What is “Ubuntu”?

“I am because we are”

Ubuntu is a traditional African philosophy that recognizes how we are inextricably bound in each other’s humanity.

Here is a video from the Global Oneness Project that explains this beautiful concept that was at the heart of the Truth and Reconciliation hearings in South Africa after Apartheid.


Nelson Mandela explains Ubuntu

In the old days, a traveler through our country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or water.  Once he stops, the people give him food… that is one aspect of Ubuntu.

Ubuntu does not mean that people should not address themselves.  The question is, are you going to do so to enable the community around you… to improve? These are the important things in life.  And if one can do that we’ve got something very important which will be appreciated.

– Nelson Mandela


Ubuntu Group

In Southern California, we do a once-a-month free Ubuntu Group, a small group intended to provide a time to connect with one another in an authentic way about whatever is going on in life.  For more information, please visit http://livingubuntu.org/events.

Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. When we want to give high praise to someone we say, “Yu u nobuntu”; “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 what is yours.”… We say, “A person is a person through other persons.”

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… To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest. What dehumanizes you inexorably dehumanizes me. [Forgiveness] gives people resilience, enabling them to survive and emerge still human despite all efforts to dehumanize them.

– Desmond Tutu


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