. The whole nursery school I can tell.

All those kids were hungry for attention and competition. They are all well-taught that saying hello to everyone is such a big joy for them, just like a big joy for me 25 years ago. Except there are five kids like me and just think about it: I am an old lady that has to say hello and answers thousands of questions to those kids every time they see me. Not one kid, but five. One didn’t say “hello” once but many times until I say hello back, and after I say hello, they will start “interview” or “research” me: what are you doing, where do you go…

About kids, I don’t have kids, that’s why I have time to watch them and I know something about them: If you don’t answer, they keep asking; if you answer one of them, the rest would feel bad or envy and keep asking more; if you answer all of the time just one question, they still keep asking more because they see you friendly lady, and if you answer every question of every kid, then your day and your life gone. Just gone!

I was friendly, but after being in that pain of being friendly back to that neighbor nursery school family, I decided to do something. When I went out, and the kids are there, and all say “Xin chao”.. I wave my hand to all of them, smile, and that’s it: no answer, no talk.

Their parents know because I explain for them once about the situation that I can not say hello or answer to every one of them many times a day like that. As I said, they are well-taught families, they keep their kids in the house more, inside the door, not let them even just sit and play at the door.

Poor kids, they were prisoners and have no change to communicate, that’s why they even hungrier for attention when they see strangers. The more attention they need, the more annoying they could be, but what to do?

It was ok when some of them have to go to school, but since the CoVid Virus active stronger, all schools closed, and they are at home the whole time. I stay home more often than ever, not because I scare of the virus, but I scare off the kid with thousands of questions about everything. My house has many things they love to know more: I have fish, I have birds, I have flowers in the garden and a lot of sweet things, fruits in my home. I feel sorry for the kids when I can’t, and nor don’t want to answer their questions. But if I do, then I feel sorry for myself.

Now I understand the old-lady feeling back to that day when I was so friendly to say hello to her everywhere. She may wish that I came to school and don’t come back until when she went to sleep, I guess. The same way I want to those kids frond of my house.

Don’t miss the boat

I have learned that lesson that day and nowaday, I smile and say hello not to everyone but to the one I like, in the right situation. I told myself: it is my own business to say hello, but if people don’t react back, it is not my fault or their fault; it just the way it is. Let’s be happy first that I’m still brave enough to smile to strangers on the street and don’t mind if they don’t smile back. Yes, that is what I told myself, but I have to tell you the truth: it is still sad as fuck if you smile to stranger-person that you like, and they look at you like “what the fuck is wrong with you?”

I’m not a very smart girl, or maybe I’m still a smart girl but just not smart all the time, that’s why I always keep doing it. I found out a fact: if anyone smiles to me on the road and somehow I could not give a smile back, maybe I was walking so quickly or did not realize that smile was for me. The moment I know I “missed the boat” to give back a smile. I always felt so guilty and regretful. It’s much better when you smile and no one gives you a smile back than knowing someone smile to you, and you didn’t give it back to them.

Once I was in an airport in Manila, in a hurry to take the flight back to Vietnam, I went to the toilet and smile to a young man I saw on the way, standing close to the bathroom.

That day, I made a special promise that I will smile to anyone I meet on the street or anywhere because I can finally get out of that country and don’t think I want to come back. I did smile to many people and got a-lot-of-nothing back that day. It was not a good day for smiling to strangers, I thought. After smiling at that young man, I went to the toilet, came out in a hurry to catch the flight, and saw that young-man from the other side of the male toilet was -maybe waiting for me to come back. He was just a cleaner at the airport, I guess, with all the equipment. He was standing there, looking at me and smile. I was running fast so the moment I realized he smile at me, I already passed him and ran out. I thought in my mind, “Shit. I know that feeling when I smile to someone, and they did not react,” but the flight… Whatever, I decided to run back to the toilet area, maybe 20 meters away, and I saw him still standing there with a sad face. He looked at me. I smile to him, and I said: “I promised myself to smile to anyone I see today. But I missed your smile when I was running in a hurry. So I come back to say sorry. And sorry that I don’t have time to talk more, but I have to say “thanks for your smile,” and you have a lovely smile. Keep smiling like that, ok. Have a beautiful day.” With an eyes-flash and a big smile, I ran away and still see his smile is back, so white and beautiful on his little dark skin.

