The Golden Rule is the principle of treating others as one’s self would wish to be treated. It is a maxim that is found in many religions and cultures.
The Golden Rule can be considered an ethic of reciprocity in some religions, although other religions treat it differently. The maxim may appear as either a positive or negative injunction governing conduct:
The idea dates at least to the early Confucian times (551479 BC) according to Rushworth Kidder, who identifies that this concept appears prominently in Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and “the rest of the world’s major religions”. The concept of the Rule is codified in the Code of Hammurabi stele and tablets, 1754-1790 BC. 143 leaders encompassing the world’s major faiths endorsed the Golden Rule as part of the 1993 “Declaration Toward a Global Ethic”, including the Baha’i Faith, Brahmanism, Brahma Kumaris, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Indigenous, Interfaith, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Native American, Neo-Pagan, Sikhism, Taoism, Theosophist, Unitarian Universalist and Zoroastrian. According to Greg M. Epstein, “‘do unto others’… is a concept that essentially no religion misses entirely,” but belief in God is not necessary to endorse it. Simon Blackburn also states that the Golden Rule can be “found in some form in almost every ethical tradition”.
Yet, as with any historically prominent maxim, the Golden Rule is not without its controversy (as seen in the Criticism section below).
The term “Golden Rule”, or “Golden law”, began to be used widely in the early 17th century in Britain by Anglican theologians and preachers; the earliest known usage is that of Anglicans Charles Gibbon and Thomas Jackson in 1604.
Possibly the earliest affirmation of the maxim of reciprocity, reflecting the ancient Egyptian goddess Ma’at, appears in the story of The Eloquent Peasant, which dates to the Middle Kingdom (c. 20401650 BC): “Now this is the command: Do to the doer to make him do.” This proverb embodies the do ut des principle. A Late Period (c. 664323 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.”
In Mahbhrata, the ancient epic of India, there is a discourse in which the wise minister Vidura advises the King Yuddhihhira
Listening to wise scriptures, austerity, sacrifice, respectful faith, social welfare, forgiveness, purity of intent, compassion, truth and self-controlare the ten wealth of character (self). O king aim for these, may you be steadfast in these qualities. These are the basis of prosperity and rightful living. These are highest attainable things. All worlds are balanced on dharma, dharma encompasses ways to prosperity as well. O King, dharma is the best quality to have, wealth the medium and desire (kma) the lowest. Hence, (keeping these in mind), by self-control and by making dharma (right conduct) your main focus, treat others as you treat yourself.
Mahbhrata Shnti-Parva 167:9
In Chapter 32 in the Part on Virtue of the Tirukkua (c. 200 BC c. 500 AD), Tiruvalluvar says: “Do not do to others what you know has hurt yourself” (K. 316.); “Why does one hurt others knowing what it is to be hurt?” (K. 318). He furthermore opined that it is the determination of the spotless (virtuous) not to do evil, even in return, to those who have cherished enmity and done them evil. (K. 312) The (proper) punishment to those who have done evil (to you), is to put them to shame by showing them kindness, in return and to forget both the evil and the good done on both sides (K. 314)
The Golden Rule in its prohibitive (negative) form was a common principle in ancient Greek philosophy. Examples of the general concept include:
The Pahlavi Texts of Zoroastrianism (c. 300 BC1000 AD) were an early source for the Golden Rule: “That nature alone is good which refrains from doing to another whatsoever is not good for itself.” Dadisten-I-dinik, 94,5, and “Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others.” Shayast-na-Shayast 13:29
Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC65 AD), a practitioner of Stoicism (c. 300 BC200 AD) expressed the Golden Rule in his essay regarding the treatment of slaves: “Treat your inferior as you would wish your superior to treat you.”
According to Simon Blackburn, the Golden Rule “can be found in some form in almost every ethical tradition”.
A rule of altruistic reciprocity was first stated positively in a well-known Torah verse (Hebrew: ):
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your kinsfolk. Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
Hillel the Elder (c. 110 BC 10 AD), used this verse as a most important message of the Torah for his teachings. Once, he was challenged by a gentile who asked to be converted under the condition that the Torah be explained to him while he stood on one foot. Hillel accepted him as a candidate for conversion to Judaism but, drawing on Leviticus 19:18, briefed the man:
What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.
