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About the Dialogue

Welcome to the inaugural Mind & Life Digital Dialogue! Captured in this interactive, multimedia site are presentations and discussions from the 32nd Mind & Life Dialogue held in Gaborone, Botswana in August 2017.

In this unique event, the Mind & Life Institute convened leading African humanitarian and spiritual leaders, scholars, and healers in a conversation with international scientists about the African worldview of ubuntu, known as botho in Botswana. Over three days, participants explored the philosophy of ubuntu—with its emphasis on our shared humanity—and its relevance within an increasingly divided world. Ubuntu is often expressed by the phrase, “I am because you are.” Our presenters shared deep insights on this simple yet profound perspective, and offered new tools for living from a place of compassion.

Since 1987, the Mind & Life Dialogues have brought together leading scientists and scholars in conversation with the Dalai Lama to address critical issues of modern life at the intersection of scientific and contemplative understanding. While the Dalai Lama was unable to attend the Botswana conference—our first in Africa—the Dialogue continued its goal of exploring how the ethic of ubuntu could inform efforts to heal the legacy of wars and colonialism, and advance social justice and women’s equality.

We are grateful to writer Zara Houshmand for capturing and curating the essence of the event’s proceedings for a global online audience. The content you find here is divided into five sections focused on:

  • The Dialogue’s origins and goals (Chapters 1-3).
  • The philosophy of ubuntu from multiple perspectives (Chapters 4-6).
  • Relevant views from scientific research (Chapters 7-9).
  • The distortion of ubuntu to maintain cultural norms that lead to oppression, and ubuntu’s role in fostering moral and ethical accountability (Chapters 10-12).
  • The role of ubuntu in the arts, and ways that readers can continue the conversation (Chapters 13-14).   

We hope you enjoy exploring our Botswana Dialogue. May you understand even more deeply the wisdom found in knowing “I am because you are.”


The Botswana Dialogue would not have been possible without the generous support and contributions of many individuals and institutions. We extend heartfelt thanks to the Hershey Family Foundation, primary sponsor of the Dialogue. In addition, we offer our gratitude to the government of the Republic of Botswana; Botho University; Program Planning Committee co-chairs Cliff Saron and Daniel Irurah, and committee members – Lily Mafela, Maitseo Bolaane, Bagele Chilisa, Carolyn Jacobs, and Al Kaszniak; our esteemed presenters and moderators, Mind & Life’s dedicated staff; and our donors, in particular those who gave to support this Dialogue: The Kemmerer Family Foundation, the Tides Foundation, the George Family Foundation, the White and Jacobs Family, Carolyn Jacobs, Niki De Quelen, and Pierre & Pam Omidyar, via the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.