Do Unto Others: Living Reciprocity

Love your neighbor as yourself: I am YHVH  (Leviticus18:19)

In his recent book “God is Not One,” Religious Studies professor Stephen Prothero points out that while the world’s religions diverge on “doctrine, ritual, mythology, experience and law,” they tend to converge “when it comes to ethics” (p. 3).

The well-known verse above (from this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Kedoshim) provides the clearest example of this convergence. Known as “The Ethic of Reciprocity” (aka “The Golden Rule”), this precept is a foundational ethical teaching and has been invoked as the basis for the modern concept of human rights.

The Jewish rendering of the Golden Rule, of course, is well-known. When asked to sum up the essence of Torah, Rabbi Hillel famously responded thus:

What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary. Now go and study (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a).

While Hillel invoked this ethic in the name of Torah tradition, it is important to bear in mind that the Golden Rule is at heart a universal ethic. Indeed, even cursory investigation reveals that versions of this precept appear in virtually every Western and Eastern spiritual tradition.

Now go and study:

Bahai Faith
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. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings)

Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. (The Buddha, Udana-Varga 5.18)

In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets. (Jesus, Matthew 7:12)

One word which sums up the basis of all good conduct….loving-kindness. Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself. (Confucius, Analects 15.23)

This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you. (Mahabharata 5:1517)

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

One should treat all creatures in the world as one would like to be treated.  (Mahavira, Sutrakritanga 1.11.33)

If people regarded other people’s families in the same way that they regard their own, who then would incite their own family to attack that of another? For one would do for others as one would do for oneself. (Mozi)

Native American Spirituality
Do not kill or injure your neighbor, for it is not him that you injure, you injure yourself. But do good to him, therefore add to his days of happiness as you add to your own. Do not wrong or hate your neighbor, for it is not him that you wrong, you wrong yourself. But love him, for Moneto loves him also as he loves you. (Shawnee Teaching)

Oh, do as you would be done by. And do unto all men as you would have them do unto you, for this is but the law and the prophet. (Postscript to the Quaker Peace Testimony)

I am a stranger to no one; and no one is a stranger to me. Indeed, I am a friend to all. (Guru Granth Sahib, p.1299)

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

We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. (Unitarian principle)

Do not do unto others whatever is injurious to yourself. (Shayast-na-Shayast 13.29)