The Golden Rule reprised (again)

Zigong asked: “Is there one single word that can guide you through your entire life?” Confucius said: “Should it not be reciprocity? Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself.”

This is a reprise of the so-called “golden rule” of reciprocity first expounded by Zigong himself in Book 5, Chapter XII:

Zigong said: “I wouldn’t want to do to others what I wouldn’t want them to do to me.” Confucius said: “Ah, Zigong! That’s beyond your reach.”

Confucius offers a rather elaborate variant of the rule in this discourse in Book 12 Chapter II:

When Ran Yong asked about goodness, Confucius said: “When you are away from home, act towards everyone as if you are meeting an important guest. Manage people as if you are conducting a great sacrifice. Do not do to others what you would not want done to yourself. Allow no resentment to enter your public affairs; allow no resentment to enter your family affairs.” Ran Yong said: “Although I may not be quick to understand it, with your blessing I will strive to follow your guidance.”

Zengzi also mentions reciprocity in Book 4, Chapter XV:

Confucius said: “Shen, my doctrine is all woven into a single thread.” Master Shen replied: “Indeed.” After Confucius had left, the other disciples asked: “What did he mean?” Zengzi said: “The doctrine of the Master is based on loyalty and reciprocity; that’s it.”

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