If you have watched Conan O’Brien throughout his career on “Conan” on TBS, or NBC’s “Late Show” or “Tonight Show”, you will have noticed that at the top of the show when he announces some of his guests’ names, he puts his palms together at his chest and bows. Many will recognize this as a pranam or “Namaste” gesture.
For those who are not too familiar, the traditional meaning behind this gesture is as follows:
“I honor the place in you in which the entire Universe dwells, I honor the place in you which is of Love, of Integrity, of Wisdom and of Peace. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are One.”
Though I commend O’Brien for embracing this gesture common to Eastern spiritual traditions, it is intended to be a recognition of the universality of spirit. Equal. Inseperable. Unconditionable. That is my interpretation. So you’ll understand that it is disturbing that, as I mentioned above, O’Brien only offers this salutation to some of his guests. Usually it is the lesser-knowns, the lower on the Hollywood pantheon scale who do not recieve the gesture.
The book “American Veda” by Philip Goldberg points out that O’Brien pranams in recognition and humble acceptance of the applause. Not, as is my contention, in recognition of the guest him/herself. But even if this is true, he is accepting applause with humility only on behalf of some of the guests, but not others.
Now, I should note here that I myself do not pranam to every single person I meet throughout the day. Not outwardly. Though I don’t feel this would be ridiculous, it may appear so to others. And distracting. So I don’t. But Conan, on an average night, welcomes three guests to his show.
So Conan, what is with the selective Namaste?