ਨਿੰਦਕੁ ਐਸੇ ਹੀ ਝਰਿ ਪਰੀਐ ॥ ਇਹ ਨੀਸਾਨੀ ਸੁਨਹੁ ਤੁਮ ਭਾਈ ਜਿਉ ਕਾਲਰ ਭੀਤਿ ਗਿਰੀਐ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥...(sggs 823)

The Gurbani warns us against "ਨਿੰਦਾ-Nindaa" (slander, defamation, spreading of lies about a person or a group, false accusation or charge, calumny, etc.). In this post, we will attempt to reflect on three aspects of slander as follow:

  1. What is NOT slander (ਨਿੰਦਾ-Nindaa)?
  2. What IS slander (ਨਿੰਦਾ-Nindaa)?
  3. Being Slandered is beneficial to the victim!

What is NOT slander?

We learn from their lives of the Gurus and Bhagats that speaking truth about something or somebody is not slandering or condemnation of it. That is, to call something as it is, is not slandering! To put it in a simple Punjabi: ਸਚ ਨੂੰ ਸਚ ਕਹਿਣਾ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਨਹੀ ਹੈ. In other words, to call truth as truth is not slandering the truth. It is Fearlessness as taught by the Gurbani. It is simply being factual. All the Gurus and the Bhagats were linked with Truth (ਸਚ). They always spoke truth, and wrote truth.
  • ਬੋਲੀਐ ਸਚੁ ਧਰਮੁ ਝੂਠੁ ਨ ਬੋਲੀਐ ॥: Speak the “Sachu” Dharma (i.e. to speak Truth is Dharma), and do not speak falsehood (sggs 488).
But, truth hurts many like hell! Those permeated with falsehood (Jhooth-ਝੂਠ) cannot stand or tolerate Truth. It burns them:
  • ਜੇ ਕੋ ਬੋਲੈ ਸਚੁ ਕੂੜਾ ਜਲਿ ਜਾਵਈ ॥: If someone speaks the Truth, the false (one) is burnt (irritated). (sggs 646).
  • ਜਿਨਾ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਕੂੜੁ ਵਰਤੈ ਸਚੁ ਨ ਭਾਵਈ ॥: Truth does not suit those who are permeated by falsehood (sggs 646).
However, being established in Truth (ਸਚ), all the Gurus and the Bhagats cared less if and when they were slandered or bad mouthed by the ignorant and foolish people. The Gurbani is filled with examples in this context. However we cannot quote all of theme here from a space point of view. Let’s consider few as follows: When Baabaa Nanak calls the Pujaaree group liers, fool, ignorant, Satan, bewildered or lost, traders of Maya, greedy, treacherous, harmful, deceptive, etc., he is not slandering them. Because, what Baabaa Nanak is saying about them is true (ਸਚ-Sach) — the Pujaaree System is crafty by nature!
  • ਝੂਠੁ ਨ ਬੋਲਿ ਪਾਡੇ ਸਚੁ ਕਹੀਐ ॥: O Pandit! Do not tell lies, speak the Truth (sggs 904).
  • ਪੰਡਿਤ ਮੋਹੇ ਲੋਭਿ ਸਬਾਏ ॥: All Pandits are deluded by greed (sggs 370).
  • ਮਾਣਸ ਖਾਣੇ ਕਰਹਿ ਨਿਵਾਜ ॥ ਛੁਰੀ ਵਗਾਇਨਿ ਤਿਨ ਗਲਿ ਤਾਗ ॥: The man-eaters (i.e., those take what rightfully belongs to another; who are tyrant, corrupt, bribe takers…) say prayers (i.e., pretend to be religious…)! Those who wield the knife (i.e., those who tell lies, oppress others, hurt others, bring calamity upon others…) wear the sacred thread around their neck.  (sggs 471).
