There are temples in Kerala where you can spot a banyan tree (“aal”) intertwined with a mango tree (“maav”). This beautiful symbiosis gives a subtle meaning to the word “aatmaav” or soul. The reason I found this relevant today was something that I read on how parts of Africa have a concept called “ubuntu”. Frankly, if it weren’t for Clinton there’s only a slight chance I would have heard of it.

The varied set of responses to a BBC article reflect how powerful and yet, complex a word unbuntu is:

Ubuntu is at the heart of the South African truth and reconciliation process. The term Ubuntu, according to Tutu, has perhaps its equivalent in Western world: “I think therefore I am.” The Ubuntu version of this same concept would be translated as “I am human because I belong. I participate, I share.” Ubuntu embraces the worst in the other with the awareness that I would have done the same evil if I were in their shoes. It comes from the grim realisation that in as much as people are capable of doing good, there is always a danger of an evil force that works at various levels possessing people and making them do things that they would not normally do.
Dawit Yehualashet, Ethiopian in Goshen, IN, USA

The essence and depth of ‘ubuntu’ as a concept lies in the age-long African philosophy and practice of communalism and shared objectives. You are your neighbours’ keeper…We are all extricably linked and if you buy into the philosophy of ubuntu then I have your back and you have mine. I am because you are – togetherness is it.
Lawrence Mba, Toronto, Canada

It is refreshing to see a Western leader talk about this concept because many people perceive there to be a clash between Western and non-Western cultures on the question of how to build a society. Do you base it on the concept of the individual where you encourage competition to elicit the best qualities in us? Or do you base it on the concept of the community where you encourage cooperation which may at times, require personal sacrifice for the good of all?

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4 thoughts on “atmaav

  1. I think that if a man/woman does exectly what their heart tells them to do, then it wouldnt be bad for the society. Following ones heart is the key.If people were to truly follow their heart, then the best of them would be brought out and the society will develop.Good to read about the concept. 🙂

  2. <>Do you base it on the concept of the individual where you encourage competition to elicit the best qualities in us? Or do you base it on the concept of the community where you encourage cooperation which may at times, require personal sacrifice for the good of all?<>“I think these two lines shows the basic difference of the two cultures quite well. Personally I think it is the West that needs to imbibe some of the aspects of the Eastern culture…we on the other hand are already in the process of assimilating and localising many aspects from the Western culture like competition…the West I feel is still stuck in the old mode and hence seem to grow only in that area.Dunno if I make sense :p

  3. @silverineThanks for your first comment!You make complete sense…The lack of material wealth can be easily resolved but spiritual wealth is not so easily gained.

  4. To think that I have been following South African philosophy without even knowing it. Well, now I shall have a name for it :p. The wonders of the internet. The key is to believe that you shouldnt talk the talk until you walk the walk. So before you point your finger at someone else consider what you might have done in that position.

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