Ayni, Ubuntu, and Karma. When I first learned these three words, at three different times in my life, I was struck by the beauty of each word and its meaning. I was also intrigued that three cultures, each separated geographically by a different ocean, have their own word to describe the similar concept of reciprocity within a community. It seems to me, then, that this idea is important and universal.
Ayni is a Quechua word (native to Peru) pertaining to the acts of giving and receiving. It refers to offering help or services to your community, and in turn community members offer the same to you. Ubuntu describes the South African idea that I exist because you exist. The same “humanness” that exists within me also exists within you; and, because of this, each individual plays an important role in giving and receiving within our community. Karma is a Sanskrit word (originating from India) that essentially means we reap the seeds that we sow. In other words, what we give is what we receive, so it behooves us to perform actions of selfless service within our communities.
Community and the idea that “I exist because you exist” is quite profound when contemplated upon deeply. For example, I am able to nourish my body with food because farmers all over the country and world tend to their produce. This produce has then been carried by many food handlers and truck drivers to my local grocery store where the stock clerk has beautifully arranged the produce for me to select from. I am able to purchase this produce with the money I earn from my job. I have a job because of my training, which I completed with the support of my family, teachers, mentors, and peers; and, because my boss created a business in the profession in which I was trained. I am able to drive to and from the grocery store because many people working at a manufacturing plant produced a vehicle that I was able to purchase. Wow! We could endlessly go on listing the people and circumstances, known and unknown, that have contributed to where we are and what we are doing at this very second. The multitudes of intricate connections that form the web of our lives are evidence that “I exist because you exist.” There is great interdependence in this world, and this interdependence is what forms communities.
Unfortunately, in our increasingly fast-paced and technology driven world, it is all too easy to lose sight of our communities. It is not unheard of to go many days without having a sincere, face-to-face conversation with a loved one. It is all too common to rush past co-workers with a “Hey, How are you?” without truly waiting to hear their response before rushing onto the next task. In our hurried lives, it is actually these seemingly small and insignificant interactions that play the most vital role to establishing our sense of community. It is these interactions that give our lives deeper meaning, help us feel connected, and bring us joy.
This month, I invite you to consider these concepts of Ayni, Ubuntu, and Karma. Consider your community, and all the acts of giving and receiving that occur daily. Strengthen your appreciation and gratitude for this great interdependence. In doing so, strive to perform all actions from that place within you that is pure love and light; and, recognize that this same love and light also exists within all other beings.
“When we know ourselves to be connected to all others, acting compassionately is simply the natural thing to do.” –Dr. Rachel N. Remen