When Baabaa Kabeer Sahib tells us for abandoning the greedy and crafty Pujaaree group, he is not slandering them. Because, what Baabaa Kabeer is saying about them is true (ਸਚ-Sach) — they are crafty and exploit people! Here is the Gurbani’s Wisdom to all its Sikhs (learners, students, ਸਿਖਿਆਰਥੀ of the Shabad…):
  • ਪੰਡਿਤ ਮੁਲਾਂ ਜੋ ਲਿਖਿ ਦੀਆ ॥ ਛਾਡਿ ਚਲੇ ਹਮ ਕਛੂ ਨ ਲੀਆ ॥੩॥: Whatever the Pandit and the Mullaan have written (the path of Karamkaand, Shariyat…), I have abandoned (all of that); I have not taken any of it ||3||. (sggs 1159).
  • ਹਮਰਾ ਝਗਰਾ ਰਹਾ ਨ ਕੋਊ ॥ ਪੰਡਿਤ ਮੁਲਾਂ ਛਾਡੇ ਦੋਊ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: (Now) I have no quarrel with anyone anymore; because I have abandoned both the Pandit and the Mullaan (ਦੋਹਾਂ ਦੇ ਦੱਸੇ ਰਸਤੇ ਨਾਲ ਮੇਰਾ ਕੋਈ ਵਾਸਤਾ ਨਹੀਂ – the path of Karamkaand, Shariyat…). |1|| Pause || (sggs 1158).
When Baabaa Nanak declares these so called “Sant” as Baanaarasi-thugs (robbers, cheats), he is not slandering them. Because, what Baabaa Nanak is saying about them is true (ਸਚ-Sach).
  • ਗਲੀ ਜਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾ ਜਪਮਾਲੀਆ ਲੋਟੇ ਹਥਿ ਨਿਬਗ ॥ ਓਇ ਹਰਿ ਕੇ ਸੰਤ ਨ ਆਖੀਅਹਿ ਬਾਨਾਰਸਿ ਕੇ ਠਗ ॥੧॥: Who have rosaries around their necks, and glittering jugs in their hands, (just because of such religious paraphernalia) they should not be called the Divine’s Sant — they are thugs of Banaras (sggs 476).
When Baabaaa Nanak exposes the fraud and corruption that had (still is) become the resting ground of the religious places and organizations, he is not slandering. Because, what Baabaa Nanak is saying about them is true (ਸਚ-Sach).
  • ਗੰਗਾ ਗਇਆ ਗੋਦਾਵਰੀ ਸੰਸਾਰ ਕੇ ਕਾਮਾ ॥: Pilgrimages to (Teerath Asthaan like Ganges, Gaya and Godawari (etc.) are merely worldly affairs (sggs 1195).
  • ਤੀਰਥ ਨਾਇ ਨ ਉਤਰਸਿ ਮੈਲੁ ॥ ਕਰਮ ਧਰਮ ਸਭਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਫੈਲੁ ॥: Bathing at sacred shrines of pilgrimage, filth (i.e., egotism, Bikaar…) is not washed off. Religious rituals (Karamkaand) are all just egotistical displays (sggs 890).
  • ਬਗਾ ਬਗੇ ਕਪੜੇ ਤੀਰਥ ਮੰਝਿ ਵਸੰਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ॥ ਘੁਟਿ ਘੁਟਿ ਜੀਆ ਖਾਵਣੇ ਬਗੇ ਨਾ ਕਹੀਅਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ॥੩॥: The herons in their white feathers inhabit in places of pilgrimage. They tear apart and eat the living beings, and so they are not called white (i.e., here the Gurbani’s wink is towards people at these places of pilgrimage). ||3|| (sggs 729).
  • ਥਾਨਸਟ ਜਗ ਭਰਿਸਟ ਹੋਏ ਡੂਬਤਾ ਇਵ ਜਗੁ ॥੧॥: Thaansat Jag Bhrisat Hoae... (sggs 662).
