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Home / Articles / Columnists / Life 101 /  Bringing the Sacred into our Greetings & Farewells
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Tuesday, May 6,2014

Bringing the Sacred into our Greetings & Farewells

By Cary Bayer  

In Hawaii, a deliciously fragrant and beautiful land, the word “aloha,” which is said as a greeting and a farewell, means affection, love, peace, compassion, and mercy.

In Israel, the Holy Land, when one person says hello to another and then later says goodbye to that person, the same word is used. The word, of course, is “shalom”. The word means peace, completeness, and welfare. The Arab people, on the other hand, will also greet and leave one another with one word. And that word is “salaam,” which means peace. A more specific variation of this for farewell is “ma’a salama,” which means goodbye. What’s more, the expression, As-Salaam, is one of 99 names for God in the Koran, the holy scripture of the Muslim faith. In saying good-by, Muslims will also utter the words “khoda hafez,” whose literal translation is “the Lord is the keeper´”.

Moving to the continent of Africa, we encounter the language of Swahili, spoken in the African Great Lakes region by people in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. These folks say “salama,” which means, “I’m fine,” in response to a greeting, but it also means peace, and safety, and is used to say, “Sleep tight,” when used after the word "lala".

Crossing the Mediterranean to Europe, we come upon Spain, where those who speak Spanish will say upon farewell, “vaya con Dios”. This beautiful expression translates as “go with God,” or the shortened and simpler variation of “adios,” which corresponds roughly to “to God”. In France, far too many Pierres and Brigittes have forgotten that their “adieu,” really is a contraction of “to God”. In Austria, folks will greet you with “gruus got,” which translates as “salute to God.” Irish Gaelic speakers will say “dee-ah gwitch,” which is translated as “God be with you”. But when the Irish feel more poetic, they have a beautiful farewell blessing that goes, “A sunbeam to warm you, A moonbeam to charm you, A sheltering angel, so nothing can harm you”.

Journeying east to the continent of Asia, we encounter an expression in India, that is used to both greet one another and say goodbye. That expression, “Sat Nam”, can be interpreted to mean literally, “Truth is God’s name. Truth is my (your, our) identity”. Other Indians - and now literally thousands of Americans into Yoga and many new ager practices- -will also say “Namaste”, which means a variety of things, such as,

“The Spirit in me meets the same Spirit in you“.

“I greet that place where you and I are one”.

“I salute the Light of God in you”.

“I bow to the divine in you”.

“I recognize that within each of us is a place where Divinity dwells, and when we are in that place, we are One”.

Coming back to America in this around-the-world’s languages in 80 seconds, we hear an urban greeting that might be conveyed by “Yo”, (Spanish for “I”) and farewell with “See ya”. Despite such a debasing of true greetings, we still have some foggy intuitions left of the sacred, though we’ve lost the conscious connection. Our word, “goodbye”, is actually a contraction for “God be with thee”.

Most casual American greetings, however, like “what’s happening?” “later”, and so on are not quite in tune with the sacred as some of these other cultures listed above. There’s something very beautiful, truly spiritual, about these foreign greetings and farewells. If you like them, and believe that American English “hellos” and “goodbyes” are emptier, by comparison, then why not incorporate them into your daily conversational quiver? “God be with you,” is a lovely farewell.

As for me, I’ll end this column by saying to you, dear reader, adios, or to God.


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