Hillel recognized brotherly love as the fundamental principle of Jewish ethics. Rabbi Akiva agreed and suggested that the principle of love must have its foundation in Genesis chapter 1, which teaches that all men are the offspring of Adam, who was made in the image of God (Sifra, edoshim, iv.; Yer. Ned. ix. 41c; Genesis Rabba 24). According to Jewish rabbinic literature, the first man Adam represents the unity of mankind. This is echoed in the modern preamble of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And it is also taught, that Adam is last in order according to the evolutionary character of God’s creation:
Why was only a single specimen of man created first? To teach us that he who destroys a single soul destroys a whole world and that he who saves a single soul saves a whole world; furthermore, so no race or class may claim a nobler ancestry, saying, ‘Our father was born first’; and, finally, to give testimony to the greatness of the Lord, who caused the wonderful diversity of mankind to emanate from one type. And why was Adam created last of all beings? To teach him humility; for if he be overbearing, let him remember that the little fly preceded him in the order of creation.
The Jewish Publication Society’s edition of Leviticus states:
Thou shalt not hate thy brother. in thy heart; thou shalt surely rebuke thy neighbour, and not bear sin because of him. 18 Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.
This Torah verse represents one of several versions of the Golden Rule, which itself appears in various forms, positive and negative. It is the earliest written version of that concept in a positive form.
At the turn of the eras, the Jewish rabbis were discussing the scope of the meaning of Leviticus 19:18 and 19:34 extensively:
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.
Commentators summed up foreigners (= Samaritans), proselytes (= ‘strangers who resides with you’) (Rabbi Akiva, bQuid 75b) or Jews (Rabbi Gamaliel, yKet 3, 1; 27a) to the scope of the meaning.
On the verse, “Love your fellow as yourself,” the classic commentator Rashi quotes from Torat Kohanim, an early Midrashic text regarding the famous dictum of Rabbi Akiva: “Love your fellow as yourself Rabbi Akiva says this is a great principle of the Torah.”
Israel’s postal service quoted from the previous Leviticus verse when it commemorated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on a 1958 postage stamp.
The “Golden Rule” was given by Jesus of Nazareth (Matthew 7:12, see also Luke 6:31). The common English phrasing is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. A similar form of the phrase appeared in a Catholic catechism around 1567 (certainly in the reprint of 1583).The Golden Rule is stated positively numerous times in the Old Testament: Leviticus 19:18 (“Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.”; see also Great Commandment) and Leviticus 19:34 (“But treat them just as you treat your own citizens. Love foreigners as you love yourselves, because you were foreigners one time in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”).
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.”
“Recognize that your neighbor feels as you do, and keep in mind your own dislikes.”
Two passages in the New Testament quote Jesus of Nazareth espousing the positive form of the Golden rule:
Do to others what you want them to do to you. This is the meaning of the law of Moses and the teaching of the prophets.
And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
A similar passage, a parallel to the Great Commandment, is Luke 10:25-28
25 Behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”
27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”28 He said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this, and you will live.”
The passage in the book of Luke then continues with Jesus answering the question, “Who is my neighbor?”, by telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, indicating that “your neighbor” is anyone in need. This extends to all, including those who are generally considered hostile.
Jesus’ teaching 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. This formulation, as indicated in the parable of the Good Samaritan, emphasizes the needs for positive action that brings benefit to another, not simply restraining oneself from negative activities that hurt another.
In one passage of the New Testament, Paul the Apostle refers to the golden rule:
14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
The Arabian peninsula was known to not practice the golden rule prior to the advent of Islam. “Pre-Islamic Arabs regarded the survival of the tribe, as most essential and to be ensured by the ancient rite of blood vengeance”[according to whom?]
However, this all changed when Muhammad came on the scene:
Fakir al-Din al-Razi and several other Qur’anic commentators have pointed out that Qur’an 83:1-6 is an implicit statement of the Golden Rule, which is explicitly stated in the tradition, “Pay, Oh Children of Adam, as you would love to be paid, and be just as you would love to have justice!” 
Similar examples of the golden rule are found in the hadith of the prophet Muhammad. The hadith recount what the prophet is believed to have said and done, and traditionally Muslims regard the hadith as second to only the Qur’an as a guide to correct belief and action.[according to whom?]
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. Now let the stirrup go!” [This maxim is enough for you; go and act in accordance with it!]”
None of you [truly] believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.
Seek for mankind that of which you are desirous for yourself, that you may be a believer.
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.