Babaa Nanak is not slandering Ragis (professional singers) when he tells them that it does not matter how many different ways they sing, but “Hari” (Mool, Source, Raam…) is not pleased by these. Baabaa Nanak says that these mentally blind Ragis do all this for the sake of “bread” (“ਰੋਟੀਆ ਕਾਰਣਿ”) . Babaa Nanak is Just telling the Ragis and the rest of us the truth. Because, Parmaatam has nothing to do with all this.
  • ਰੋਟੀਆ ਕਾਰਣਿ ਪੂਰਹਿ ਤਾਲ ॥: For the sake of bread, they perform melodiously (sggs 465).
  • ਇਕਿ ਗਾਵਹਿ ਰਾਗ ਪਰੀਆ ਰਾਗਿ ਨ ਭੀਜਈ ॥: Some sing according to traditional Raag, but the Lord is not pleased by these Raag (sggs 1285).
  • ਗਾਵਹਿ ਗੀਤ ਨ ਚੀਨਹਿ ਆਪੁ ॥: You sing the songs, but you do not understand your own self (i.e., your Mool). (sggs 903).
  • ਗੀਤ ਰਾਗ ਘਨ ਤਾਲ ਸਿ ਕੂਰੇ ॥: (Forgetting the Shabad: Vichaar, Giaan, etc., mortal indulges in) the various songs, Raag and rhythms, but these are all false efforts. (sggs 832).
  • ਰਾਗ ਨਾਦ ਸਭ ਕੋ ਸੁਣੈ ਸਬਦ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਸਮਝੈ ਵਿਰਲੋਈ ।॥: Everybody just listen to "Raag and Naad", but a very rare one understands Shabad-Surti (Bhai Gurdaas, Vaar 15, Paurree 16).
  • ਅੰਦਰਹੁ ਅੰਨਾ ਬਾਹਰਹੁ ਅੰਨਾ ਕੂੜੀ ਕੂੜੀ ਗਾਵੈ ॥: Andarahu Annaa Baharau Annaa Koorhee Koorhee Gavai(sggs 960).
Baabaa Nanak in the following verse tells us that the whole world is “Rogee” (i.e, diseased –  with egotism…). By saying so he is not slandering the whole world. But just telling the truth.
  • ਜਗੁ ਰੋਗੀ ਕਹ ਦੇਖਿ ਦਿਖਾਉ ॥: Jagu rogee… (sggs 1189).
When Baabaa Nanak declares that the leaders, religious or otherwise, are corrupt, he is not slandering them. Also, when Baabaa Nanak says that their officials on account of greed behave as dogs and harass innocent people, he is not slandering them. Because, what Baabaa Nanak is saying about all of them is true (ਸਚ-Sach) — they plunder people and resources as lions plunder their pray.
  • ਰਾਜੇ ਸੀਹ ਮੁਕਦਮ ਕੁਤੇ ॥: The kings are like tigers, and their officials are dogs (sggs 1288).
When Baabaa Nanak calls kings the butchers, thieves, sense-blind, full of hunger for Maya, corrupt, etc., he is not slandering them. Because, what Baabaa Nanak is saying about them is true (ਸਚ-Sach).
  • ਕਲਿ ਕਾਤੀ ਰਾਜੇ ਕਾਸਾਈ ਧਰਮੁ ਪੰਖ ਕਰਿ ਉਡਰਿਆ ॥: Kal kaatee raaje kaasaayee… (sggs 145).
Baabaa Nanak called the emperor Baabar tryrannical (ਜਾਬਰ). This is not slandering of Baabar. Because, what Baabaa Nanak is saying about him is true (ਸਚ-Sach).
  • ਪਾਪ ਕੀ ਜੰਞ ਲੈ ਕਾਬਲਹੁ ਧਾਇਆ ਜੋਰੀ ਮੰਗੈ ਦਾਨੁ ਵੇ ਲਾਲੋ ॥: Paap kee janjh… (sggs 722).
Thus, nothing could deviate a person of  Truth from the Way of Truth!

