In a small town in Norfolk, England, two neighbors were enjoying a savory conversation. Their talk centered around the young couple living on the opposite side of their street.
"I swear there's something wrong between them," said Mrs.Smith.
"You now I'd felt the same thing the other day when I saw the young man storm out angrily." Revealed Mrs.Stevenson.
"And just this morning I heard the young lady cry."
"Oh that wretch of a man!" snapped Mrs.Stevenson.
"You know Mrs.Stevenson, I think that husband of hers is…"
The spright conversation went on for a full hour.
* * *
A selection for the annual drama was made in Tom's College. Every year he got the plum part but this year Peter was selected for the lead role. Tom was disappointed and angry. On his way home from college he lashed out bitterly about his teacher's choice and Peter's incompetence for the role. His high voltage monologue didn't stop till he took the turning home.
* * *
In a prestigious office block in Mumbai, one of the junior clerks was listening with interest to his colleague's account of their boss' latest scandal:
"And then do you know what happened next?"
"No, tell me!"
"Well just between you and me, he…."
* * *
It topples governments, wrecks marriages, ruins careers, busts reputations, causes heartaches, nightmares, indigestion, spawns suspicion, generates grief, makes innocent people cry in their pillows. Even its name hisses. It's called gossip. Office gossip. Shop gossip. Party gossip. College gossip. Satsang gossip. It makes headlines and headaches.
Millions of people all over the world maim or murder the reputation and character of their neighbors, friends, relatives and superiors through the devilish habit of gossiping. Gossip accuses people. It charges others with wrong, labelling them with faults and follies. Gossip defames people and demolishes a person's reputation. Gossipers are like lynch mobs that charge, convict and condemn.
They reject authority, wreck unity and friendship and destroy peace of mind. And in all this they find pleasure that clamps them for hours.
In our world of fragile relationships gossiping has become a popular sport. You don't pay anything - all you need to spare is, TIME!; and you know how much you have when the subject is GOSSIP! Yogiji Maharaj used to say that a man gets more taste out of gossip then he does from a sumptuous feast. A gossiper lives on a diet of others faults and scandals.
People gossip due to several (all of them wrong) reasons.
1. Inferiority in power, popularity and talent breeds gossip. Such people gossip about others and pull them down. They try to raise their worth by raising their egos on the ruins of others. The gossiper experiences a temporary feeling of value, which quickly crumbles leaving him feeling more miserable than ever. He or she desires to gossip again to experience another high.
2. Frustration produces gossipers too. When you don't get the things you desire or when you are dissatisfied with your life you hunger and thirst for satisfaction. So what do you do? Well some people eat or sleep, desperately desiring to numb their frustrations. Others talk, talk, talk and devour their friends and neighbors away. After gossiping they feel better - mind you for a little while only!
3. Idleness promotes gossip. People who are idle with their hands are active with their tongues. When you have nothing to do or you want to do nothing you slip into gossiping. Those little free minutes between schedules or those enormous hours spent in travelling are often spent in utter waste when you've gossiped all the way. And when you have no companions you gossip with yourself, shuffling files in your mind branding and accusing someone of some wrong.
4. Verbal clashes and difference of opinions string up people for gossip. You've probably echoed bitter words about someone you had a row with.
5. Contrasting or revolting habits make fertile ground for gossip. When you dislike another's habits or traditions you are inclined to gossip. If you don't like the way your friend talks or looks, the way he walks or the way he munches his meals you make him the topic of your talks.
In the chronicles of Satsang we find many examples of devotees who have spiritually erred or fallen due to gossiping from one of several reasons mentioned above.
Allaiya Khachar was initially wedded with profuse love and devotion to Bhagwan Swaminarayan but later rejected Him and preached that he was not God but a mere Brahmin from the east. To the two thousand aspirants he had inspired into the Satsang-fold, Allaiya poisoned their minds with talks about Shriji Maharaj's divinity. He gossiped because his pride was hurt.
