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#5106 - Sunday, December 9, 2013 - Editor: Dustin LindenSmith 

The Nonduality Highlights •

Much has been written this week about the death of Nelson Mandela. I thought it could be interesting to see how our Highlights editors have discussed Mandela in past issues. Just before that, however, I'd like to share part of a short piece that I enjoyed this week from a Canadian First Nations artist, writer and broadcaster named Wab Kinew:

In part, the piece describes Mandela's physical demeanour and the force of his presence. I've always been deeply impressed by the power inherent in such deep groundedness.

Everyone who describes meeting him seemed to be struck by the force of his presence, which wasn't physically intimidating in any way, but which seemed to evoke a tremendous inner power that most ordinary people don't have. I've never heard Mandela talk about it in this way, but it seems to me that his decades on Robben Island were analogous to a monk's austere practice in the proverbial mountainside cave; during his long time in prison, he obviously developed deep insights into his own nature and of the nature of the conflict in his country.  

From Kinew's piece:

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What I admire most about him is that he spent close to three decades in prison and kept his humanity intact. Rather than emerging with anger and calls for retribution, he instead insisted that the African National Congress, now the ruling party, should only take a defensive position. Then he used the moral high ground to force the apartheid regime out of power. Eventually, he would encourage his fellow black South Africans to see their former tormentors as their “partners.”

It is clear that Mandela had a deep and profound sense of the nondual. There's no other basis on which he could practice such incredible compassion for his tormentors; he must have recognized the simple truth that they and his people were all one.

On a less serious note, I hope you like this offering from the irreverent but deeply funny e-card site,, which places Mandela's passing in a useful context for some of us:

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From Issue #4964 edited by Gloria earlier this past summer, comes the following excerpt of a story told by Bill Clinton about meeting Nelson Mandela. After asking Mandela about how he had managed to assuage the feelings of hatred he must have felt towards his jailers, Clinton described how he put a young Chelsea in front of the TV to watch Mandela's release from prison in 1990, telling her it was the most important thing she might ever witness in her lifetime. He then asked Mandela:

And I said, "I watched you walk down that dirt road to freedom." I said, 
"Now, when you were walking down there, and you realized how long you had 
been in their prison, didn't you hate them then? Didn't you feel some 
hatred?" He said, "Yes, I did a little bit." He said, "I felt that." And he 
said, "Frankly, I was kind of afraid, too, because I hadn't been free in so 
But he said, "As I felt the anger rising up, I thought to myself, 'They have 
already had you for 27 years. And if you keep hating them, they'll have you 
again.' And I said, 'I want to be free. And so I let it go. I let it go."

This next tiny tidbit comes from Issue #4366 edited by Mark Otter in 2011. It is what Mandela answered in response to the question of why he doesn't resent his tormentors:

Resentment is like a glass of poison that a man drinks; then he sits down and waits for his enemy to die.

That issue is one I believe I've quoted from before, because it contains a wealth of insights on the topic of forgiveness that I've always been moved by:

From Issue #1862 edited by Gloria back in 2004 comes this story from Elizabeth Lesser about Mandela's quality of Obuntubotho:
When Bishop Desmond Tutu introduced Nelson Mandela at his inauguration as the new president of south Africa, he described him as being a man who had Obuntubotho. Obuntubotho, he said, is the essence of being human. You know when it is there and when it is absent. It speaks about humanness, gentleness, putting yourself out on behalf of others, being vulnerable. It embraces compassion, and toughness. It recognizes my humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.

-- Elizabeth Lesser

Numerous other great insights and tidbits are contained in that issue as well:

I'll close today's issue with an excerpt that goes back even earlier, to 2001, from Issue #626 edited by Jerry. In response to a seeker's question about why such terrible things occur in the world that result in the suffering of innocent children, Dakini responded (in part):

I feel both awful and honored to have to be the one to suggest to you that you consider that indeed everything does NOT have a purpose. Would you be willing to consider that the only meaning anything in this life has is the meaning (you individually and/or we humans collectively) 'make up' about it? That's what humans do -- we are meaning-making machines.

Dakini continues by stating that life is in fact empty and meaningless, which, lest that sound hopeless and nihilistic, actually reveals a deeper truth about the world that frees us immensely: 

Once one deeply and profoundly understands the empty or spacious nature of mind and phenomena, this liberates one to be truly present to What's Happening -- not caught in the unconscious projection of meaning or story onto that person, situation or event.

So this experience/understanding of the empty nature of existence completely frees one to create consciously, unbound by the limited little 'stories' and interpretations (meaning and purpose, as you call them).

Truly this understanding gives access to great possibility and creative vision and manifestation. And the nonattachment and 'not taking things personally' that is necessary to create compassionately in a way that benefits many beings. The kind of courage and vision that, say, a Martin Luther King, Jr. or Gandhi or Nelson Mandela manifested.

I've long thought that a solution to every single "problem" in the world can be actualized with a nondual approach, but this business of "not taking things personally" is probably the Golden Rule of applying that insight to problems in our life. I can't think of too many conflicts -- especially the interpersonal and relationship ones -- that don't just dissolve when you stop taking your own stake in the matter so seriously. 

Even better is to accept that there's no "self" to take a stake in anything in the first place!

That entire exchange with Dakini along with a few other interesting dialogues can be read at the issue page here:


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