"Whatever you do not want done to you, do not do to others." — Confucius (6th cen. BC)
"Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." — Jesus (1st cen.)
A great deal of sectarian hay has been made comparing and contrasting these two essentially identical statements. This is understandable since it is much easier to argue them than to live them. Yes, one is passive while the other is active. Yet, should we understand the heart and root of both, I think we will find it to be the same — empathy.
Empathy is the experience of "feeling with" another person. It is the ability to see oneself in another. And that defines our relationship to the world.
These statements have been called The Golden Rule, which is fine if we understand that any 'rule', to be authentically realized, must in some way be rooted in who we organically are. We do not apply it; we are it.
This rootedness begins, I think, with a realization of one's own humanity. One must know oneself in order to know others. The journey of self-discovery is also an unfolding of the heart in openness to others. 'The way out is in' is a statement with many dimensions of insight, and one of these is, I believe, this understanding that our sense of oneness with others arises from our oneness with ourselves. It is no mere cliché that we cannot love others until we love ourselves.
As I follow my own path of self-discovery, as I find and become the heart of my own humanity, I discover an openness suggestive of vulnerability. Yet it is a vulnerability without fear of hurt. Openness requires that walls come down, that defenses be dropped. And this can only take place when there is nothing to defend.
Self-discovery is a 'mystical' and 'spiritual' endeavor. I use these terms for lack of better. Our deepest personal reality is not a thing we can know; it is a happening, an arising, we can only experience. And to become this happening is to become one with the every other personal happening, and the happening which is the world.
Becoming this happening is a process of denouement, of disrobing. It is a letting go of the essential fallacy that I am a concrete someone, and of all the encrustations that adhere to it. It is this fallacy which gives rise to ‘self and other’ and hinders us from finding ourselves in others.
Empathy, therefore, requires no rule. It is an expression of our being who we most essentially are.
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