The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule

Golden Rule by Ari Helminen
Golden Rule (United Buddy Bears) by Ari Helminen

The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as we would expect to be treated. It is a maxim of reciprocity. It’s found in most faiths and many philosophies throughout the ages, though it may come in one of several forms.

– a positive or directive way, as in the Christian example below
– a negative or prohibition, as in the Hindu example
– an empathetic form, as in the Jain example
Of course, there’s some overlap.

Here are some examples. Some sources bring the rule up many times.

Lay not on any soul a load that you would not wish to be laid upon you, and desire not for anyone the things you would not desire for yourself.
– Baha’u’llah, Gleanings

Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
– Udanavarga 5.18

Do to others what you want them to do to you. This is the meaning of the law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets.
– Jesus, Matthew 7:12

Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
– Galatians 5:14

Zigong asked, “Is there a single saying that one may put into practice all one’s life?”
The Master said, “That would be reciprocity: That which you do not desire, do not do to others.”
– Confucius, Analects 15.24

Do not do to others that which angers you when they do it to you.
– Isocrates (436–338 BCE)

One should never do something to others that one would regard as an injury to one’s own self. In brief, this is dharma. Anything else is succumbing to desire.
– Brihaspati, Mahabharata 13.114.8

Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself.
– The Prophet Muhammad, Hadith 13

A Bedouin came to the prophet, grabbed the stirrup of his camel and said: O the messenger of God! Teach me something to go to heaven with it. Prophet said: “As you would have people do to you, do to them; and what you dislike to be done to you, don’t do to them. Now, let the stirrup go!”
– Kitab al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 146

One should treat all creatures in the world as one would like to be treated.
– Mahavira, Sutrakritanga

What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary.
– Hillel, Talmud, Shabbat 31a

Treat your inferior as you would wish your superior to treat you.
– Seneca the Younger, a Stoic, Letter 47

Precious like jewels are the minds of all. To hurt them is not at all good. If thou desirest thy Beloved, then hurt thou not anyone’s heart.
– Guru Arjan Dev Ji 259, Guru Granth Sahib

Do not do to others what you know has hurt yourself.
– the Book of Virtue of the Tirukkural, Kural 316

Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.
– T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien, 213-218

Whatever is disagreeable to yourself, do not do unto others.
– Shayast-na-Shayast 13.29

We cannot overestimate the importance of this principle. The attitude we give to the world is how the world responds. Our words to and about others can be supportive or can be divisive. They can be expressions of falsehood, theft, possession, and violence. This is contrary to the Yamas (observances) of Yoga. Such actions diminish our support of nature and harmony with the Divine. There’s a good reason it’s called the Golden Rule.

(Thanks to Suzanne B. Stryker for the idea)

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  1. Lynette M

    I have my own version. ” Treat yourself, the way you want others to treat you.” (Copyright 2023). The golden rule emphasis is about treating others as you want to be treated. This is good however I find the emphasis more on others someone outside myself. How about yourself? We need treat ourselves with kindness, love and respect. The golden rule though make sense, but can be a danger of being a door mat. I will give an example, a brother stole money from you. Do you report the theft, knowing he may go to jail? So if we apply the golden rule, if I think it through, of course if it applies, I don’t want to be reported. So, i will just not report it, as per golden rule. Or is there another way to apply the golden rule in this situation? Do you report or not? So in some ways I think that the golden rules as written above, can have a tendency of making someone a doormat.

    1. You make a good point, Lynette. If your self-worth needs boosting, the framing of some quotes is weaker. Others less so. I don’t see how it implies you should be a doormat, but I like your quote.

      The point of the rule is mutual respect and reciprocity though. Getting along with others.

  2. Lynette

    What I mean is, there are situations that you can’t apply this golden rule. One example is if someone steals from you. If you apply the golden rule, one will not report the thief because as the saying goes “Do to others what you want them to do to you” . To put oneself in the thief shoes, one doesn’t want to be reported to the police, so if one adheres to golden rule one will not report, therefore one becomes a door mat.

    1. Yes, I get your point. However, if we view ourselves with decent self-worth, we’ll tend to feel responsible for our actions. As such, if someone steals, we’ll treat them how we would expect to be treated. They didn’t behave responsibly, so there are consequences to their actions we would expect to experience if we did the same thing. We should be held to the same standards.

