The Bible gave us one of the ultimate spiritual quotes, the seven simple words at the end of this passage:
For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. – Romans 13:9.
Called The Golden Rule, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” has probably lasted longer and affected more lives than any other quote from any other spiritual tradition. But was the Old Testament in the Bible the first place the Golden Rule ever appeared? Not hardly.
Every one of the major spiritual traditions – many of them very ancient — contains a version of the Golden Rule:
This is the sum of duty; do naught unto others which would cause pain unto you. – the Hindu Mahabharata 5, 1517.
That nature only is good when it shall not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self. – Zoroastrian Dadistan-i-Dinik, 94:5.
Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss. – the Taoist T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien.
Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. – the Buddhist Udana-Varga 5,18.
All things whatsoever you should wish that men should do to you, do you even so to them. – The New Testament, Matthew. 7,12.
None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself. – Islamic Sunnah Hadith.
This Divine Law, the most venerated and time-honored command from God, lies at the heart of all faith.
You can see it, in some form, in every ethical tradition. The oldest known cultures on Earth each have a version – you’ll find the Golden Rule in the histories of ancient Babylon, ancient Egypt and ancient China.
If you want to lead a truly spiritual life, then practicing this law is the bedrock foundation.
What does it really mean? Scholars and philosophers call the Golden Rule “the ethic of reciprocity.” Essentially, it asks us to empathize with other people; to put ourselves in their shoes; to think of our neighbor with consideration and love. Even more profoundly, it asks us to include every other person as our neighbor – and not to think of anyone as an “other,” someone to be avoided, shunned or demonized.
If thine eyes be turned towards mercy, forsake the things that profit thee and cleave unto that which will profit mankind. And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbor that which thou choosest for thyself. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 64.
You can get a clue about the Baha’i version of the Golden Rule from the first sentence in that quote, however. The Baha’i teachings actually extend the Golden Rule to another level.
In this new religious revelation, Baha’u’llah asks humanity not just to love thy neighbor as thyself, but to prefer thy neighbor before yourself:
Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself. – Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 71.