Tag Archive: Nelson Mandela


1052_catg8931As we constantly deny opportunities to love, the guardian of the mind fails to yield toward connection, to that sense of deep love that could significantly impact our life.  Thus, the values and voice of Christ lay silent, losing touch with the very creator who resides within. Simply put, the impulse to change the world rests helplessly and doesn’t create a sense of empowerment.

Our hectic life places undue emphasis on technical mastery and our lifestyle is toxic to those in need and pursuing the vital connections between the personal and public good. It’s not inaction that has the biggest impact on those surrounding us. It’s all the secondary issues — the lack of healthcare, the economic issues, unemployment and disruption of community that strips the soul.

As the voices of our lives diminish, what will we say when asked, ‘Where were you?‘ As a Buddhist, there are no excuses. But how doe we embrace priorities those that enable the public good? Will we remain a threat to the environment? Will inequities in the distribution of wealth, lack of a sustainable energy policy remain only ideological dreams? Will our society continue to violate personal privacy and savor the predilection for excessive use of force?

Truth told, most of us give, not out of a genuine place of hope to help and of generosity but rather via some transactional exchange, some sort of trade, as if we procured the right to go on with the day and not necessarily be bothered by bad news.

An engaged Buddhist rests upon the insight that we must begin to change ourselves before we can help to change the world.  The stories we tell about each other matter very much. The stories we tell ourselves about our own lives matter. And most of all, I think the way that we participate in one another life stories is of deep importance.

Nelson Mandela said that the gift of prison was an ability to go within and to think, to create in himself the things he most wanted: peace, reconciliation, and harmony. Through this act of immense tenderheartedness, he became the embodiment of what South Africans call “Ubuntu.” Ubuntu: I am because of you.

Each of us gets to experience the deepest parts of our own humanity through our interactions with others. In 2014 we must realize our own well-being is deeply tied to those surrounding us. Danger is shared. Pain is shared. Joy is shared. Laughter is shared. Achievement is shared. Houses are shared. Food is shared. Ubuntu asks us to personally open our hearts and to share, and live with empathetic action in every moment.

All of us are in the cathedral of life, we get to see the most beautiful parts of ourselves reflected back at us. All creatures (human or otherwise) share our best and brightest moments. If I have a gift to share, it’s a gift that provides more of me to society. Thus, I carry the very nature of love that God and Buddha profoundly proclaimed.

We so often hear, “It’s only me, I can’t make a difference“, but great leaders of history showed that this is not true. Everybody can make a difference if committed.

nelson_mandela_photo_black_whiteIn 1990 I sat in front of my television at that moment and watched how Nelson Mandela walked out of prison … and tears started flowing.

Upon hearing of his passing, reading the words of the faithful and memorials of leaders worldwide, I listened deeply. I still hear Mandela’s transcendence, a man like only a handful of others, whose life transformed beyond the individual story-line. He made a good heart great; his vision was as wide, focused only upon the well-being of all and encouraged all to do likewise.

Mandela’s ability to use words to breathe life into social issues was his most powerful weapon. For him transcendence was essential. While politicians openly talk of repairing the injustice, Mandela found one could only transcend and transform it. He transcended brutality via four immeasurable minds—loving kindness; compassion; joy; and equanimity. He remained calm and concentrated. He looked deeply into the nature of suffering and with sudden understanding his heart was able to expand. He not only felt the power to bear injustice; he could survive it, he could live with it, and more importantly, he could transform it.

Only few could live the life Mandela led. How we would live in a world where evil ran like an open sewer is a hard question and should provoke great reflection. Like a great Tibetan master, Mandela countered negative energy with positive thought and action. He made himself an example, a light, a beacon … and openly practiced grace in all opportunities thrust upon him. In the vilest forms of hate, he showed the world forgiveness, love, dedication, and peace.

Mandela is an icon for centuries. He believed in human dignity, equality and freedom. He struggled not only for black South Africans, but for the dignity of all. Going into prison he was carbon but emerged a diamond. His brilliance remains undiminished. His character was resolve; he may have lost a life, but gained a nation.

As Mandela noted:

… the human body has an enormous capacity for adjusting to trying circumstances. I have found that one can bear the unbearable if one can keep one’s spirits strong even when one’s body is being tested. Strong convictions are the secret of surviving deprivation; your spirit can be full even when your stomach is empty.”

What Mandela taught me was the real source of transcendence does not come from a superior war machine, but from one’s internal constitution, our own individual leadership and our view within the global community. We must continually embrace our history and vision for human rights.

Dr. Martin Luther King wrote, “We have inherited a large house, a great world house in which we have to live together — black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Muslim and Hindu — a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who, because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace.”

At 90 years old, Mandela said it was time to pass the burden onto new hands. Like a distance runner finishing a race, Mandela passed the baton to us, those who quickly becoming forefathers to a new generation. It’s up to us find a way of “living with each other in peace.” It’s time for us to lead. Can we find a way to fulfill our spirit without indignation of others? We have a large house, but can we do it?

Nelson Mandela will forever live in my constitution, in my view of society. How does he, if at all, live in you?