Ubuntu Around the World


Discover ubuntu in other cultures.

Ubuntu knows no borders. Many non-dominant cultures around the globe honor the principle that all living things are interdependent and inseparable parts of a larger whole. The search for a stronger connection in our lives and institutions requires a rediscovery, not a new invention. These paradigms of interdependence have always existed. By drawing upon both current and ancient wisdom we can build a bridge across the ages and culture, between us and them, and begin to relearn how to live from that special place. Join us on this journey around the world to taste the essence of being human - the possibility and gift of ubuntu.

For the Yup’ik or Yupiit people, Yuk means everything as a personhood; all of nature and human thought and deed are part of this shared personhood.
In Navajo, K'e means the importance of relationship: solidarity, love or respect, deep responsibilities to others, a community view of life.
Hawaiian Kahunas believe that everything in the universe is infinitely interconnected, similar to a web, through a substance called Aka. Separation is an illusion.
The Quechan Tribe of Ecuador has the word, Camay, which loosely means “to breathe unity into” something when it’s out of balance.
The Kaxiwana Tribe uses Txai (Chi) which means “half of what’s in you is also in me, and half of what’s in me is also in you.”
From the Lacandon Tribe, Shaman Chan Kin Viejo says, “the roots of all living things are tied together.”
Mitakuye Oyasin
The Lakota phrase, Mitakuye Oyasin, or “we are all related” is part of a prayer or acknowledgment referring to the one-ness of all forms of life and existence.
An interpenetration of all things.
Kenya and Tanzania
Utu is Swahili for humanity, incorporating kindness, gratitude, trust, respect, responsibility, and empathy as foundational strengths.
New Zealand
The Mardu believe that nature and humanity are all elements of a larger cosmic order: the interdependence of all life—a cocoon of kin with others for which one feels some mutual obligation and responsibility.
Celtic Spirituality
Celtic spirituality is the interconnection between people’s spirits, the land and nature. Yates wrote, “have not all races had their first unity from a polytheism that marries them to rock and hill.”
Australia Aborigines
We are all one family tied together in a web of relationships, all formed of the same flesh, common life stream for all living things. Totemic life – the existence of all parts of life are an echo of one’s own – a web of relationship
A onenesss – the essence of all things. Teachings of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita discuss the many things around us are just manifestations of the same ultimate reality.
Middle East
The macrocosm is the microcosm.
South Africa
Ubuntu is part of the Zulu phrase, “Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu”, which literally means that a person is a person through other people.
Cosmic Web
Tantric Buddhism
The Tantras (Scriptures) in Sanskrit means “to weave,” woven together in an inseparable net.
In the reconciliation effort after the Rwanda Genocide of 1994, the people of Rwanda applied and utilized the “Gacaca courts” to repair the post-genocide web of relationships and effectively restore harmony to their society.
Brahmi Chetnu
Indian Rishi’s
Unity consciousness. While on the surface we are fragmented underneath lies a universal wholeness.
The benefits and burdens of the community are shared so that no one is prejudiced. Rather, everything is done to put the interests of the community ahead of the interests of the individual.
Botho refers to the idea of “a world for the people.” The Batswana use “botho” to describe a person who is courteous, disciplined, and realizes their full potential both as an individual and as a part of the community.

Ubuntu Around the World

by Eric Sirotkin

Presented at the American Bar Associations 25th Annual Dispute Resolution Spring Conference

Our search for a stronger connection in our lives and in our world requires a rediscovery, not a new invention. These paradigms of interdependence have always existed. By drawing upon the ancient, intuitive wisdom inherent in various non-dominant cultures, we can build a bridge across the ages and cultures, between us and them. Read more. Download the pdf.