Ideals and Values/Gossiping, Backbiting

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Vishal Agarwal


The Difference between Gossiping and Back-biting

Many people cannot control themselves from carrying tales from one place to another. If they hear something scandalous at one location, they promptly go to another location and spread the tale of the scandal after adding their own flourish and imaginary details. People do not always gossip with an evil intention. It is just a bad habit that people indulging in without much thought.

A particular form of gossiping is ‘back-biting’ in which we say only bad things about a second person or a situation to a third person and with the evil intention of defaming, ridiculing or bringing him down. An example is telling on a classmate of yours to the teacher with the intention of getting him scolded. Eventually, gossip and back-biting catch up with the person who indulges in it, with the result that it is he and not the person he spoke about, who gets a bad reputation. People try to be careful of a gossiper and a back-biter and he is kept at a distance in all the important discussions. These bad habits just create a lot of conflict and misunderstandings and are therefore very bad Karma according to our scriptures -

Gossipers, violators of noble traditions of one’s family and Dharma, parasites who live off other people’s money and those who lack gratitude towards friends who have helped them – all of these definitely go to hell.[1]

How can we overcome the habit of Gossiping and Back-Biting

  • Try to discuss ideas or discuss yourself and not the third person.
  • If you bear a grudge against someone, do not gossip about him. Instead, go to him directly and get all your disputes or misunderstandings cleared first hand.
  • Put yourself in the place of others and ask yourself if you would feel happy were a third person to gossip about you.
  • Finally, learn to talk less and do not indulge in useless or long conversations. A very talkative person frequently gets carried away and unintentionally says things that he had not planned to. All this unplanned talk constitutes gossip and can lead to negative consequences.
  • By cultivating Discreteness: We should honor privacy of other person’s confidential information and handle delicate situations with sensitivity and diplomacy. For example, if we know that our friend uses drugs, we must not go and broadcast it to the entire world. Rather, it is better to speak to him personally and ask him to overcome his addiction or talk to his parents so that they can help him.
Bheeshma said – Only fake people criticize others or say bad things about them behind their backs. Genuine and truth persons always criticize others in front of saints.[2]

Is Gossiping always bad?

Gossiping is not always a bad thing. In the Hindu scriptures, we come across a great Sage Devarṣi Nārada, who was continuously on the road, carrying gossip and tales from one place to another. His gossip resulted in numerous conflicts and battles, but they always had a good result. Through his activities, he was always pitting evil people against Bhagavān as a result of which the former either got reformed or they were defeated by good forces. In fact, in the Hindu society, when we come across a person who is in the habit of carrying tales, we refer to them as ‘Nārada Muni’.

Notes & References

  1. Mahābhārata 13.23.66
  2. Mahābhārata 12.132.13