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Love Your Neighbour as Yourself?


Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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This reading is from Gospel of Mark 12:28-34.

One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?

Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’

And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”l

And when Jesus saw that [he] answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And no one dared to ask him any more questions

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All the established religions of the world concur in one axiom, namely, “Love your neighbour as yourself.”

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In Hinduism

The Hindus, followers of the oldest of the religions now being practised, believe that one’s own Self or Soul is really identical with the Self or Soul of all other creatures. Hence one who injures another injures oneself. In the Hindu Vedas, “Love your neighbour as yourself'” is an inherent precept of unity with the absolute self, ‘That art thou’ (tat tvam asi). So, it follows that because one loves oneself, one is bound to love one’s neighbour, who is not different from oneself”

“This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you.” (Mahabharata 5,1517)

“One should not behave towards others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself. This is the essence of morality. All other activities are due to selfish desire.” (Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva 113.8)

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In Judaism

For the devout Jew, all the commandments were to be kept with equal care, but there is evidence of preoccupation in Jewish sources with the question put to Jesus.

In Leviticus 19:15-18, we read:

You shall not act dishonestly in rendering judgment. Show neither partiality to the weak nor deference to the mighty, but judge your neighbour justly.

You shall not go about spreading slander among your people; nor shall you stand by idly when your neighbour’s life is at stake. I am the LORD.

You shall not hate any of your kindred in your heart. Reprove your neighbour openly so that you do not incur sin because of that person.

Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people. You shall love your neighbour as yourself. I am the LORD.

It is a mitzvah (commandment) for every human to love each and everyone from Israel as he loves his own body (self). As it is written, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself“, therefore one must sing his neighbour’s praises, and show concern for his financial well-being, as he would for his own well-being and as he would for his own honour. Anyone who aggrandizes himself at the expense of another person has no portion in the world to come.

In the first century BC, Hillel (later known as Hillel the Elder) migrated to the Land of Israel from his birthplace Babylonia, to study Torah. He worked as a woodcutter and eventually became the most influential force in Jewish life. Hillel is said to have lived in great poverty. He was known for his humanitarianism. One of his most famous sayings, recorded in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers, a tractate of the Mishnah), is “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself, then what am I? And if not now, when?”

The following source Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 31a is usually quoted to approve of Hillel’s indulgence of the gentile and the wisdom of this approach.

Shammai, a native of the Land of Israel was Hillel the Elder’s friendly adversary.  Little is known about him, except that he was a builder, known for the strictness of his views. He was reputed to be dour, quick-tempered and impatient.

One day a gentile came to Shammai and said to him: “Convert me (to Judaism) on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.”

Irked by the request of the gentile, Shammai pushed him aside with the measuring stick he was holding.

A few days later this same gentile went to Hillel, and Hillel converted him, saying: “That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it.”

Let us take Hillel’s words seriously and try to understand what he means.

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In Zoroastrianism

That nature is only good when it shall not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self. (Dad istan-i-Dinik)

“Whatever is disagreeable to yourself do not do unto others.” (Shayast-na-Shayast 13:29)

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In Jainism

“A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated.” (Sutrakritanga 1.11.33)

“One should treat all beings as he himself would be treated.” (Agamas Sutrakritanga 1.10.13)

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In Taoism

Regard your Neighbour’s gain as your own gain and your neighbour’s loss as your own loss. (T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien)

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In Buddhism

“…a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?” (Samyutta Nikaya v. 353)

“Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” (Udana-Varga 5:18)

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In Confucianism

“Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state.” (Analects 12:2)

“Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself, and you will find that this is the shortest way to benevolence.” (Mencius VII.A.4)

Tsekung asked, “Is there one word that can serve as a principle of conduct for life?” Confucius replied, “It is the word shu–reciprocity: Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” (Analects 15.23)

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In Islam

“No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.” (#13 of An-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths)

I am reproducing here a part of the article “‘Love thy neighbour’ in Islam” written for the January 2008 issue of the London-based Faith Magazine. cf. http://www.faith.org.uk (See Related Articles at the bottom for the link to the full article).