      If we take the golden rule to the lowest common denominator of aversion to consequences, then we have no society. Civilization is inherently built on agreed upon rules. For example, highways wouldn’t work if everyone drove wherever. It would be an obstacle course rather than a throughfare. Or if money had a random value, people wouldn’t work for it and many businesses wouldn’t function.

      Someone who has studied the philosophy of ethics more deeply would be able to argue the point more succinctly. I don’t frame it like you do though.

        1. Great.
          The trick is, if we’re acting in harmony with nature and society, we don’t have to be concerned with consequences. We’ll have old stuff to deal with but we’re not creating more problems.

          But if we’re acting against life, resisting and fighting, then consequences will be more difficult. We’ll have the old stuff and the new stuff coming at us. It makes for a hard life.

  3. Reggie

    The golden rule also depends on one’s perception of the world. The more aware we are of our full potential, and that of others each person we connect with becomes the Buddha or Christ shining the essence of true reality right back at us. If our perception is a dog eat dog world then the golden rule has no value. Moral intelligence isn’t a given, and definitely needs to be developed.

  4. Carl

    experiencing the benefits of TM as a teenager I didn’t realize at the time but I “learned” how nature supports me. fast forward 20 years and I was enjoying learning about the mysticism that the Apostle Paul described in his letters. an obvious similarity between “walking by the spirit” and what meditators experience “spontaneous right action.” Studying Maharishi’s “Science of Being, Art of Living” I began to understand “mood-making.” fast forward another 20 years and I assume a most of us are clinging to mood-making and our chosen ethics. All those fortunate ones in “CC” must certainly live and breath true dharma. My question: how does mentally following ethics change us to effortless dharma?

    1. Hi Carl
      Most people are engaged in mood resistance or grasping. Trying to avoid unpleasant emotions and hold on to nice ones. Mood-making comes up when we add an overlay that I’m supposed to be happy or whatever. For example, I’ve been meditating X years, or I have X relationship, so I should be happy. This is mind-driven and distances ourselves from how we’re actually feeling, which gets in the way of experiencing them properly.

      Someone awake (CC) is more conscious and thus finds processing emotions is easier. They can be experienced without attachment or narrative. However, we’re still human, a work in progress. As we integrate the shift, various upgrades become more prevalent. But most of us still have stuff to work on. It’s not like we’re suddenly perfect. And it’s not about fortune or luck but doing the groundwork. (which has usually being going on for multiple lives)

      There is certainly the tendency to move closer to dharma post-awakening, karma not withstanding. But samskaras can still remain. Habits of mind can still lead to mistakes. Living life, they’re triggered, then seen through and shed.

      True ethics come from the heart. Certainly, there is value in understanding ethical principles but if we can’t meet basic needs, those tend to fall away. Deeper is when we recognize we’re part of a whole and principles like the Golden Rule relate to the way the world works. Such sentiments become second-nature. We don’t have to think about it.

      Awakening helps us shift deeper still. We’re no longer the doers but rather the witness to what is happening. We step into the flow of nature and our actions help sustain life. (dharma) However, we may still have concepts about who we’re supposed to be, etc that can delay a full flowering. Everyone’s process is a bit different.

      For example, I worked in IT. As I approached awakening, that stopped being supported but it wasn’t yet clear what I should be doing instead. As I woke up, dharma happened spontaneously but it took me (the person) a little time before I recognized that’s what it was. Gradually, the new path came together. And continues to evolve.

  5. Lewis R

    The Golden Rule seems to exemplify two concepts that Maharishi talks about…. Spontaneous right action and Support of nature….. Where the Golden Rule would be more or less automatic…… A natural outflow of being established in Being itself. How do you interpret or experience this? Seems like being established you not only do to others as you would want done to yourself but experience others as the Self and bring the Source into your interactions with others.

    1. Right, Lewis.
      It becomes pretty automatic once we’re established in being. And even more conscious in Unity, when all is myself. (Some can have a strong experience of that much earlier.)

      We can have unresolved filters that distort our response, but as we live life and those are triggered, we can see and discard them.

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