Any fool can make a rule

Confucius

Portrait of Confucius by Qiu Ying (c 1494–1552)

This is the first in a series of posts about the Golden Rule. The next is Precious Metals.

It is an idea as old as the hills, and found in virtually every major religion. Confucius (551-479 BC) is believed to be the first to formulate it, in ‘negative form’:

Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.

Confucius, Analects XV.24, translated by David Hinton

Half a millennium later the Jewish sage Hillel expressed much the same sentiment:

That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.

Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a

His contemporary Jesus expressed the Rule in positive form, as part of the Sermon on the Mount:

In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.

Matthew 7:12. Bible, New Revised Standard Edition, OUP, 1989

But the Rule is even more widespread than this. As well as Confucianism, Judaism and Christianity, it is found in Buddhism, Baha’i, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Taoism and ancient Greek philosophy.

So even if ‘any fool can make a rule, and any fool will mind it’ (Henry David Thoreau, 1817-1862), some impressively wise ones can put their hands up.

Read on.

© Chris Lawrence 2018.

[Adapted from thinkingmakesitso, a blog of mine from 10 years ago!]

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