  • Another point needs to be made. Whereas Christian doctrine prescribes loving thy neighbour like thyself, Muslim doctrine prescribes loving for one’s brother (an yuhibba  li-akhî-hi) what one loves for oneself. Here, Islam’s wording of the golden rule is not dictated by any of Arabic’s linguistic or syntactical rules but is instead intentional. It is not love thy neighbour, but love for thy neighbour [. . .].” The object of man’s love is again beyond mankind because it is of God. As the eminent medieval theologian al-Ghazâlî (d. 505/1111) wrote, only God is the One who deserves love; man’s love for himself leads directly to God since every man owes his existence to God.
  • But who is the one for whom we must love that which we love for ourselves? Another important collector of canonical sayings and deeds by and about the Prophet, al-Tirmidhî (d. 278/899), said that “if you love for those you love what you love for yourself, you are a Muslim.” One’s brother is also Muslim and, not unlike neo-testamentary writings, brotherhood is first of all linked to confession, this according to the writings of the Tradition. For many, the Muslim’s brother is a Muslim, the believer’s brother is the believer, everyone is a brother in God’s religion and in His Book, that is to say in the pact with the Messenger, and even a slave is a brother when he prays. The Qur’an itself says that “believers are naught else than brothers” (Qur’an, 49:10) and that “He made friendship between your hearts so that ye became as brothers by His grace” (Qur’an, 3:102-103).

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In Sikhism

Treat others as thou wouldst be treated by thyself. (Adi Grandth)

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In Bahá’í Faith

Desire not for anyone the things that ye would not desire for yourselves. (Gleanings 66)

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Recently I read the following passage attributed to the American Shawnees Indians: “Do not kill or injure your neighbour, for it is not him that you injure, you injure yourself. But do good to him, therefore add to his days of happiness as you add to your own. Do not wrong or hate your neighbour, for it is not him that you wrong, you wrong yourself. But love him, for Moneto loves him also as he loves you.”

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There are many people
who will say they’re Christians
and they live like Christians on the Sabbath day

But come Monday morning, til the coming Sunday
They will fight their neighbor all along the way

{chorus}
Oh you don’t love God, if you don’t love your neighbor
if you gossip about him, if you never have mercy
if he gets into trouble, and you don’t try to help him
then you don’t love your neighbor, and you don’t love God

In the Holy Bible, in the Book of Matthew
Read the 18th chapter in the 21st verse
Jesus plainly tells us that we must have mercy
There’s a special warning in the 35th verse

Oh you don’t love God, if you don’t love your neighbor
if you gossip about him, if you never have mercy
if he gets into trouble, and you don’t try to help him
then you don’t love your neighbor, and you don’t love God

There’s a God almighty, and you’ve got to love him
if you want salvation and a home on high

If you say you love him while you hate your neighbor
then you don’t have religion, you just told a lie

Oh you don’t love God, if you don’t love your neighbor
if you gossip about him, if you never have mercy
if he gets into trouble, and you don’t try to help him
then you don’t love your neighbor, and you don’t love God

Oh you don’t love God, if you don’t love your neighbor
if you gossip about him, if you never have mercy
if he gets into trouble, and you don’t try to help him
then you don’t love your neighbor, and you don’t love God

then you don’t love your neighbor, and you don’t love God

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The Tao Te Ching and Its Many Translations


Myself

By T.V. Antony Raj

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Sage Laozi (or Lao Tzu, Chinese: 老子) literally meaning “Father” or “Old Master” wrote the Chinese classic text, Tao Te Ching (道德經;) or Daode jing (道德经), translated as “The Classic of the Virtuous Way.”

According to tradition, Laozi wrote the Tao Te Ching around 6th century BC, although the oldest excavated text dates back to the late 4th century BC, leading to the true authorship and date of composition or compilation of the text under debate.

Although a legendary figure, Laozi is usually dated to around the 6th century BC as a record-keeper at the court of the Zhou dynasty.  He is also reckoned as a contemporary of Confucius (September 28, 551 – 479 BC), the  Chinese teacher and philosopher of the Spring and Autumn period of Chinese history. However, some historians contend that Laozi actually lived during the Warring States period of the 5th or 4th century BC.

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A painting of the Daode Tianzun ('the Heavenly Lord of Dao and its Virtue'), the deified Laozi, one of the supreme divinities of Daoism. (Source: eng.taoism.org.hk)
A painting of the Daode Tianzun (‘the Heavenly Lord of Dao and its Virtue’), the deified Laozi, one of the supreme divinities of Daoism. (Source: eng.taoism.org.hk)

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Laozi deified as the Daode Tianzun (道德天尊 – “Moral senior” or  “the Grand Pure One”) and venerated in traditional Chinese religions as “the Heavenly Lord of Dao and its Virtue” founded Taoism, an ancient tradition of Chinese philosophy and religious belief profound in Chinese customs.

