Ahimsa is a central principle in Hinduism. Let us take a look at the words we use in joking and teasing. These words are hurting. How do we know? Gurudeva gave us a 4-fold key about how our speech affects others. Do not harm others in thought, word or deed. Gossip and backbiting are very hurtful. A Wife gossiping dissipates the energy of family, affecting the family's and husband's success. Husbands also tease wives. Backbiting is talking about faults of others when we should be directed inward. We should be looking at our own faults, not others. The exception is in a situation where someone is responsible for pointing out and correcting another's faults, such as a teacher to his student or a parent to his child.
Gossip - talking about the details of others' personal lives when they are not present, simply for the delight of creating and watching our own television soap operas, so to speak. It might even be better than a soap opera. We don't even need to watch TV. We are having so much fun gossiping about the lives of others we know. Why are we doing it? We are doing it for our own enjoyment. Right? We are not doing it to help the person we are gossiping about. Those who are participating in it are having entertainment, just like watching TV, except they are using someone else's life to talk about.
Gurudeva speaks quite strongly against this and uses the test of 'necessary'. Here is what he says. So strong, I wouldn't even want to say it. Here it comes! Ready? Look out, here comes Gurudeva! "Back-biting and hurtful gossip are the dissipation of the creative spiritual force. Gossip invokes the asuric beings on the lower astral plane and makes new karmas for the gossiper, who will be gossiped about in the future when the karmas return. When you defile others, mentally and verbally through back-biting gossip about the happenings in their lives, you are hurting them. You are actually making it difficult for them to even persist where they are. They sense and feel the ugliness that you are projecting toward them."
Strong statement, and it makes us reflect us on thoughts. Sometimes, we don't think about it. We have an action, we have a word and we have a thought. If we say something to someone, clearly it is influencing them. They are hearing us. But when we are just talking about them when they are not present, they are not even hearing it. So how can it be harming? Because thoughts are objects and when we talk about someone, we are sending thoughts to them, which are influencing their aura. Even if they don't see the thoughts, it upsets them if they are negative, critical thoughts. We are harming them with our thoughts if they are negative and critical, not positive. That is what Gurudeva is pointing out there.
Gossiping about your husband, a favorite sport of some. The husband goes off to work and before you know it, the wife jumps on the phone, jumps on the internet and starts talking about her husband's personal life with other wives, gossiping about the husband in a critical way. It is a common practice and the wives are being totally unsupportive in this way. As Gurudeva says, "... working and plotting against the husband, making it hard for the husband to be successful." So, this gets into the area of, "Is it necessary?"
As an analogy, imagine the husband takes all the money that is supposed to pay the mortgage, goes out, buys unnecessary items, comes back and gives them to the family. What is the wife going to think? The husband has wasted important resources of the family. Here, he has taken the money that is supposed to pay the mortgage and spent it on things that we really don't need. Of course, that hurts the family if that were to happen. But the wife who participates in significant gossiping is taking the energy. This is the point Gurudeva makes, "... taking the vital spiritual energy of the family and dissipating it." Just like the analogy of the husband spending money, the wife is dissipating energy, making it harder for the husband to be successful because the shakti is diminished, the power of the family is lessened by the practice of gossiping.
Gossiping, of course, fails the three tests of 'kind, helpful and necessary'. It fails all three. So, to be fair we need to talk about the husbands too. Husbands don't gossip but they tease their wives. They are critical otherwise by teasing them about shortcomings. The husband is constantly harping on certain shortcomings about the wife, the way she looks, how much she does at home, the housework, cooking, whatever ... he is constantly teasing about things. His wife cannot be happy. It impacts her, lessens her happiness. So the husband has to restrain himself too and control his speech.
Last but not least, back-biting. Someone leaves the room and before you know it, we are talking about everything he did wrong, all his faults. Back-biting., it is a strong human trait. It is in the Tirukural too which I will read in a minute. It is so much easier to find and talk about the faults in others than it is to look at our own faults. If we look at our own faults, we realize we should change them. It is like we are looking the wrong direction on purpose. We have the part of the mind that sees faults, pointed the wrong way. It is pointed out instead of in. It is so busy looking outside, seeing the faults of others and talking about them to other people that we don't have any time to look inside and see our own faults and correct them. Human nature, but a part of human nature that we want to overcome.
The Kural says, "If men perceived their own faults as they do the faults of others, could misfortune ever come to them?" Obviously not, because they are so aware of themselves and what they are doing. Again the Kural, "Only because she weighs duty well, does Earth bear the weight of those who wait for a man's departure to defame him." If Earth was not a little more dutiful, she would just throw us off.
When it comes to faults, a good rule of thumb is - unless we are responsible for someone, like a parent is to a child or a supervisor is to his staff. In those situations, we are responsible to pointing out faults in others and helping to correct them. But unless it is a situation like that, we should let other people correct their own faults. We have got enough faults in ourselves. If we stop looking at others' faults, we will see them and focus our energy on correcting them.
In summary, remember the test. Speak only that which is true, kind, helpful and necessary.
Aum Namah Sivaya.