The Universal Golden Rule



NB: I consider this simple principle of life so important that I made it the subject of one of my children’s books in the Molly McKee Adventures in Growing Up series.  Lesson plans for teaching the Golden Rule accompany the book known as People Are For Loving for churches and schools. For retail sales the book is called Molly McKee Has a Little Fit and Gets In a Snit. Both versions are stories told in rhyme with zany characters and have the same last line lesson: People are for loving…not being unkind! 

Adapted from “The Christopher Newsletter”

“Every religion emphasizes human improvement, love, respect for others, sharing other people’s suffering. On these lines every religion had more or less the same viewpoint and the same goal.” The Dalai Lama

The Golden Rule or the ethic of reciprocity is found in the scriptures of every religion. It is often regarded as the most concise and general principle of ethics. It is a condensation in one principle of all longer lists of ordinances such as the Decalogue. 

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Leviticus 19.18

Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.  Christianity. Bible, Matthew 7.12

Not one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for him-self.  Islam. Forty Hadith of an-Nawawi 13

A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated.  Jainism. Sutrakritanga 1.11.33

Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence. Confucianism. Mencius VII.A.4

One should not behave towards others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself. This is the essence of morality.  All other activities are due to selfish desire.  Hinduism. Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva 113.8

Tsekung asked, “Is there one word that can serve as a principle of conduct for life?” Confucius replied, “It is the word shu–reciprocity: Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” Confucianism. Analects 15.23

Comparing oneself to others in such terms as “Just as I am so are they, just as they are so am I,” he should neither kill nor cause others to kill.  Buddhism. Sutta Nipata 705

One going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts.  African Traditional Religions. Yoruba Proverb (Nigeria)

HINDU:  This is the sum of duty; do naught unto others which if done to thee would cause thee pain.

ZOROASTRIAN:  That nature alone is good which refrains from doing unto another whatsoever is not good for itself.

TAOIST:  Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.

BUDDHIST:  Hurt not others in ways that you would find hurtful.

JAIN:   In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self.

JEWISH:  Whatever thou hatest thyself, that do not to another.

CHRISTIAN:  All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.

ISLAMIC:  No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.

SIKH:  As thou deemest thyself, so deem others.

“We should behave to friends as we would wish friends to behave to us.” – Aristotle

“Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others.” – Socrates

“Every man takes care that his neighbor does not cheat him.  But the day comes when he begins to care that he does not cheat his neighbor. Then all goes well.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The Golden Rule would reconcile capitol and labor, all political contention and uproar, all selfishness and greed.” – Joseph Parker

One who you think should be hit is none else but you. One who you think should be governed is none else but you. One who you think should be tortured is none else but you. One who you think should be enslaved is none else but you. One who you think should be killed is none else but you. A sage is ingenuous and leads his life after comprehending the parity of the killed and the killer. Therefore, neither does he cause violence to others nor does he make others do so.
Jainism. Acarangasutra 5.101-2

The Ariyan disciple thus reflects, Here am I, fond of my life, not wanting to die, fond of pleasure and averse from pain. Suppose someone should rob me of my life… it would not be a thing pleasing and delightful to me. If I, in my turn, should rob of his life one fond of his life, not wanting to die, one fond of pleasure and averse from pain, it would not be a thing pleasing or delightful to him. For a state that is not pleasant or delightful to me must also be to him also; and a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another? As a result of such reflection he himself abstains from taking the life of creatures and he encourages others so to abstain, and speaks in praise of so abstaining. Buddhism. Samyutta Nikaya v.353

A certain heathen came to Shammai and said to him, “Make me a proselyte, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.” Thereupon he repulsed him with the rod which was in his hand. When he went to Hillel, he said to him, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah; all the rest of it is commentary; go and learn.” Judaism. Talmud, Shabbat 31a

Sutta Nipata 705: Cf. Dhammapada 129-130, p. 478. Acarangasutra 5.101-2: Cf. Dhammapada 129-130, p. 478. Samyutta Nikaya v.353: The passage gives a similar reflection about abstaining from other types of immoral behavior: theft, adultery, etc. To identify oneself with others is also a corollary to the Mahayana insight that all reality is interdependent and mutually related; cf. Guide to a Bodhisattva’s Way of Life 8.112-16, p. 181; Majjhima Nikaya i.415, p. 465.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”  Christianity. Bible, Matthew 22.36-40 Matthew 22.36-40: Cf. Deuteronomy 6.4-9, p. 55; Leviticus 19.18, p. 173; Luke 10.25-37, p. 971; Galatians 6.2, p. 974; Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 5.2.2, p. 972; Sun Myung Moon, 9-30-79, p. 150.

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