Throughout Chinese history, various anti-authoritarian movements embraced Laozi’s work. As a central figure in Chinese culture, the emperors of the Tang dynasty and modern people of the Li surname claimed Laozi as the founder of their lineage.

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A part of a Taoist manuscript, ink on silk, 2th century BCE, Han Dynasty, unearthed from Mawangdui tomb 3rd, Chansha, Hunan Province, China. ( Source: Hunan Province Museum)
A part of a Taoist manuscript, ink on silk, 2th century BCE, Han Dynasty, unearthed from Mawangdui tomb 3rd, Chansha, Hunan Province, China. ( Source: Hunan Province Museum)

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In 1973, archeologists unearthed a large number of silk manuscripts from Mawangdui tomb 3rd, Changsha, Hunan Province, China. Among these were two versions of the Daode jing by Laozi, dated to around 200 BC. The two silk books are part of the Cultural Relics from the Mawangdui Tombs collection at the Hunan Provincial Museum.

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The Guodian Chu Slips (Source: terebess.hu)
Th(Source: terebess.hu)

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In 1993, archeologists discovered three bundles of 71 bamboo strips with the Daode jing text written on them in a tomb in Guodian in Hubei province (east central China). The “Guodian Laozi” that has survived intact since 300 BC, is by far the earliest version of the Daode jing ever unearthed.

The Tao Te Ching is a short text of around 5,000 Chinese characters in 81 brief chapters or sections composed of  two parts, the Tao Ching (chapters 1–37) and the Te Ching (chapters 38–81).

The ideas in the Tao Te Ching are singular and the style poetic. The rhetorical style combines short, declarative statements and intentional contradictions.

Many western scholars with a foundation in the Chinese language and Chinese philosophy have attempted to translate the Tao Te Ching into their own native languages.

The Tao Te Ching written in classical Chinese relies in essence on allusions.  For many non-Chinese scholars, it can be difficult to understand the verses completely due to their inherent semantic meanings, nuances, subtexts and many words are on purpose vague and open to more than one interpretation.

In Laozi’s period, people  memorized this work. They reinforced the allusions by using  them in their writings. Today, even among the modern Chinese translators, there are only a few who have a deep acquaintance with ancient Chinese literature and many have lost sight of the many levels of subtext.

As there are no punctuation marks in classical Chinese, it can be difficult to determine where a sentence ends and the next begins. Moving a full-stop a few words forward or back or inserting a comma would completely change the meaning of  passages. So, it is for the translator to determine where the divisions are and the meanings.

Some editors and translators say that the original texts of the Tao Te Ching written on one-line bamboo strips linked with silk threads are much corrupted, and it is difficult to understand some chapters without moving sequences of characters from one place to another.

Many popular translations are less erudite. They give an individual author’s interpretation of the Tao Te Ching that deviate from the original text and incompatible with the historical thoughts of the Chinese people.

Holmes Welch (1924-1981), an American scholar of Daoism and early 20th century Chinese Buddhism remarked: “It is a famous puzzle which everyone would like to feel he had solved.

Today, the perseverance of non-Chinese scholars to preserve and bring out the original meaning of the Chinese text  in every respect has spawned hundreds of versions of the Tao Te Ching in western languages that in certain instances even contradictory. To prove my point, I have quoted below a few attempts by some authors to translate Chapter 74 of Tao Te Ching:

Example #1

If people do not fear death why attempt to frighten them by capital punishment?

Supposing the people are made constantly afraid of death, so that when they commit unlawful acts I arrest them and have them killed, who will dare [afterwards to misbehave]? For then there will always be yiusze, or civil magistrates, to execute them. Now the execution of men on behalf of the inflictor of the death-punishment [by those not legally qualified to do so] may be compared to hewing on behalf of a master carpenter; and people who [attempt to] hew instead of a master carpenter mostly cut their hands.

– Translated by Frederic Henry Balfour, 1884

Example #2

It is futile to threaten people with death. If they are not afraid to die, they cannot be frightened by the death penalty; and if they are afraid to die, why should we kill them?

