Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. it speaks of the very essence of being human. When we want to give high praise to someone we say, “Hey, so-and-so has ubuntu.” Then you are generous, you are hospitable, you are friendly and caring and compassionate. You share what you have. It is to say, “My humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up, in yours.” We belong in a bundle of life. We say, “A person is a person through other persons.” It is not “I think therefore I am.” It says rather: “I am human because I belong. I participate, I share.” A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed, or treated as if they were less than who they are.The meditative tradition teaches us to cultivate compassion and lovingkindness. Both support a commitment to ubuntu and flow from it.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
When I lived in South Africa I learned a principle that is very powerful and is actually antithetical to the belief in "rugged individualism" so prized in the U.S. That principle is ubuntu - an untranslatable word that has to do with connectedness being fundamental to our humanity. Here's what Desmond Tutu has to say about it: