Living in the Spirit of Ubuntu
Ubuntu is about seeing “the humanity in others” and recognizing the spirit in the other. We can learn much from the ancient African philosophy of Ubuntu. Is it too much to hope for or envision a village, a community a world in which we are all equally respectful of each and every soul? Can we do it? The Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu more than any other figure breathed life into the spirit of Ubuntu and increased awareness of this ancient tradition.
…there can be no “I am” without
a shared sense of “we all are”
Let’s look at some of the principles of Ubuntu. The spirit of Ubuntu is about compassion and seeing the humanity in each and every soul. Understanding that no soul is greater or lesser, that nobody can diminish or overshadow the spirit of anyone else. Ubuntu works from the principle of “we are together”. There is a belief that we are each affecting and influencing the lives of each other, and that there can be no “I am” without a shared sense of “we all are”.
Practicing forgiveness and kindness, being open to and embracing different perspectives on life. Living with generosity and having a sense of connection and relationship, being together with friendship and vulnerability. What is there not to like in this? In forgiveness when someone has stepped over the line in the community, that person sits in the middle of the village and each person shares all the good things that person has done in his life. They work to uplift and empower the individual, not to place penalties upon that person. The soul is raised up by the awareness of their own goodness and the goodwill of others.
In the Western world the principle of the “I” and “I-ness” has meant that the striving to be different, and to be recognized for our individuality and “specialness” has created many an obstacle to our happiness and roadblocks in our relationships. Why? Because we have forgotten the fundamental principle that we are all already unique and eternally different, we all have a personality and life experience unique to us. We are already a VIP without needing the status. But when we are made to believe that the uniqueness of spirit is not enough, and we must run and chase after an “illusion” of being different and individualism to just show to the outside world, then we are in trouble. Of course this outlook on life leaves us deeply unhappy because that desire will only receive a few crumbs of recognition. Anything of the material world cannot satisfy the internal spiritual needs of the soul.
So the principles of Ubuntu can help us to build bridges in the world today, because the walls of division only weaken us. Only when the spiritual principles of love and hope for humankind are in place can we really move forward. For sure “no man is an island” – no matter how distant we want to make ourselves. We have seen the destructiveness of “I”, so perhaps we should try the “we” principle, where no-one can make progress themselves by simply standing on the back of anyone else. History shows us the destructive nature of this outlook on life, we have seen it manifest as dictatorships and totalitarianism. What has been the result of this? Suffering, misery and poverty. Now is the time for an upward push from the people. No longer downward driven by a few crushing the life out of everyone. We have a choice not to go that way and to embrace the love and compassion. To live simply the Ubuntu way.
…the fundamental tenets of the Marines that – “no man is left behind” on the field of battle
This is really one of the fundamental tenets of the Marines that – “no man is left behind” on the field of battle. For the men there is a bond, a silent contract that with respect and dignity the soldiers know they will be there for each other; they have the confidence that someone is watching their back and they are covered. This knowledge and creed of honour creates a sacred bond between the men because they are practicing a “we” consciousness.
Some years ago an anthropologist created a simple experiment. In a village in Africa he used the Western model to see the behaviour of some children, and he placed a basket of sweet fruits at some distance under a tree. The test being used was based on a Western model of reward and competition, where the children were asked to run to see who could get to the basket first and claim the prize.
In the West the children would have raced against each other in competition to claim the reward of fruit for themselves, this is the idea of “the winner takes all”. But here the researcher noticed a significant difference. The children in the African village, instead of heading out for themselves to win the prize, they stopped, joined hands and then all ran as one. They were the living embodiment of the principle of “we”, compared to the “I” of the West. The anthropologist asked the children: – Why did you not run just for yourself and claim the prize?
‘We could not be happy if our friends were sad.’
I’m paraphrasing here, but the gist of their reply was: “How could we leave our friends behind and enjoy the prize alone? We could not be happy if our friends were sad.” In their simple and innocent statement they were able to highlight the danger of divisiveness and the feeling of isolation that comes from the ego driven “I”. They were applying the principle of community and unity. We have much to learn from the wisdom of those young children.
It’s Time… to live in the harmony of Ubuntu with our soul family.
© ‘It’s Time…’ by Aruna Ladva, BK Publications London, UK