Beyond the Golden Rule

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

Luke 6:32-6 (RSV); likewise Thomas 95, etc.

Many Christians, if not most, would say that Jesus was the only son of God. But here, Jesus calls upon all his followers to be sons of the Most High (υἱοὶ ὑψίστου) by practicing his mercy. This compassion is impartial, not based on one’s love for, or judgement of, the other. A Zen text takes this non-judgement even further:

People who really practice the Way
Do not see the faults of the world;
If you see the errors of others,
Your own error abets them.
If others err but you do not,
Your own error’s still faulty.

— Hui-neng (Cleary 1998, 23)

The other side of this coin is detachment from the results of your own actions, as the Bhagavad-Gita teaches:

The world is in the bonds of action, unless the action is consecration. Let thy actions then be pure, free from the bonds of desire.

Bhagavad-Gita 3:9 (Mascaró)

Actions do not cling to me because I am not attached to their results. Those who understand this and practice it live in freedom.

Bhagavad-Gita 4:14 (Easwaran)

Gandhi, in commenting on the Gita, says ‘If we wish to give up sin, we should give up virtue too. There is possessiveness in clinging even to virtue.’ The practice of detachment comes highly recommended in scriptures ranging from the Vedic to the Bahá’í:

Well may he be content to live a hundred years who acts without attachment—who works his work with earnestness, but without desire, not yearning for its fruits—he, and he alone.

Isha Upanishad (Prabhavananda)

Set thy heart upon thy work, but never upon its reward.

Bhagavad-Gita 2:47 (Mascaró)

Make not your deeds as snares wherewith to entrap the object of your aspiration …

Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶36

How do you set your heart upon your work – which, almost by definition, has a purpose – without being attached to its results? It could be compared to a pure scientist (according to the Peircean ideal of scientific inquiry) impartially testing her hypothesis while remaining free of any desire to prove it true. Or you might think of it as ‘controlled folly,’ as Castaneda’s Don Juan calls it:

Nothing being more important than anything else, a man of knowledge chooses any act, and acts it out as if it matters to him. His controlled folly makes him say that what he does matters and makes him act as if it did, and yet he knows that it doesn’t; so when he fulfills his acts he retreats in peace, and whether his acts were good or bad, or worked or didn’t, is in no way part of his concern.

— Castaneda 1971

Perhaps we can sum it all up with this precept attributed to Zengetsu:

Live with cause and leave results to the great law of the universe.

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