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Buddhadharma : Summer 2012
SUMMER 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 61 gain contributes to the gain of others, while another’s burden is your burden. Living from this knowledge there is funda mental generosity. Archbishop Desmond Tutu describes it like this: “A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper selfassurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished.” Ubuntu is key to the work of the Khanyisa Project. An essential aspect of changing the tide of the AIDS pandemic is positive role models for disenfranchised youth. One major challenge, which reflects the situation nationally, is the lack of behavioral change with regard to the spread of HIV among males aged thirteen to twentyfive. Young men are often writ ten off by their communities and, as a result, feel alienated. The Khanyisa Project works from the assumption that given the opportunity, young men will play an active and positive role within their communities. Without the cooperation of men, women within marginalized communities all too often find themselves subjected to unprotected sex. Even the much feted “protection” of male circumcision, which is heavily pro moted throughout the network of tribal councils, does not glass between us—we could see each other, rub shoulders, but the invisible wall remained. We lived so near, yet so far apart. Very early on, a family exiled from their home because of political violence moved into the gatehouse at Dharmagiri. In an attempt to communicate with them, we asked a local white farmer to translate for us. He was mortified when we introduced ourselves by our first names. According to him the family should call us nkosan, which means “little chief.” Our intention had been to find out their story. Instead the neighbor harshly harangued the family until the mother’s head dropped in shame. He told us to give the family a bag of mealie meal (corn flour) and to have them work for us. He was sure we would have no further trouble. From that moment on, we were on our own. The family lived at Dharmagiri for seven years, during which time we became intimately acquainted with the reality of rural life for the black community. It was increasingly clear that it was no longer possible to only focus on inner changes of conscious ness without responding proactively to the daily realities of racism and poverty, and of course the AIDS pandemic. It was a scary time. As the AIDS crisis rolled on, the years of pro tracted denial by the South African government under Thabo Mbeki, who was president from 1999 to 2008, made it hard to imagine that those infected by the virus could move out from under the cloud of stigmatization and the certainty of death. During this time of quack cures, ignorance, and stig matization, Nelson Mandela, whose eldest son, Makgatho, died of AIDS in 2005 at fiftyfour, hosted several global events to increase awareness. He urged action, saying if you can do something, you should do something. By then we had started our first response project, called Woza Moya, which means “Come Spirit” in Zulu. Fund ing from the San Francisco Insight Meditation Community enabled us to employ a director, a startup team, and build a community center. Eleven years on, Woza Moya has become an independent project that employs about forty people, serves a community of 23,000, and makes it possible for hundreds of children who have lost parents to AIDS to stay in their communities and schools. Inspired by the possibility of making a difference and sup ported by London Insight, we launched a followup project in an isolated community near Dharmagiri on the border of Lesotho. A dear friend, Abegail Ntleko, who received an Unsung Hero Award from the Dalai Lama in 2009 after fifty years of community service, named our second project Khuphuka, which means “Rise Up.” A promising initiative of the Khuphuka Project is the Khanyisa (“Enlightenment”) Program, the fruition of an early idea we had to use the transformative power of wilderness experience. It takes young men into the mountains to explore themes of the spiritual warrior and the meaning of ubuntu, the African concept of deep interconnection and interdepen dence. Ubuntu means “you are who you are through other people.” To be in harmony with ubuntu is to know that your Abegail Ntleko, spiritual director of the Khuphuka Project, receives the Unsung Hero Award from the Dalai Lama Young men involved in the Khanyisa (“Enlightenment”) Project work on a video promoting the spirit of ubuntu VANESSANIASPHOTOGRAPHERUNKNOWNMICHAELYAMASHITA