Ali ibn Abi Talib (4th Caliph in Sunni Islam, and first Imam in Shia Islam) says:
O’ my child, make yourself the measure (for dealings) between you and others. Thus, you should desire for others what you desire for yourself and hate for others what you hate for yourself. Do not oppress as you do not like to be oppressed. Do good to others as you would like good to be done to you. Regard bad for yourself whatever you regard bad for others. Accept that (treatment) from others which you would like others to accept from you… Do not say to others what you do not like to be said to you.
The writings of the Bah’ Faith encourages everyone to treat others as they would treat themselves and even prefer others over oneself:
O SON OF MAN! Deny not My servant should he ask anything from thee, for his face is My face; be then abashed before Me.
Blessed is he who preferreth his brother before himself.
And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbour that which thou choosest for thyself.
Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not.
Those acts that you consider good when done to you, do those to others, none else.
One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to ones own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Other behavior is due to selfish desires.
By making dharma your main focus, treat others as you treat yourself
If the entire Dharma can be said in a few words, then it isthat which is unfavorable to us, do not do that to others.
Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama, c. 623543 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.
One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter.
Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.
Putting oneself in the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.
The Golden Rule is paramount in the Jainist philosophy and can be seen in the doctrines of Ahimsa and Karma. As part of the prohibition of causing any living beings to suffer, Jainism forbids inflicting upon others what is harmful to oneself.
The following quotation from the Acaranga Sutra sums up the philosophy of Jainism:
Nothing which breathes, which exists, which lives, or which has essence or potential of life, should be destroyed or ruled over, or subjugated, or harmed, or denied of its essence or potential.
In support of this Truth, I ask you a question “Is sorrow or pain desirable to you?” If you say “yes it is”, it would be a lie. If you say, “No, It is not” you will be expressing the truth. Just as sorrow or pain is not desirable to you, so it is to all which breathe, exist, live or have any essence of life. To you and all, it is undesirable, and painful, and repugnant.
A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated.
In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self.
Lord Mahavira, 24th Tirthankara
Saman Suttam of Jinendra Varni gives further insight into this precept:-
Just as pain is not agreeable to you, it is so with others. Knowing this principle of equality treat other with respect and compassion.
Suman Suttam, verse 150
Killing a living being is killing one’s own self; showing compassion to a living being is showing compassion to oneself. He who desires his own good, should avoid causing any harm to a living being.
Suman Suttam, verse 151
Precious like jewels are the minds of all. To hurt them is not at all good. If thou desirest thy Beloved, then hurt thou not anyone’s heart.
Guru Arjan Dev Ji 259, Guru Granth Sahib
The same idea is also presented in V.12 and VI.30 of the Analects (c. 500 BC), which can be found in the online Chinese Text Project. The phraseology differs from the Christian version of the Golden Rule. It does not presume to do anything unto others, but merely to avoid doing what would be harmful. It does not preclude doing good deeds and taking moral positions.
The sage has no interest of his own, but takes the interests of the people as his own. He is kind to the kind; he is also kind to the unkind: for Virtue is kind. He is faithful to the faithful; he is also faithful to the unfaithful: for Virtue is faithful.
Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.
If people regarded other peoples states in the same way that they regard their own, who then would incite their own state to attack that of another? For one would do for others as one would do for oneself. If people regarded other peoples cities in the same way that they regard their own, who then would incite their own city to attack that of another? For one would do for others as one would do for oneself. If people regarded other peoples families in the same way that they regard their own, who then would incite their own family to attack that of another? For one would do for others as one would do for oneself. And so if states and cities do not attack one another and families do not wreak havoc upon and steal from one another, would this be a harm to the world or a benefit? Of course one must say it is a benefit to the world.
Mozi regarded the golden rule as a corollary to the cardinal virtue of impartiality, and encouraged egalitarianism and selflessness in relationships.
Do not do unto others whatever is injurious to yourself. Shayast-na-Shayast 13.29
Here ye these words and heed them well, the words of Dea, thy Mother Goddess, “I command thee thus, O children of the Earth, that that which ye deem harmful unto thyself, the very same shall ye be forbidden from doing unto another, for violence and hatred give rise to the same. My command is thus, that ye shall return all violence and hatred with peacefulness and love, for my Law is love unto all things. Only through love shall ye have peace; yea and verily, only peace and love will cure the world, and subdue all evil.”
The Way to Happiness expresses the Golden Rule both in its negative/prohibitive form and in its positive form. The negative/prohibitive form is expressed in Precept 19 as:
19. Try not to do things to others that you would not like them to do to you.
The positive form is expressed in Precept 20 as:
20. Try to treat others as you would want them to treat you.
One who is going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts.