Expressing humility, gratefulness or respect by bowing to the revered is common to all cultures and religions. Muslims and Sikhs lower their foreheads to the ground, christians kneel and Hindus prostrate because we look ‘up’ to divinity. Idols are placed ‘higher’ than the worshippers. Why do we bend so inconveniently low to touch someone’s feet? The fingers and toes are vital sensory points of communication. 

The science of sensory responses tells us that maximum nerve endings are on the toes and fingertips. Jutting out like narrow antennas they easily absorb and transmit emotional charge through touch. When one reverentially touches the feet of another he transmits a strong emotional current through his fingertips to the toes. Generally the response of the other is a flow of affection, so he reaches out in love to bless him by touching his head. 

Thereby, like an electric connect, a perfect emotionally charged circuit of love energy gets transmitted as humble devotion by one and blessings by the other: hands to feet and hands to head. Generally misunderstood as humiliating and lowering oneself, or as bestowing honour on another, it is in fact the tapping of emotional energies of good vibes(blessings) from another.

The one who lowers himself is the receiver and the one who blesses has to empty from his coffers of mental and spiritual energy. The bender draws blessings to himself. It is a privilege to touch the feet of a great Saint. Many saints guard this emotional energy and don’t allow anyone to touch them as they preserve this charge, a kind of emotional hygiene or a conservation of spiritual energy which, they believe, depletes through touch. When thus understood, the complexion of the act changes completely. Let’s then rethink, who is the Giver and who the Gainer?

Prarthna Saran is President, Chinmaya Mission Delhi. 

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