About the Dialogue

Welcome to the inaugural Mind & Life Digital Dialogue! Captured in this interactive multimedia site are presentations and discussions from the 32nd Mind & Life Dialogue, Botho/Ubuntu: A Dialogue on Spirituality, Science, and Humanity, held in Gaborone, Botswana in August 2017.

In this unique event, the Mind & Life Institute convened leading African humanitarian and spiritual leaders, scholars, and healers in a conversation with international scientists about the African worldview of ubuntu, known as botho in Botswana. Over three days, participants explored the philosophy of ubuntu—with its emphasis on our shared humanity—and its relevance within an increasingly divided world. Ubuntu is often expressed by the phrase, “I am because you are.” Our presenters shared deep insights on this simple yet profound perspective, and offered new tools for living from a place of compassion.

Since 1987, the Mind & Life Dialogues have brought together leading scientists and scholars in conversation with the Dalai Lama to address critical issues of modern life at the intersection of scientific and contemplative understanding. While the Dalai Lama was unable to attend the Dialogue—our first in Africa—the gathering continued its goal of exploring how the ethic of ubuntu could inform efforts to heal the legacy of wars and colonialism, and advance social justice and women’s equality.

We are grateful to writer Zara Houshmand for capturing and curating the essence of the event’s proceedings for a global online audience. The content you find here is divided into five sections focusing on:

  • The Dialogue’s background, setting, and local context (Prologue and Introduction).
  • The philosophy and definitions of ubuntu from multiple perspectives (Chapters 1-3).
  • Theorizing ubuntu in community and conflict (Chapters 4-7).
  • Understanding ubuntu in action: education, women’s and LGBTQI rights, forgiveness, and Botswana history (Chapters 8-11).
  • Continuing the conversation (Epilogue).

Throughout the site you will find video excerpts from the Dialogue where our presenters share the details of their work and passionate perspectives on ubuntu. Please join the conversation by submitting your comments and questions in the epilogue.

We hope you enjoy exploring our Ubuntu Digital Dialogue. May you understand even more deeply the wisdom found in knowing “I am because you are.”

The 32nd Mind & Life Dialogue would not have been possible without the generous support and contributions of many individuals and institutions. We extend heartfelt thanks to the Hershey Family Foundation, primary sponsor of the Dialogue. In addition, we offer our gratitude to the government of the Republic of Botswana; Botho University; Botswana Buddhist Association; Program Planning Committee co-chairs Cliff Saron and Daniel Irurah, and committee members – Lily Mafela, Maitseo Bolaane, Bagele Chilisa, Carolyn Jacobs and Al Kaszniak; our esteemed presenters and moderators, Mind & Life’s dedicated staff; and our donors, in particular those who gave to support this Dialogue: The Kemmerer Family Foundation, the Tides Foundation, the George Family Foundation, the White and Jacobs Family, Carolyn Jacobs, Niki De Quelen, and Pierre & Pam Omidyar, via the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. We also extend our appreciation to Karen Fitzgerald whose energy and efforts early on paved the way for this Dialogue.