“Be kind to all creatures. This is the true religion.”

I’ve categorized this one — “Be kind to all creatures. This is the true religion” — as “fakeish” because I haven’t been able to find anything in the scriptures that closely matches it. I have a vague recollection of having seen something close to this in a Hindu/Vedic text, but I haven’t been able to find that either. Perhaps I’m misremembering.

The closest I’ve been able to find in a Buddhist source is something in a text, “The Substance of the Vinaya,” that was translated fairly early on (perhaps 70 CE) into Chinese. Here’s Samuel Beal’s 1884 account from his “Buddhism In China”:

There is, however, another ancient document containing the ethical principles of his doctrine known in China, and, so far as the present writer knows, not mentioned among southern books. This is a short work called the “Substance of the Vinaya,” which is generally printed with the little work called the “Sûtra of Forty-two Sections,” which was the first Buddhist book translated into Chinese (A. D. 70). It is probable that this is the text.referred to in the Asoka edict of Bhabra, under the title “Substance of the Vinaya”. (vinayasamākase = vinaya samākassa, contraction or summary of the Vinaya. Rhys Davids, op. cit., p. 225, n.): it is called in Chinese the “Sūtra of the Contracted Rules of the Vinaya” (lioh-shwokiau-kiai king). The same epitome of moral rules occurs as a sermon towards the end of Asvaghosha’s “Life of Buddha.” From this circumstance, taken in connexion with the other, viz., its being bound up with the “ Sûtra of Forty-two Paragraphs,” it is plain that the treatise is a primitive one, and therefore, as it bears the very name given to it in the edict, it is probably the “Substance of the Vinaya ” which was extant in Asoka’s time.

But what does the “Substance of the Vinaya” actually say?

Keep the body temperate, eat at proper times, receive no mission as a go-between, compound no philteries, abhor dissimulation, follow right doctrine, and be kind to all that lives; receive in moderation what is given, receive but hoard not up: these are, in brief, my spoken precepts. These form the groundwork of my rules; these also are the ground of ‘full emancipation.’ Enabled thus to live is rightly to receive all other things. This is true wisdom, this is the way: this code of rules hold fast and keep, and never let them slip or be destroyed.

For when pure rules of conduct are observed, then there is true religion ; without these, virtue languishes ; found yourselves, therefore, well on these my precepts.

So here we have “follow right doctrine, and be kind to all that lives,” which is not a million miles away from “Be kind to all creatures. This is the true religion.” We even have “true religion” mentioned in the phrase, “For when pure rules of conduct are observed, then there is true religion.”

But, frankly, I’m just guessing here.

One thought on ““Be kind to all creatures. This is the true religion.””

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.