What IS slander?

Essentially slandering is to tell lies (ਝੂਠ) about a person or a group.

The purpose behind knowingly spreading falsehood about a person or a group is to make them feel belittled, ashamed, guilty, humiliated; make them lose their self-esteem; and so on.

In nutshell, slandering or defamation is the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person's reputation. It's to victimize or ridicule the other person.

  • ਨਿੰਦਕੁ ਐਸੇ ਹੀ ਝਰਿ ਪਰੀਐ ॥ ਇਹ ਨੀਸਾਨੀ ਸੁਨਹੁ ਤੁਮ ਭਾਈ ਜਿਉ ਕਾਲਰ ਭੀਤਿ ਗਿਰੀਐ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਜਉ ਦੇਖੈ ਛਿਦ੍ਰੁ ਤਉ ਨਿੰਦਕੁ ਉਮਾਹੈ ਭਲੋ ਦੇਖਿ ਦੁਖ ਭਰੀਐ ॥ ਆਠ ਪਹਰ ਚਿਤਵੈ ਨਹੀ ਪਹੁਚੈ ਬੁਰਾ ਚਿਤਵਤ ਚਿਤਵਤ ਮਰੀਐ ॥੧॥: Nindak aise hee jhar pareeai. Ih neesaanee sunahu tum bhaayee jiou kaalar bheet gireeai …: O Brother, listen: This is the distinctive sign of a slanderer — he collapses like a wall of saltpetre. Thus, the slanderer crumbles away (from his spiritual Life – ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ – in other words, his habit of slandering is like saltpetre to his spiritual Life). When the slanderer sees a fault in someone else, he is pleased. Seeing goodness, he is depressed. Twenty-four hours a day, he plots (to harm someone), but nothing works. (Even if he cannot succeed in his planning) the evil man dies, constantly thinking up evil plans. ||1|| (sggs 823).
In the Gurbani, this sort of slandering of anybody is called "not good-ਭਲੀ ਕਿਸੈ ਕੀ ਨਾਹੀ":
  • ਨਿੰਦਾ ਭਲੀ ਕਿਸੈ ਕੀ ਨਾਹੀ ਮਨਮੁਖ ਮੁਗਧ ਕਰੰਨਿ ॥ ਮੁਹ ਕਾਲੇ ਤਿਨ ਨਿੰਦਕਾ ਨਰਕੇ ਘੋਰਿ ਪਵੰਨਿ ॥੬॥: It is not good to slander anyone, but the foolish Manmukhs still do it. The faces of the slanderers turn black (bad name or reputation, tumult, Dukh, depression, no self-esteem-ਢੈਂਦੀ ਕਲਾ...), and they fall into the horrible hell (i.e., they live hellish life Here and Now). ||6|| (sggs 755).
Certainly, if you are ever slandered by an another individual or a group, one option is to just ignore and walk away from that situation.

Also, as the Gurbani points out, we can make it to work to our advantage if we want!

In this context, Baabaa Nanak's life teaches us very important lesson. For example, foolish Manmukhs contemptuously would call Baabaa Nanak names such as "Bhootanaa" (ਭੂਤਨਾ, spirit), "Betaalaa" (ਬੇਤਾਲਾ, demon), "Vechaaraa" (ਵੇਚਾਰਾ: wretched, helpless, poor, etc.), etc. They also called Baabaa Kabeer "Bauraanaa" (insane, mad, foolish...). Here are Baabaa Nanak and Baabaa Kabeer's own words:
  • ਲੋਗੁ ਕਹੈ ਕਬੀਰੁ ਬਉਰਾਨਾ ॥: People say that Kabeer has gone insane (for he rejects  Karamkaand...). (sggs 1158).
  • ਕੋਈ ਆਖੈ ਭੂਤਨਾ ਕੋ ਕਹੈ ਬੇਤਾਲਾ ॥ ਕੋਈ ਆਖੈ ਆਦਮੀ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਵੇਚਾਰਾ ॥੧॥: (For not following the worldly ways…) Some call (Nanak) “Bhootanaa” (a ghost…); some call “Betaalaa” (demon…); Some call “Vaechaara” (wretched, helpless, poor…). ||1|| (sggs 991).
Did this sort of worldly nonsense cause Baabaa Nanak or Bhagats to give up Bhagti or the Path of Truth? No!
  • ਭਗਤਿ ਨ ਛਾਡਉ ਰਾਮ ਕੀ ਭਾਵੈ ਨਿੰਦਉ ਲੋਗੁ ॥: I will not forsake Raam Bhagati even if people slander (sggs 1366).
  • ਹਰਿ ਕੀ ਭਗਤਿ ਕਰਹਿ ਤਿਨ ਨਿੰਦਹਿ ਨਿਗੁਰੇ ਪਸੂ ਸਮਾਨਾ ॥੨॥: Hari kee bhagti kare tin nindahi nigure pasoo... (sggs 1138).
  • ਨਿੰਦਕੁ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਕਰਿ ਮਲੁ ਧੋਵੈ ਓਹੁ ਮਲਭਖੁ ਮਾਇਆਧਾਰੀ ॥: By slandering, the slanderer washes other's filth (filth of others Bikaars, filth of the bad actions they committed, etc.), (but in the process he - ਮਾਇਆ-ਵੇੜ੍ਹਿਆ ਮਨੁੱਖ) the worshiper of Maya (himself becomes used to) eating the filth (of others) (sggs 507).
Behavior of the Gurmukhs is beyond the understanding of an ordinary human being of limited vision (the vision impaired by the cataract of Maya).

