A Simple Statement of Guidance

What simple statement of guidance is found in every major religion throughout the world? This single sentence, in varying forms, dates back to the Middle Kingdom of Egypt (c. 2040–1650 BC). According to Rushworth Kidder, this concept appears prominently in Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and “the rest of the world’s major religions.” 143 leaders of the world’s major faiths endorsed this statement of guidance as part of the 1993 “Declaration Toward a Global Ethic.” According to Greg M. Epstein, it is “a concept that essentially no religion misses entirely,” but belief in God is not necessary to endorse it. Simon Blackburn also states that this concept can be “found in some form in almost every ethical tradition.”

What is this powerful and ubiquitous guidance? What concept has survived for over 4000 years? What principle is common to all major faiths?




We know it as “The Golden Rule.”


Here are some examples of the various wording, all with the same intent:

  • A Late Period (c. 664–323 BC) papyrus contains an early negative affirmation of the Golden Rule: “That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another.”
  • Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama, c. 623–543 BC) made this principle one of the cornerstones of his ethics in the 6th century BC. It occurs in many places and in many forms throughout the Tripitaka.
    • Comparing oneself to others in such terms as “Just as I am so are they, just as they are so am I,” he should neither kill nor cause others to kill. — Sutta Nipata 705
    • One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter. — Dhammapada 10. Violence
    • Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. — Udanavarga 5:18
    • Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.
  • Hillel the Elder (c. 110 BC – 10 AD), used this verse as a most important message of the Torah for his teachings: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.” — Shabbath folio:31a, Babylonian Talmud
  • The Old Testament Deuterocanonical books of Tobit and Sirach, accepted as part of the Scriptural canon by Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, and the Non-Chalcedonian Churches, express a negative form of the Golden Rule: “Do to no one what you yourself dislike.” — Tobit 4:15
  • From the hadith, the collected oral and written accounts of Muhammad and his teachings during his lifetime: A Bedouin came to the prophet, grabbed the stirrup of his camel and said: O the messenger of God! Teach me something to go to heaven with it. Prophet said: “As you would have people do to you, do to them; and what you dislike to be done to you, don’t do to them.” — Kitab al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 146
  • The “Golden Rule” of Leviticus 19:18 was quoted by Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 7:12; see also Luke 6:31) and described by him as the second great commandment. The common English phrasing is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.
  • From the Sukhanan-i-Muhammad (Teheran, 1938): “That which you want for yourself, seek for mankind. … The most righteous person is the one who consents for other people what he consents for himself, and who dislikes for them what he dislikes for himself.”


All information sourced from Wikipedia: