One (Golden) Rule to Guide Them All
"And we are put on earth a little space, that we may learn to bear the beams of love."
"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Did you know that the "Golden Rule" is found in many of the world's wisdom traditions? And because it is, we are invited to regard it not just as religious dogma, but deep and lasting perennial wisdom. Here are some of the various ways it is expressed:
Bahai: Blessed are those who prefer others before themselves.
Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
Christianity: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Islam: No one is a believer until you desire for another that which you desire for yourself.
Jainism: In happiness and suffering, in joy and in grief, regard all creatures as you would your own self.
Judaism: What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor. That is the entire Torah. The rest is commentary. Go and learn.
Sikkhism: Be not estranged from one another for God dwells in every heart.
Zoroastrianism: Human nature is good only when it does not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self.
Hinduism: This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.
Confucianism: Surely it is the maxim of loving-kindness: Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you.
Taoism: Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain and your neighbor's loss as your own loss.
Aren't these beautiful expressions?
Religious historian and scholar, Karen Armstrong (A History of God), points out in her TED talk of 2008, “Let’s Bring Back the Golden Rule” (https://www.ted.com/talks/karen_armstrong_let_s_revive_the_golden_rule), that the Golden Rule is expressed in the positive (what we should do) as well as in the negative (what we shouldn't do), depending on the culture.
When I think of the Golden Rule, of course, I ponder how each of us could be more kind, open and accepting. My heart knows this is possible if we could only do what William Blake wrote: "Bear the beams of love." But this is not always easy.
Sometimes my fear-based mind jumps into the conversation to offer a more cynical view and I doubt the healing potential of the Rule. “The world as we know it is too far gone. We have injured our planet beyond repair and we continue to harm one another over and over again. What hope is there really?” I say to myself.
When I connect with my spirit, however (and the greater Spirit or "God"), I know that what Blake says is possible. Universal love, global peace, can come to fruition if we take the Golden Rule seriously and apply it in all areas of our lives: school, work, home, religious community, political arena, etc. The application of it, of course, begins with me: what I, myself, am willing to do and change within myself to bear the beams of love. If I cannot authentically implement the Golden Rule on a daily basis "I am nothing more than a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal."
Indeed, if it's to be, it's up to me. It's up to each of us. Let us start where we are.
Reflection and Practice
• What does the Golden Rule have to do with our spiritual well-being? Everything! Love is at the core of our being and if we don't have vast storehouses of love within us, then we are not connected to our spirit (and Spirit) as much as we could be.
• Revisit the Golden Rule and what it might have to say to you about how to live right now—at this very juncture of your life.
• Of the versions of the Rule above, is there one that especially touches your heart-mind?
• Consider using the Golden Rule as a mantra, a prayer, a focus point, or intention. Come back to it throughout your day and notice how it affects you. Does it open your heart as wide as the world? Or are there areas of resistance, shadowy spaces?
• In support of the Rule, consider bringing this prayer/mantra into your daily practice:
I am a being of love.
I am here to bear the beams of Love for the healing of all people.
In so doing, I choose to treat others as kindly and lovingly as I treat myself.
Nothing holds me back from expressing this love.
I release all hesitation,
all feelings of self-consciousness or fear about doing so.
Divine Presence will hold me and guide me
as I live out this sacred mission.
In tenuous times, when fear, worry, or lack may dominate our thoughts, may we be ever mindful to treat others with compassion and kindness, just as we hope to be treated.