Three Simple Rules

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The tradition I (and many of my forefathers) grew up in is Methodism. The Methodist movement was a rogue sect inside the Anglican church accredited to brothers John and Charles Wesley.   Among many other wonderful things John Wesley gave three simple rules for living.  1) Do no harm 2) Do good and 3) Stay in love with God.

I’ve always liked these rules.  They are specific enough to give boundaries but broad enough to leave a lot of room for interpretation.  It appeals to both my inner flower child and inner rule follower.

I suppose it is a part of human nature to think we and ours are the only people who have ever, and could ever come up with worthy thoughts.  I can remember as a child being simply shocked to discover there are other people who believe in other gods different from the WASP God of my childhood.  As I got a  little older and discovered other cultures flood stories I was, again, thrown for a spiritual loop.  It’s a difficult shock to realize we are not the entire picture that makes up the puzzle, but rather just an ordinary small oddly shaped center piece.

Coming up on the 23rd is one of the biggest days on the Buddhist calendar called Magha Puja.

The simplified version of Magha Puja:  ten months after Buddha was enlighten he traveled to a bamboo grove in northern India.  There on the full moon of the third month of the year 1,250 Arahants (enlightened people) came to the Buddha randomly, without being summoned.   Buddha taught and ordained the Arahants.

A couple things struck me about this story.

  1. It seems pretty implausible… then I realized I believe Moses parted the sea and Jesus turned water into wine. Touche.
  2. A lot of fun things happen around this particular full moon in multiple traditions (think Easter, Passover, Equinox).  It makes me feel like we are all much more connected than we think.
  3. 1,250 enlighten people is a lot and I need to take up meditation.

It was also on this occasion Buddha gave the Arahants the principals of Buddhism “The ovadapatimokha.”  Buddha said to:  1) cease from all evil 2) do what is good 3) cleanse one’s mind.

To my Wesleyan ears this sounds way familiar.  I love Wesley’s “stay in love with God”, but the idea of “cleansing one’s mind” is somehow really beautiful and challenging.

Buddha’s ovadapatimokha and Wesley’s “Three Simple Rules” are so similar it has to be asked…. did John Wesley plagiarise the Buddha?!

It is true, Wesley was known for his wide reading, he fell off of his horse more than once while he was riding and reading.  I’ve never gone through Wesley’s bedroom, and I’ll admit I did tune out some parts of my Wesleyan theology and history classes but everything I know about Wesley says  it’s very unlikely he ever came across this teaching from Buddha.

The more likely explanation for why these shocking similar principles that transcend both culture and time is Truth is Truth.

Is it so hard to believe that Wesley and Buddha came up with the same answer to the same question because they were asking the same being?  Is it so hard to believe that a God of the universe can transcend time and space and culture and norms to connect with seekers in a way that they understand and relate to? Is it so hard to believe that God works to connect despite all of our human walls?


“Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” – Jesus Matthew 7:7b


About Kaitey Moore 40 Articles
Kaitlin Moore Morley is passionate about storytelling, the kind of our imagination and the kind of our experiences. She works as a hospital chaplain where she collects love stories and as a pastor where she collect biblical narrative. She holds an undergraduate in Social Anthropology from the University of Manchester in England and a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky. She lives in Evansville, Indiana in an old (very cold) Victorian house with her husband, Darren and their dog Olga.

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