Jiva Khachar, out of jealousy for Dada Khachar, developed a venomous hatred for Bhagwan Swaminarayan. He too gossiped bitterly about Him and severed his ties with Him. Another incident which headlines the feelings of Bhagwan Swaminarayan on this subject was the victory of Muktanand Swami in a debate against the Vedantins in Vadodara. When news of this reached the Maharaj in Gadhada, He was extremely happy. The news spread to the sadhus and devotees in Gadhada. When two sadhus, Nirvikalpanand and Haryanand, heard of this they turned green with envy. They went up to Maharaj and out of pride dismissed Swami's victory as a trifle matter. "Maharaj," they said, "Muktanand Swami's victory against the Vedantins was like the victory of a mighty lion over a meek fox. It was not a great feat by Muktanand Swami. If you had sent us we too would have won the debate." Maharaj was hurt by their jealousy and disrespect for Muktanand Swami - a senior and most revered sadhu in the Satsang community. Shriji Maharaj then expressed His wish to leave the Satsang community and revert to His forest travellings.
In the time of Gunatitanand Swami, one Jala Bhagat, inspite of his love for Swami, had no faith in him. After hearing Swami's sermons he would often go to Amarsinh, the ignorant doorkeeper, and ask him about the truth of Swamiji's sermons. The doorkeeper would stamp them as big lies and thus begin his gossip.
Any talk in Satsang that defames, accuses, or destroys a devotee's character is gossip. Once you form a habit of gossiping you will eventually pin the blame on the guru and thus spell your spiritual ruin.
The Cure for Gossip
There is a remedy for this harmful habit if we adopt the following measures:
1. Don't listen to gossip:
Gossip would stop instantly if everyone would stop listening. When someone digs up some fault or scandal try to leave as tactfully and gently as possible: "I have to make a phone call." "I'm expecting some guests at home." "I have to rush for my next appointment." …. And if you have the boldness to tell him that you are not interested then do so.
Listening to gossip makes you an accomplice. Yogiji Maharaj disapproved of worthless, negative conversation. Once a sadhu came for Yogiji Maharaj's darshan. He had travelled the journey by train. Yogiji Maharaj asked him what he did on the way. The sadhu replied that a devotee had gossiped all along the way. "And you heard him?" Yogiji Maharaj questioned. "I had no other place to go to and I couldn't tell him to stop." the sadhu replied. Yogiji Maharaj told him to fast even though he had no desire to listen to the devotee's gossip.
Don't listen to gossip. Accept only good things into your mind - things that affect you and others in a positive way.
But what if the gossip you hear is true! Then convey it to the responsible authorities but don't spread it.
2. Remain Silent:
When you don't have a way out or the courage to tell the gossiper to stop then don't respond. Try to divert the conversation to some other topic and if this falls, remain silent, then don't respond. Try to divert the conversation to some other topic and if this fails, remain silent.
3. Knowing There's No Way to Erase the Sin of Gossip:
Your attitude changes when you realize that there is no atonement for the sin of gossip. There's a story about a woman in Chicago who ruined the reputation of several people through her habit of gossiping. After some time when she realized her sin she went to confess and ask for atonement. The priest told her to buy a turkey and remove its feathers on her way home. She did as the priest had instructed and returned the next day. The priest told her that she had accomplished only half the atonement.
"And what more do I have to do to complete my atonement?" she asked.
" Now go and gather all the feathers," the priest replied.
"But that's impossible!" she exclaimed.
"Likewise, Madam, it's impossible to correct your sin of gossiping."
4. Speak to Edify:
Speak virtuous words. Praise the works of God, his devotees, your colleagues, friends and neighbors. Say what is good in others and encourage others to do their best. Dr.Samuel Johnson, an 18th century literary genius and a compiler of the first English dictionary said, "The habit of looking on the best side is worth more than
£ 1000 a year."
Use your tongue to bring life - not death.