Being slandered is beneficial to the victim

If people can call Baabaa Nanak demon, etc., then what to speak of us! The Gurbani says that an aspirant should not be concerned about being slandered by "Manmukh Mugadh " (foolish Manmukhs, Mayadhaaree - those in love with Maya). Because, according to the Gurbani, being slandered or criticized is in fact beneficial! How's so?

Slanderers help one become aware and alert of his negativity and defilement — one's weaknesses become magnified when slandered.

If taken constructively, once aware of his weaknesses, one can do something about them. Thus, in a way, the person who talks trash about someone helps him remove his demerits.

However, if one reacts negatively to the act of being calumniated by someone, then obviously he has nothing to gain (because then he is no different than the slanderer).

For one's negativity + other's negativity is not equal to positivism!

In fact this is the formula for ruin. In short, it all depends on how we react to being tarnished by anyone.

The key is to use it (1) to see our shortcomings; and (2) then remove them without any prejudice or partiality.

In this context, consider the following Shabad of Baabaa Kabeer:

  • ਨਿੰਦਉ ਨਿੰਦਉ ਮੋ ਕਉ ਲੋਗੁ ਨਿੰਦਉ ॥ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਜਨ ਕਉ ਖਰੀ ਪਿਆਰੀ ॥ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਬਾਪੁ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਮਹਤਾਰੀ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਹੋਇ ਤ ਬੈਕੁੰਠਿ ਜਾਈਐ ॥ ਨਾਮੁ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਮਨਹਿ ਬਸਾਈਐ ॥ ਰਿਦੈ ਸੁਧ ਜਉ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਹਮਰੇ ਕਪਰੇ ਨਿੰਦਕੁ ਧੋਇ ॥੧॥ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਕਰੈ ਸੁ ਹਮਰਾ ਮੀਤੁ ॥ ਨਿੰਦਕ ਮਾਹਿ ਹਮਾਰਾ ਚੀਤੁ ॥ ਨਿੰਦਕੁ ਸੋ ਜੋ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਹੋਰੈ ॥ ਹਮਰਾ ਜੀਵਨੁ ਨਿੰਦਕੁ ਲੋਰੈ ॥੨॥ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਹਮਰੀ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਪਿਆਰੁ ॥ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਹਮਰਾ ਕਰੈ ਉਧਾਰੁ ॥ ਜਨ ਕਬੀਰ ਕਉ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਸਾਰੁ ॥ ਨਿੰਦਕੁ ਡੂਬਾ ਹਮ ਉਤਰੇ ਪਾਰਿ ॥੩॥੨੦॥੭੧॥: Slander me, slander me - go ahead, people, slander me (by telling lies about me). Slander is pleasing to "Jana" (Gurmukh, Daas, Bhagat...). Because Slander is (Jana's) mother and father (i.e., as mother and father help their children in developing good qualities, similarly, slanderer helps Jana, makes him alert). If I am slandered, (for me it's like living in) heaven (Here and Now, because I will be so alert not do any bad thing - the state of Pure the consciousness, etc.). (When I'm slandered) "Naam Padaarath" (Wisdom, Virtues, Truth...) abides in my mind. (When I'm slandered) my Heart is rendered pure (by abiding in Naam and virtuous deeds). (Thus) the slanderer helps me cleanse my demerits (inner