We all know that Nelson Mandela was one of the world's greatest leaders and statesman of the 20th century but have we considered his life's lesson, the embodiment of Ubuntu? Ubuntu is an African word reflecting a deeply spiritual paradigm that holds all of life as Divine. Ubuntu teaches us that our highest priority must be to nurture all forms of life in order to create a fulfilling, compassionate and sustainable Earth. In the English language, it means Oneness.
We don't tend to think of Nelson Mandela as a spiritual leader, but when we stand back and look at the whole of his life, and the way he forgave those who imprisoned his country and him personally for 27 years, we must ask how he became transformed and what lessons might we take away.
Nelson Mandela spoke often of Ubuntu and once said, "When we were young, a traveler through a country would stop at a village, and he didn't have to ask for food or water; once he stops, the people give him food and entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not address themselves. The question is, are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you, and enable it to improve?"
Like all great leaders, Mandela spent more time embodying his message, than talking about it. He was a living demonstration of lessons in how to forgive and how to inspire. Mandela prayed in private, letting his actions speak for him.
The Easter message focuses on resurrection, the denial of death and the assertion of life. It is about living in the light, moving beyond idols with limited possibility, forgiveness and living our highest possibility connected to the Divine. But is this a message we embrace?
Often our spirituality is confined to a brief church experience on Sunday but this was never the intent of the world's great religious traditions. Early religious teachings were about the embodiment of love; to love God, the Divine, with all our heart, soul, strength and mind and to love others as ourselves.
Mandela's spirituality was a spirituality for daily living. It was spirituality for the street. Mandela favored collaboration over competition, compassion over retribution and inclusivity over exclusivity. The Nelson Mandela Foundation's official biography states, "Despite provocation, he never answered racism with racism. His life was an inspiration to all who are oppressed or deprived."
Just as Gandhi left a legacy of non-violent resistance, Mandela left a legacy embodying Ubuntu/Oneness. Already his example is emerging as a powerful force in climate change talks, organizational design, sports, technology, business, culture and more.
Mandela would often acknowledge his shortcomings and certainly did not consider himself a saint. Perhaps Mandela again shows the way. We needn't walk on water or be perfect to make a difference in our own life or in the world around us.
Nelson Mandela's life example gives us many things to deeply consider. Do we make time to commune with the Divine within, to become transformed by its grace and beauty? Are we integrating this spirituality into our daily life? Are we taking wonderful care of our self, our family, community and the world around us? It is never too late to start and perhaps this weekend is the time to begin.
Steve Farrell is the Worldwide Coordinating Director for Humanity's Team. Humanity's Team will posthumously present Nelson Mandela with its 2014 Spiritual Leadership Award at Freedom Park in Pretoria, South Africa on Sunday, July 27. Humanity's Team is a global grassroots spiritual movement with over 100,000 members in over 150 countries. www.humanitysteam.org