I love that memory, and I have to tell you: I have many unbelievable memories just because of smiling to the stranger.

Smiling is not only good. It is much safer than saying “hello” in the first place. “Hello” could be people’s pain-in-the-ass if it is not the right time or the right situation. Don’t forget my “hello story” you just have read above. A smile is the best invention of God to bring people together, and the very first lovely step before they ready to know more about each other and come closer.

Just smile first and see what it can bring to you after. I promise, under my life experiences and also under the name of God, if you can give life a pure smile -unconditional, not fake, with pure heart and mind, life will give you back thousands.

Every smile is a magical seed of God that from the one you sow, uncountable beautiful things you will harvest. But in the first place, don’t think about what you would take back, give first, for free and with love.

Smile is one of the most accessible and most valuable things in this world that everyone loves to have more and more no matter who they are. You are all free to give it as much as you can and never run out of it. No one can steal it from you or borrow it or save it for the future. They only can use it now – just like Time and the “Hello”.

The teacher can teach me about saying hello, but how to say it, it is my responsibility. And I can learn from my actions only, not from what they taught. It is the same that life can teach us how lovely it is to smile and say hello to strangers but without doing it, take some goods and some bads memories from it, learn from it, and do it again… We never could know how beautiful it could be.

Sometimes, just a smile from a stranger can change your day, so we never know one day, a smile from you can change someone’s day or even someone’s life. Yes. We never know.

That teacher of the first grate, I still remember her name, Miss Binh. It’s strange that I only remember the names of my primary teacher. Maybe because to the kids that day, teachers were parents as they used to say in the song: “When we are at home, mom is a teacher, when we are at school, the teacher is mom…” So I remember not only their name but also what they taught clearer. Middle school and high school, if I tried and force my mind to work hard, I may remember some teachers’ names as well, but I can’t remember anything they have taught no matter it is chemistry, mathematic or geography or history… I remember nothing.

When I think about time in college, it doesn’t matter how hard I try to remember the teachers, professors. I simply can not remember the name of any one of them. Not even a clue. And I hate everything they have taught me in college: philosophy, marketing, economy… I hate them all even I don’t remember what they are. I just hate.

For me, education is such a biggest lie in the world. They always say you have to study hard now then you could have a good job, good life and you could enjoy everything later. There is no “later” at all because when you left Primary school, you have to go to middle school, high school, college or university, and then after university. And the moment you think you have done with it? A new hell name “Work. Jobs. Office. Task…” all waiting for you. When can I enjoy life after all this? I still wonder.
Education is a good idea to prepare for kids to live a better life. Still, it should be many different aspects of life, from the body, the mind, the heart, and the soul. It should not be just some unuseful knowledge that you have no idea what you will use them for, the moment you may need them. You can not remember them.
Education should make people more creative, grateful, thankful, independent, responsible, more respectful, more freedom, more ideas, and more peaceful inside. Not just more marks, more good compliments, more dead ideas – old pieces of knowledge – old beliefs, burden, stress, competitive-greedy-attitude.

So it seems like all things have come to me from schools is already have left me too.
But anything I have learned from real life, from the reality somehow still stuck in me, stay deep in me as the roots of the tree and slowly become a part of me now.

The real school and real lessons are outside, not always inside the walls.

