Ubuntu, Yoga, and the Illusion of Separation

Ubuntu is an ancient South African term meaning “connectedness to others”.  It points to the human virtues of humanity and compassion.

Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning “union”, “connection”, or “to join”.

Between all the reading I’ve been doing and my recent journey into yoga teacher training, I have noticed an idea that comes up again and again.  It’s the concept that our ego constantly tries to convince us that we are all separate (the ego’s effort to build and maintain any self-identification that supports the illusion of control), when actually we are all interconnected in ways that are beyond our conception.

For instance, having your body tattooed with an image that is meaningful or beautiful to you.  I have several tattoos.  I like my tattoos, but I also see them for what they are: my ego’s effort to qualify the identity it thinks it is.  It’s my ego working hard to define itself, to project a self-image it finds favorable.

The identity our ego insists is real, is of course not real.  It is an illusion brought about by the fact that we exist in a world of forms and so our thinking is limited to forms.  Who we truly are is beyond forms, and is concerned with awareness, not thinking.  When one recognizes the illusion as an illusion, it begins to die.  It dies because its survival depends upon it being thought of as reality.

The power of a yoga practice is that it teaches you to be vulnerable and humble.  From there, you begin to open up.  Stuck places inside you slowly, slowly start to move, like a dam being deconstructed one stone at a time.  Maybe life has hardened you in certain ways, and these hard edges start to soften, as you devote yourself to returning to the practice again and again.  Your awareness increases, and you begin to notice the difference between awareness and thinking.

“One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human.  Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation.  It speaks about our interconnectedness.  You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity.”  –Archbishop Desmond Tutu

“Don’t seek the truth, just cease to cherish opinions.”  -Zen saying

“Our separation from each other is an optical illusion of consciousness.”  –Albert Einstein

“Give up defining yourself, to yourself or to others.  You won’t die.  You’ll come to life.” Eckhart Tolle

“Don’t become too narrow.  Live fully.  Meet all kinds of people.  You’ll learn something from everyone.  Follow what you feel in your heart.”  -Yuri Kochiyama

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