Today is International Golden Rule Day. The Golden Rule is an ethic of reciprocity – treat others how you want to be treated. This rule for life has deep historical roots and is universally found in all faith traditions. It can be stated in the positive (do this), stated in the negative (don’t do this) or illustrated through story. Here are just a few examples:
Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.” Hillel the Elder
Christianity: “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 in Matthew 7:12
Islam: "Pay, Oh Children of Adam, as you would love to be paid, and be just as you would love to have justice!" Qur'an 83:1-6
Hinduism: “If the entire Dharma can be said in a few words, then it is—that which is unfavorable to us, do not do that to others.” Padmapuraana, shrushti 19/357–358
Buddhism: “One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter.” Dhammapada 10
Confucianism: “Zi gong (a disciple of Confucius) asked: ‘Is there any one word that could guide a person throughout life?’ The Master replied: ‘How about 'shu' [reciprocity]: never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself?’" Confucius, Analects XV.24
Yoruba: “One who is going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts.” Yoruba Proverb
Native American: "All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really One." Black Elk
Zoroastrianism: “Do not do unto others whatever is injurious to yourself. Shayast-na-Shayast 13.29
Wicca: “I command thee thus, O children of the Earth, that that which ye deem harmful unto thyself, the very same shall ye be forbidden from doing unto another, for violence and hatred give rise to the same.” The Book of Ways, Devotional Wicca
[most of these quotes were pulled from wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Rule]
In 1993, The Golden Rule was endorsed by 143 leaders representing the world's major faith traditions as part of the "Declaration Toward a Global Ethic.” In 2007, the United Religions Initiative-Africa (URI) and the Interfaith Peace-building Initiative jointly called upon all citizens of the world and many organizations – including the United Nations – to join them in living in accordance with the Golden Rule and establishing April 5th as International Golden Rule Day. Their underlying intention was to make a more peaceful world,
There is a reason the Golden Rule has been so ubiquitous over millennia. It is a way of living that we all sense is 'right.' Treating others how we want to be treated is the seedbed for peaceful coexistence. From a macro level, it transcends all those petty things that separate us. From an individual soul level, it fills us with joy and keeps our burdens light. It helps us to become the best human beings we can be.
The spiritual path always calls us to grow beyond our normal comfort zones and to continually widen our circles of Compassion. In each of our hearts there is a perpetual Divine tug, pulling us toward a new understanding, a higher perspective and a fuller expression of our Divine nature. Can you feel it? I invite you to deeply ponder how you can live this Golden Rule in ways you may not have considered in the past. There’s nothing complicated about it, but most of us simply cannot see some of the ways we cause harm to others. To make it easy, I’m just going to be short and sweet and provide some practical actions steps that anyone can take today to more fully embrace the Golden Rule.
If you want to be loved, love another.
If you desire respect, respect others.
If you don’t like being gossiped about, don’t gossip about another.
If you value your freedom, allow others to be free; don’t oppress, exploit or enslave another.
If you don’t want to be eaten, don’t eat another.
If you want to keep your children with you and raise them yourself, don’t take children from another.
If you want to not see your friends be tortured and killed in front of you, don’t torture and kill the friends of another in front of them.
If you don’t want to be ground up alive, don’t grind another up alive.
If you don’t want to be suffocated or electrocuted, don’t suffocate or electrocute another.
If you don’t want to be impregnated against your will, don’t impregnate another against her will.
If you want to have room to live and the freedom to be with friends and family, allow others room to live and freedom to be with friends and family.
If you don’t want to die prematurely, don’t take the lives of children.
If you want to keep your skin, flesh or breast milk for your own purposes, don’t take the skin, flesh or breast milk from another.
I can keep going, but I think you get the message. Yes, there are many ways we can treat our human family better, and we should continually strive to do so. But if the Golden Rule was just meant to be applied to those who are like us, it would have little meaning. It's not that hard to take care of our own. Instead the Golden Rule calls us to consider others who are not like us, and behave in ways that may be counter to our impulses.
There are more than just human ‘others’ with whom we share the planet. There are billions of animals here too, who suffer mightily by our hands. Every day most of us participate in the exploitation of these others. We use their bodies for our entertainment and test our cosmetics and household products in their eyes and on their skin. We wear, wrap our furniture or make rugs with their skins. We mass produce and consume their eggs, milk, and flesh. We do these things without consideration for who they are, what they desire or the immense cruelty they are subjected to (some of which is described above). We treat them in ways we would never want to be treated.
They are God's beloved Creation too.
The Golden Rule reminds us that everything we do to or for another – any other – matters. It challenges us to honestly assess how we want to be treated, and to offer kindness and fairness to everyone. Let this be the day you allow the Divine tug in your heart to guide you toward including all beings in the Golden Rule. Choose to be Compassion, not the cause of suffering. When you do, you will enjoy the journey to a more harmonious and integrated self, and a more loving and peaceful world.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:7,9
© carol saunders 2019
This is a video which I participated in as part of the Interfaith Vegan Coalition in celebration of International Golden Rule Day. "Compassion encircles the Earth for all beings everywhere."
For those who may not know:
Go vegan on International Golden Rule day! Here are some links to kits that will get you started:
Rev. Carol Saunders
I am an ordained minister, speaker, writer and lover of all life. In 2010 I founded a spiritual community in Deerfield, IL, a suburb of Chicago, and have recently transitioned it to a weekly interactive gathering and podcast called The Spiritual Forum. Being a voice for the animals and a light for the spiritually-inclined who are willing to seriously examine the self and begin to awaken, are what Spirit has called me to be. I am here to support anyone who wants to move toward living in closer alignment with their deeply held spiritual values. Our world needs more Love, Peace and Kindness. We can make that happen. But we won't be able to until we transform some of the violent and unkind ways of living we inherited from our culture. Be Love. Be Peace. Be Kind. Today.