Statement VI

by zenquaker

Corollary 3-3: Hurting Others Hurts Us (The Hippocratic Corollary)

If all is one (The Unity Principle, P3), then we are one with each other. And if we are one with each other then when we hurt others we are at the same time hurting ourselves. It is one and the same action. As part of my Zen practice I try to pay attention to my life as I live it. When I have done this while hurting others I have seen (really more felt) this equal and opposite reaction in effect. Therefore I try to live in accordance with the Hippocratic oath and “abstain from doing harm.”

When I say “we should” in the previous paragraph, I do not mean “we must” or “we have a responsibility to.” I mean that if we don’t want to suffer, we shouldn’t cause suffering in others. I’m not talking about immorality or sin here, I’m talking about stupidity.

Now you might think that I also don’t mean “we will go to hell if we don’t,” but you would be wrong. We will go to hell if we don’t abstain from doing harm. It will just be a hell of our own creation. (Back in my SubGenius days, I used to like to say “Of course I believe in Hell! Where else do you think we are?”)

Another classic moral maxim you might be thinking of right now is the Golden Rule (do to others as you would have them do to you). The problem with the Golden Rule is that it gets into desires: what you want other people to do to you. Desire is tricky because (among other things) others may not want what you want. Which is not to say that avoiding causing harm doesn’t have it’s issues, but I find them easier to weld into a coherent whole.

Corollary 3-4: Relieving Other’s Suffering Relieves Our Suffering (The Good Works Corollary)

The reverse of the Hippocratic Corollary is also true. If all is one (the Unity Principle, P3), when others suffer we also suffer. Therefore, by relieving the suffering of others, we can relieve our own suffering. Again, this is not quite the same as the Golden Rule. I’m trying to deal with a lot of the same issues, but I’m trying to come at it from a different perspective.

One of my favorite stories of Jesus is the story of him meeting the rich man. A rich man comes to Jesus and asks him what he needs to do to be saved. Jesus asks him if he is following the commandments. The rich man says that he is already following the commandments. Jesus then says that what the rich man must do to be saved is to sell his possessions and give all his money to the poor, and then he will “have treasure in heaven.”

The first point I take from this is that it is not enough to follow the law. You must also take action to make the world a better place. The Hippocratic Corollary is akin to following the law: it’s about what you don’t do. You don’t cause others to suffer. The Good Works Corollary is about taking action. You do something to relieve suffering.

This two corollaries are very important, as they form the basis for my moral framework. There are several derivatives I will get into later that detail that moral framework. However, they depend on a fuller understanding of suffering. That’s coming soon, but before I do that I need to finish up a few points dealing with the Unity Principle.