Karma of Gossip

“To be aware of a single shortcoming within oneself is more useful than to be aware of a thousand in somebody else. Rather than speaking badly about people and in ways that will produce friction and unrest in their lives, we should practice a purer perception of them, and when we speak of others, speak of their good qualities.”
The Dalai Lama

Gossip: Understanding the Poison
The following is from a series of tweets by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo:

Any time you talk badly about someone you actually shorten your life force. Or at the least you endanger your ability to draw trusting friends and the ability to be well-spoken in future times. And no one will believe you.

It does no good and tastes like poison. And it comes back.

The Karma of Gossip

Gossip is related to Right Speech in that it is a form of speech that can cause great harm to others. In the Dhammapada it says: Where disorder develops, words are the first steps. If the prince is not discreet, he loses his servant. If the servant is not discreet, he loses his life. If germinating things are not handled with discretion, the perfecting of them is impeded. In other words, gossip can hurt others both directly and indirectly, directly by spreading untruths about a person that damage his reputation or his credibility, indirectly by helping to create an atmosphere which tolerates and even promotes such negativity.

Everyone thinks a little gossip between friends is not a bad thing and actually quite fun. However, ask yourself if you would like someone else to be saying such things about you behind your back. Would it hurt you to know if someone were doing so? Of course it would. And gossip can affect more than just one person. In World War II there was a saying, Loose Lips Sink Ships. By engaging in gossip and idle chatter about others, in other words, the wrong people may hear and lives could be ruined or lost as a result. We must always be mindful of our speech.

Why do people engage in gossip? Usually it is a way to feel superior to other people when one is not feeling so good about oneself. By knocking down others, the theory is that one can boost one’s own self-image. The reality proves otherwise.

Practicing right speech and not engaging in gossip of any kind is particularly important for practitioners who have vowed to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. The Venerable Gyaltrul Rinpoche once said that no one ever got enlightened by pointing fingers at others. It is not the business of a practitioner to worry about others’ faults, only one’s own. Gossip spreads dissension, which the Buddha called a heinous sin.

Bhikshuni Thubten Chödron spells out the karmic consequences of engaging in gossip in the Summer 2006 edition of Tricycle magazine. In short, these are an unfortunate rebirth, suffering from a similar experience happening to us, the habitual tendency to engage in similar behavior over and over again, and residing in an unpleasant place. Even more, engaging in such negative behavior obscures one’s mind, making liberation even more difficult.

As the Buddha said in the Anguttara Nikaya Sutta: If speech has five marks, O monastics, it is well spoken, not badly spoken, blameless, and above reproach by the wise. What are these five marks? It is speech that is timely, true, gentle, purposeful, and spoken with a mind of loving kindness.

This is the method for attaining happiness.

“I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy. From the very core of our being, we desire contentment. In my own limited experience I have found that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the principal source of success in life. Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. The key is to develop inner peace.”
Dalai Lama

“To be aware of a single shortcoming within oneself is more useful than to be aware of a thousand in somebody else. Rather than speaking badly about people and in ways that will produce friction and unrest in their lives, we should practice a purer perception of them, and when we speak of others, speak of their good qualities.”

“I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy. From the very core of our being, we desire contentment. In my own limited experience I have found that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the principal source of success in life. Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. The key is to develop inner peace.”
Dalai Lama

A disciple of the Buddha shall not praise himself and speak ill of others, or encourage others to do so. He must not create the causes, conditions, methods, or karma of praising himself and disparaging others. As a disciple of the Buddha, he should be willing to stand in for all sentient beings and endure humiliation and slander — accepting blame and letting sentient beings have all the glory. If instead, he displays his own virtues and conceals the good points of others, thus causing them to suffer slander, he commits a Parajika offense.

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