19. TRY NOT TO DO THINGS TO OTHERS THAT YOU WOULD NOT LIKE THEM TO DO TO YOU.
Among many peoples in many lands for many ages there have been versions of what is called “The Golden Rule.”1
The above is a wording of it that relates to harmful acts.
Only a saint could go through life without ever harming another. But only a criminal hurts those around him without a second thought.
Completely aside from feelings of “guilt” or “shame” or “conscience,” all of which can be real enough and bad enough, it also happens to be true that the harm one does to others can recoil on oneself.
Not all harmful acts are reversible: one can commit an act against another which cannot be waived aside or forgotten. Murder is such an act. One can work out how severe violation of almost any precept in this book could become an irreversible harmful act against another.
The ruin of another’s life can wreck one’s own. Society reacts—the prisons and the insane asylums are stuffed with people who harmed their fellows. But there are other penalties: whether one is caught or not, committing harmful acts against others, particularly when hidden, can cause one to suffer severe changes in his attitudes toward others and himself, all of them unhappy ones. The happiness and joy of life depart.
This version of “The Golden Rule” is also useful as a test. When one persuades someone to apply it, the person can attain a reality on what a harmful act is. It answers for one what harm is. The philosophic question concerning wrongdoing, the argument of what is wrong is answered at once on a personal basis: Would you not like that to happen to you? No? Then it must be a harmful action and, from society’s viewpoint, a wrong action. It can awaken social consciousness. It can then let one work out what one should do and what one should not do.
In a time when some feel no restraint from doing harmful acts, the survival potential of the individual sinks to a very low ebb.
If you can persuade people to apply this, you will have given them a precept by which they can evaluate their own lives and, for some, opened the door to let them rejoin the human race.
The way to happiness is