Only Nature knows the proper time for a man to die. To kill is to interrupt Nature’s design for dying, Like a blundering apprentice judging himself to be wiser than his master.

Whenever an apprentice thinks he is smarter than his master, he is very likely to hurt himself.

It is futile to threaten people with death. If they are not afraid to die, they cannot be frightened by the death penalty; and if they are afraid to die, why should we kill them?

Only Nature knows the proper time for a man to die. To kill is to interrupt Nature’s design for dying, Like a blundering apprentice judging himself to be wiser than his master.

Whenever an apprentice thinks he is smarter than his master, he is very likely to hurt himself.

– Translated by Archie J. Bahm, 1958

Example #3

It is not the leader’s role to play judge and jury, to punish people for ‘bad’ behaviour. In the first place, punishment does not effectively control behaviour.

But even if punishment did work, what leader would dare to use fear as a teaching method?

The wise leader knows that there are natural consequences for every act. The task is to shed light on these natural consequences, not to attack the behaviour itself.

If the leader tries to take the place of nature and act as judge and jury, the best you can expect is a crude imitation of a very subtle process.

At the very least, the leader will discover that the instrument of justice cuts both ways. Punishing others in punishing work.

– Translated by John Heider, 1985.

Example #4

If people don’t love life, they won’t fear death, and threatening them with it won’t work.

If people have lives worth living, then the threat of death is meaningful, and they’ll do what is right to avoid it.

But killing itself should be the province of the great executioner alone. Trying to take his place and kill is like cutting wood in the place of the master carpenter: The odds are you’ll hurt your own hand.

– Translated by Ren Jiyu, 1993.

Example #5

When the people are not afraid to die
Why then threaten them with death?

Even if they normally are fearful of death,
For worst offenders, we may seize and kill them.

But who dares to execute?

There is always an expert executioner who kills.

Substituting for an expert executioner,
Is like hacking wood in place of a master carpenter.

Whoever substitutes for the master carpenter,
He seldom escapes injury of his own hand.

– Translated by David Hong Cheng, 2000.

Example #6

The people do not fear death,
Why threaten them with death?

Suppose the people always fear death,
One who does strange things (ch’i),
I shall seize and kill,
Then who dares [to do strange things]?
Killing is carried out by the executioner.

To replace the executioner and kill,
Is like chopping wood in place of the master carpenter.

To chop wood in place of the master carpenter,
Rarely one does not hurt one’s own hand.

Tao Te Ching: A New Translation with Commentary by Elen Marie Chen

Example #7

If people don’t love life, they won’t fear death, and threatening them with it won’t work.

If people have lives worth living, then the threat of death is meaningful, and they’ll do what is right to avoid it.

But killing itself should be the province of the great executioner alone.

Trying to take his place and kill is like cutting wood in the place of the master carpenter:
The odds are you’ll hurt your own hand.

The Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu by Brian Browne Walker

Example #8

If the people do not fear death,
For reasons of extreme poverty or suffering,
What is the point of threatening them with death?

If the people fear death,
And if the outlaws are captured and killed,
Who will dare to break the law?

Yet, the act of killing should always be
The exclusive province of the Great Executioner.

Therefore, to kill in place of the Great Executioner is
Like hewing wood in place of the master carpenter;
Few, if ever, will escape cutting their own hands.

– Translated by Yasuhiko Genku Kimura

Example #9

If people don’t fear death
How will you frighten them with death?
If people always fear death
And I seize and execute
Anyone who does anything new,
Who will dare to move?
There is a public executioner who kills.
Killing on behalf of the public executioner,
Is called cutting wood on behalf of the carpenter.
In cutting wood on behalf of the carpenter,
There are few who escape hurting their hands.

– Translated by A. S. Kline, 2003.

Example #10

If people are not afraid of death,
how can they be threatened by it?
But if they always live in fear of death,
and still continue in their lawlessness,
we can arrest and kill them.
Who then would dare?
And yet there is a Lord of Death whose charge it is to kill.
To take his place and kill would be like carving wood in place of the master carpenter.
Few would escape without injuring their hands.

– Translated by Tim Chilcott, 2005.

For more translations of the Tao Te Ching by other authors visit Terebess Asia Online (TAO) .

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