The best year of being a student was in the fifth grade, the last year of primary school. Our teacher’s name is Dang. I don’t remember what he taught, but I remember him. Because he was an active guy, we had so many activities that year: We grew trees together around the school. We found herbs, traditional nature herb in Viet Nam and took them to the garden of school and grew them. We cleaned the whole school together once a week, so much fun because it was outdoor activities. We also had a summer camp, and in the camp, we danced, we sang and designed art and clothes for the contest. In that year, I even was one of the best students in school. I and my best friend, she was the principal’s daughter, together we went to the mathematic contest for the best students in the whole ward. It was my first ever, and I still remember why I failed. Not only mathematic, but I was also so good at essay on those years that the teachers always read my essay or my best friend’s essay be frond of the whole class as a reward.

Kids learn much from what happened outside the class, not inside.
Just like me with the very first lesson in early school about how to say hello to people.

To be honest with you, I was envious when I see many countries have their way of saying hello together. Asia, like Korean and Japanese, tends to bend their head and their whole back. Western just shaking hands. Thais clasp their hand and bend their head a bit. In Vietnam, we don’t have any certain traditional way to say hello. The old ways in the past is not suiting the reality anymore. It was just like a slave to a boss. The new way is to copy the West mix the rest of Asia: We shake hands and bend a bit of head or don’t do anything.

I used to meet many people. Sometimes I just wish there is a beautiful traditional way for me as a Vietnamese to say hello to people that are not so formality and not so business way.
I found it one day in the yoga class.

“Namaste!”

I think this is the best way to say “hi” to someone. It is a mix between Westerners’ friendly approach when they say hi, hello, good morning, hola, ciao… Everyone is equal when you say hi, no matter what you say to your neighbor or boss or even a president.

In The East, we say ‘hi’ to everyone in different ways. You say ‘hi’ to someone younger than you a different way when you say hi to someone older. You say hi to your friend different you say hi to your parent: they dispense the hello to many different levels base on who you talk to.
Namaste is not only a normal “hi” but also a spiritual way to say hi.
It is greeting way to show you respect their spirit with your humbleness no matter who is the one you talk to. They are all the same spirit inside them that nothing can make any difference. No matter you are just a beggar or you are the CEO of the biggest company. No matter you are homeless or you are a king. Our soul, our spirit, is connected, and we all have the seed to be Buddha/God someday, some other lives.

If we look at people without thinking who they are, what they are doing, what they did in the past, or what they would be in the future. When we can look at someone to the deepest point, without any judgment of your mind, everyone is pure and spiritual. You say “hello” with big respect to that person, that budda inside everyone. It is the meaning of ‘Namaste’.
It was an Indian way, but nowadays, yoga brings this beautiful to say hi to everywhere in the world. I knew about this a few years ago when I started practicing yoga, and I love it so much.
I say “namaste” to everyone, strangers, friends, family, students.
I say “namaste” when i see myself in the mirror.
I want everyone say namaste with their hands together, and their eyes are closed.
Just a little simple way to say hi, but at that moment, something happens in your heart that you can feel so well: you can feel everyone by their heart, their soul, not their body or their mind. It is a beautiful symbol that can show you a little taste of the other world: The world of spirituality.

Just practice: let’s come to the mirror in your house. Put your hand together like the Thais people used to do. Look at yourself in the eyes, smile, bend your neck slightly while you are closing your eyes, and say “Namaste” slowly, not too quickly.
Then ìf you feel good, you can practice it more and make it become a new habit or hobbit. Every time when you do that so someone else, you will feel so good that your heart is singing, your soul is dancing, and your mind is opening and being smaller.
You would feel there is nothing different between people if you can see yourself in anyone and see everyone inside you: the same quality of soul, just different quality of character and life. In the end, just the soul is the matter, body and mindset can be changed.
You would love people more and love yourself more just by a little act like that.

Namaste is not only mean, “I bow myself in front of your spirit,” but also mean, thank you. You can say that for hello and even for goodbye. You can say that for best-wishes and also for thankfulness. To anyone no matter they understand it or not.
Such a beautiful way to say all-these-things in just one word only.
I love that word and let me do it again.
With all respect and love, I bow my head and “Namaste” to you, thank you for reading my book.
The first English book that I dreamed for so long and maybe the last one also.

Phi Tuyết

27/06/2020