Botho/Ubuntu: A dialogue with the Dalai Lama

At last! Something fantastic and historic is happening in Botswana (rather than our A-list neighbour South Africa, not that I’m jealous or anything). The Dalai Lama is paying us a visit, along with human rights experts, neuroscientists and spiritual leaders, to talk about the concept of Botho/Ubuntu and healing trauma in light of recent scientific discoveries. Botho/Ubuntu is about interdependence; essentially, the idea that each of us exists because others exist.

As a Buddhist, a believer in the power of dialogue and an African for whom the notion of interdependence is culturally ingrained, I’m really excited about this and want as many people to experience it as possible. Just saying, this is a good time to visit Botswana. Wildlife, sunshine, starry skies, insightful conversation and the Dalai Lama.

The event is hosted by the Mind & Life Institute and will be held at the University of Botswana. Tickets are on sale now until Friday, 7 July, at

Here are more details from the press release:

In a statement, the Dalai Lama said, “My dear friend Archbishop Desmond Tutu has told me about the beautiful African notion of Botho/Ubuntu, which means “I am because you are.” This resonates powerfully with the ancient Indian idea of interdependence. In participating in the Mind & Life Dialogue, as well as meeting and talking with members of the public, I hope to gain a clearer understanding of this idea and explore ways in which it may help promote compassion and understanding in our world.”

Defining humanity through our connections with one another, Botho/Ubuntu is a view that is reflected also in the Dalai Lama’s teachings. Examining African values and healing practices in light of new scientific research on social connection and trauma, the Mind & Life Dialogue in Botswana explores the potential of Botho/Ubuntu as a framework for healing the legacy and trauma of wars and colonialism, and advancing social justice and women’s equality.

The conference is open to the general public with discounted tickets available to students and Botswana youth (ages 15 – 35). Please note that all ticket holders will receive a security clearance prior to the conference, so tickets must be purchased by 7 July.

Topics to be presented during the conference include:

  • I am because you are: A scientific perspective on interdependence.
  • Botho as a basis for intergenerational dialogue.
  • The biology of care and conflict in groups.
  • The history and contemporary frame of Ubuntu/Botho.
  • Traditional healing practices and the restoration of unity in environment and society.
  • Oppression and violence against women: Cultural practices and community support.
  • Goodness: Exploring the meaning of Ubuntu.
  • Emotional trauma and how it affects the brain.
  • The human capacities and challenges of Sub-Saharan Africa.

Thupten Jinpa, Chair of the Mind & Life Institute’s Board of Directors and the principal English interpreter to the Dalai Lama since 1985, described the upcoming conference in Gaborone as “an historic opportunity for the people of Africa to benefit from the unique wisdom of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, as he encounters profound issues of modern African society through the lens of Botho/Ubuntu. Guided by presentations and conversations with an international panel of experts, the conference will bravely explore African issues, from its sacred pre-colonial history to the importance of gender equality, healthy communities and peaceful coexistence.”

 The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people and is an internationally revered proponent of secular ethics, inter-religious harmony and human happiness. He is co-author with Archbishop Desmond Tutu of the best-selling “Book of Joy.” He is also the recipient of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize for his message of nonviolence, reconciliation and reverence for all living beings.

 Mind & Life Dialogues with the Dalai Lama began in 1987 as intimate conversations with leading scientists and scholars to develop an understanding of the mind in relation to human behavior. These conversations have since grown to include large public and private events addressing critical issues of modern life at the intersection of scientific and contemplative understanding.

The Mind & Life Institute is a nonprofit organization founded in 1991, providing grant funding for research projects and think tanks, and hosting academic conferences and Dialogues with the 14th Dalai Lama. Its mission is to alleviate suffering and promote flourishing by advancing the interdisciplinary field of contemplative sciences, deepening understanding of the mind, and promoting evidence-based applications of meditative practices in real-world contexts.


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