filth). ||1|| (Thus) One who slanders me is my friend; in the slanderer is in my conscious (I pay attention to slanderer who keeps me alert, and thus do the right thing in life). The slanderer is the one who prevents me from being slandered (by helping me become virtuous). (Thus, in fact, indirectly) slanderer improves my life. ||2|| The slander is my love and affection (because it helps me improve). Slander effects my revival or progress (because it helps me escape demerits). Therefore, slander is the best thing for "Jana" Kabeer. The slanderer is drowned (because he never looks at his own demerits or negativity), while I am carried across (for the slanderer helps one become aware of my own demerits or negativity). ||3||20||71|| (sggs 339).
On the other hand, the slanderer, the foolish Manmukh, bears total loss —increases his demerits, sinful propensities, pollution of the mind, foolishness, suffering ...)! Like a janitor or a dragon, a slanderer carries his huge, useless loads (of slandering), and burns in his own fire (of slandering). ||1||
  • ਮਿਥਿਆ ਦੂਜਾ ਭਾਉ ਧੜੇ ਬਹਿ ਪਾਵੈ ॥ ਪਰਾਇਆ ਛਿਦ੍ਰੁ ਅਟਕਲੈ ਆਪਣਾ ਅਹੰਕਾਰੁ ਵਧਾਵੈ ॥: Love of duality (Maya) is false, and it creates factions. (Those in love with Maya) decry other's shortcomings and increase their own 'Ahankaar' (pride, haughtiness, false ego-ego....).  (sggs 366).
  • ਨਿੰਦਕ ਕਉ ਫਿਟਕੇ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ॥ ਨਿੰਦਕ ਕਾ ਝੂਠਾ ਬਿਉਹਾਰੁ ॥ ਨਿੰਦਕ ਕਾ ਮੈਲਾ ਆਚਾਰੁ ॥: The world curses the slanderer. (Because the world knows that) false are the dealings of the calumniator. (By calumniating) the calumniator's own lifestyle becomes filthy (corrupt, Bikaaree...). ||1||Pause|| (sggs 1151).
  • ਅੰਤਰਿ ਲੋਭੁ ਫਿਰਹਿ ਹਲਕਾਏ ॥ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਕਰਹਿ ਸਿਰਿ ਭਾਰੁ ਉਠਾਏ ॥ ਮਾਇਆ ਮੂਠਾ ਚੇਤੈ ਨਾਹੀ ॥ ਭਰਮੇ ਭੂਲਾ ਬਹੁਤੀ ਰਾਹੀ ॥੨॥: Within (the Pujaaree) is greed and they wander about like mad dogs. They slander others and carry loads of (slandering) upon their heads. Beguiled by Maya, he does not think of the (Divine Wisdom, Virtues, Truth...). Deluded by doubt, he goes astray in many ways. ||2|| (sggs 372).
Therefore, like Baabaa Kabeer, we must also love those who tarnish us; for they do us a great favor!
  • ਐਸੇ ਝੂਠਿ ਮੁਠੇ ਸੰਸਾਰਾ ॥ ਨਿੰਦਕੁ ਨਿੰਦੈ ਮੁਝੈ ਪਿਆਰਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਜਿਸੁ ਨਿੰਦਹਿ ਸੋਈ ਬਿਧਿ ਜਾਣੈ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਸਬਦੇ ਦਰਿ ਨੀਸਾਣੈ ॥: Such is the falsehood (worthless activities, corrupt thinking, ਝੂਠੇ ਵਿਚਾਰ, etc.) that's plundering the worldly people (of their spiritual life - ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ). The slanderer slanders me, but even so, I love him (because he helps me improve). ||1||Pause|| He alone knows the Way of life, who is being slandered. Through the Shabad, he is approved at the Divine Door (Naam: Wisdom, Virtues, Truth...). (sggs 1330).

— T. Singh