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Golden Rule

Multiple emblems of faith and religion with sunset background

We are living in a globally interconnected world and we cannot deny that what happens in one part of the world; instability, migration and disease stemming from poverty and climate change affect us all. Economic development everywhere is essential for the spread of democracy which helps make us in the west more secure. But economic prosperity goes beyond our national interests, it needs a moral underpinning.

The human race is comprised of people of diverse cultures, gender, identities and who speak many languages. They are guided by different religious and spiritual belief systems. But there is a universal aspiration that all humans should be considered equal – All should enjoy and share certain inherent basic human rights, simply because of their belonging to the human race.

The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was created 60 years ago affirms that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family”. Sixty years on, billions of people are still deprived of basic human rights. All peoples should have access to the resources they need; food, housing, healthcare, education, land, capital, knowledge and skills and decent working conditions. The UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) addresses these issues and reflects our fundamental human rights.

The origins of human rights can be traced back to the time-honoured wisdom of the Golden Rule, a constant moral code that states one has a right to just treatment, and a responsibility to ensure justice for others. Religious groups and non-theistic ethical and philosophic systems differ greatly in their concepts of deity, other beliefs and practices. But there is near unanimity of opinion among almost all religions, ethical systems and philosophies on one topic: that each person should treat others with consideration.

The golden rule which is commonly known as “Do onto others as you would wish them do onto you” has its roots in a wide range of world cultures, philosophies and religions. It goes beyond the negative formulation of not doing what one would not like done to themselves, to the positive formulation of actively doing good to another that, if the situations were reversed, one would desire that the other would do for them. The universal and enduring power of morality therefore points to doing good in the form of positive action.


Some ‘Golden Rule’ religious statements are:

Brahmanism: “…a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?” Samyutta NIkaya v. 353

Baha’i Faith: “And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbour that which thou choosest for thyself.”Baha’u’llah

Buddhism:  “Hurt not others with that which pains yourself.” Udanavarga 5:18

Christianity: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself..” Luke 10:25-28

Confucianism: “Tse-kung 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 impose on others what you yourself do not desire.” Doctrine of the Mean 13.3

Hinduism: “One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Other behaviour is due to selfish desires” Mahabharata (Anusasana Parva, Section CXIII, Verse 8)

Humanism: “Trying to live according to the Golden Rule means trying to empathise with other people, including those who may be very different from us.”

Islam: “That which you want for yourself, seek for mankind.” Muhammad

Jainism: “Just as pain is not agreeable to you, it is so with others. Knowing this principle of equality treat others with respect and compassion.”—Suman Suttam , verse 150

Judaism: “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the LORD am your God.” — Leviticus 19:34

Native American Spirituality: “All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really One.” Black Elk

Shinto: “The heart of the person before you is a mirror. See there your own form” Ko-ji-ki Hachiman Kasuga

Sikhism: “Whom should I despise, since the one Lord made us all.” — p.1237, Var Sarang, Guru Granth Sahib (tr. Patwant Singh)

Sufism: “The basis of Sufism is consideration of the hearts and feelings of others. If you haven’t the will to gladden someone’s heart, then at least beware lest you hurt someone’s heart, for on our path, no sin exists but this.” Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh, Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order.

Taoism: “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

Unitarian Universalism: “We affirm and promote respect for the interdependent web of all”