A while back you mentioned
a Mandingan proverb. Who are the Mandinga?
The Mandinga are an ethnic group found in West African
countries, including the Mali Republic, Senegal, the Ivory
Coast, Burkina Faso and Guinea. They live in an area that
is very important in West Africa, and they had their "moment
of glory" during the Mali Empire. Their name varies from
country to country so that in Senegal, for example, they
are called "Mandinka," and in Guinea they are referred
to as "Malenque."
I would like to say something regarding the sense of time
or of death, and it is that the importance of the afterlife
does not lie in death but in life itself.
Could you expand on this?
What is fundamental is that death is not something that
permits us to reach paradise. Rather, what is important
is life. Everything is in life; one has nothing that one
did not receive from life. Paradise may be a totally abstract
creation and, according to traditional religions, abstract
paradise does not hold much weight in comparison to concrete
life. This is why they say that the afterlife is not rooted
in death but in life itself. This is a fundamental aspect
of traditional religions. To say it in another way, one
does not live in order to benefit from the gifts of the
other world. One lives here and now.
Considering that the cultures
and traditions of the world are so varied and that every
human being is different, do you believe we could find
a truly common basis from which we could work for a true
union of humanity? Or is it enough for each group or country
to profess its religion and have its beliefs or spiritual
concepts? If not, what would be the point of departure
for the development of a common spiritual language that
transcends the religious history of each country or each
I believe that the idea of unity implicitly carries with
it the idea of diversity and that it is important to keep
in mind that diversity is part of equilibrium. Many times
we think that diversity is a factor contributing to disequilibrium,
but the contrary is true; it contributes to equilibrium.
To clarify this, we can understand diversity as the way
each being appears to other beings. And by "other beings,"
I mean not just other human beings-and here I believe
I am returning to my original point-but all the beings
of the Cosmos. Regarding the way each being appears, humans
are different from animals, and animals in turn are different
from plants. We humans know that we are different, but
we also know that the Cosmos is made up of more than just
human beings. Therefore, I believe that diversity is the
form in which each being appears to others and that this
form cannot be denied. I know at this moment that a tree
is a tree because of the form in which this tree manifests
itself to me. This allows me to be conscious of my being
and of the responsibility that I have to the process of
building the Cosmos. Now, when we speak of union, we frequently
see it as something that should be mechanical in the sense
that everyone should orient himself or herself toward
that point. I believe there is a certain preoccupation
with orienting all these diversities toward a point or
in a single direction, and that this undermines what we
could call unity.
That would be to ignore differences,
and if differences were ignored, harmony would not appear
to be possible.
That is precisely what I am getting at. Many times we
speak of unity without asking ourselves, "What does unity
consist of?" I believe that unity is life itself. It is
harmony. That is to say: it is the Cosmos. In the sense
that we all know that we belong to a single Cosmos, unity
is a reality. Therefore, we share something in common,
and just as we are conscious of sharing something in common-the
Cosmos-we must also be conscious of the fact that we are
already united. Unity has existed from the first moment.
But it happens that, when we talk about unity, we don't
talk of it in this sense: as life, as the Cosmos. It seems
that there is a propensity to create another unity that
is not the one that relates to life.
That would be an artificial
unity or, as you were saying, a mechanical one.
When I say "mechanical," I mean that frequently one thinks
of the development of this unity without keeping in mind
the dynamic component, that is, the contributions made
by the different sensibilities and by diversity. It is
in this sense that I speak of something totally mechanical.
From the beginning a unity exists, which in fact is life.
But it is not enough to know that unity is life and that
we are here for a reason. If we do not stay conscious
of this truth, but rather think about a unity that has
nothing to do with life, then clearly we are undermining
life itself. And life is energy, energy of the being,
not only of human beings, but energy of the being-participation.
Participation means being part of the Cosmos without putting
equilibrium in danger, not only one's own but also that
of one's surroundings, the equilibrium of relationship.
All of this gives rise to harmony, and harmony is definitely
life. I believe that harmony is the most plausible union
to which all human beings can aspire. There is no other
union that is worthier than harmony.