Have you ever heard people talk about other people behind their backs? That means when they’re not around. Did you listen? Did you ever say bad things about someone else when they were not around? It’s called slander, when you say something bad about someone else and this is a story about slander.
Once there was a King. He was a very wise King. He was very spiritual too. He had many good qualities... but sometimes, he could be mean if he was in a bad mood. One time, when the King was with his horses, a famous Sadhu came to see him. The Sadhu put his hands out and showed the King his begging bowl, saying, “do you have an offering for this old man?” The King was in a bad mood that day and he ignored the guest. And the Sadhu asked again, “You are a great man, surely you can give some charity?”
The King got annoyed at him and picked up a dried patty of horse dung from the ground and he put it in the old man’s bowl, and said “here is your offering, run along beggar.” The Sadhu turned around and walked away, with only the patty of horse dung from the King. But this Sadhu wasn't an ordinary beggar, he was a holy man. It is said that one should always be kind to holy men and never insult them. If you insult a holy man, he can do two things. Either he can show you mercy and erase your karma, or he can allow your karma to happen right away! This Sadhu didn't show mercy. He picked up that horse patty and he threw it on the ground, declaring, “may it multiply!”
The next day the King noticed something very odd. There was a huge pile of horse patties. The King was wise and he knew that this had miraculously happened. He also knew why. He knew it was because he had been so rude to his holy guest. And so the King immediately began searching and he found the Sadhu, and said, “Swami ji, a thousand apologies. I am a worm to you. Please forgive me, I have been so rude!” The Swami replied, “you only got the natural consequence of your action.” The King asked, “what, what does it mean?” And the Sadhu explained, “you will have to eat that whole pile of dung. If you do not, it will multiply even more and you will have to eat even more.” The King said, “Eewwwww!.... I have to EAT a huge pile of dried up horse dung!!??” The Sadhu replied, “oh yes, yes you do! Go eat it now before it increases. Start right away! Go! Eat!”
The King desperately went back to the pile of horse patties, saying, “I have to ...uhhhh... eat.... the patties heheh, uhhh before they multiply to even more.... uhuugh....” He got close to the large pile, saying, “Oh my!!! It’s such a big pile... Ok, I’ll just take it a bit at a time. I’ll just take this one patty and put in my mouth, ohhhhhh that smells bad ….ok and put it... in my, I can’t do this!!! Ughhhhhhh!”
The King was delirious. He went back to the Sadhu, and said, “please, please, I beg you. Isn't there any other way? Is there any way to get rid of the pile so it doesn't multiply. I don’t want to have this load, I want to be liberated. Is there any way to get rid of this pile without eating it?” The Sadhu replied, “There is one thing you could do.” And the King said, “Yes! Please tell me and I will do exactly whatever you tell me sir. "There is one thing you could do.” And the Sadhu explained, “You have to make people think that you are bad.” The King asked, “Make my own people think I’m bad? But why?” The Sadhu just looked at him “Ahem...”, then the King quickly replied, “Yes, yes, okay...I’ll do whatever you say. I’ll make them think I’m bad...” the Sadhu continued to explain, “People will start to slander you, and whenever someone slanders you, they will take a part of that pile off. It will go to them and they will have to eat it, one way or another. I will get people to think I’m bad so that they will slander me. Their slander will free me! Oh thank you!”And the King said, “I will get people to think I’m bad so that they will slander me. Their slander will free me! Oh thank you!”
The King started right away. He told his agents, “Go around and start saying bad things about me. Make up things so people will think I’m bad. Just make sure people start talking about me in a really mean way." The agent replied, "Yes sire, it will be my pleasure. Hehehehe."
The agents did as the King told them. Pretty soon all the people started slandering the King, one townsperson said, “I heard the King used to steal from his own father and now he steals from his own wife. He’s a bad man.” And another person said, “The King isn't bad, he’s a terrible man! I heard he kicks puppies and he doesn't even like kids.” The King watched the pile, it was getting smaller! And another person said, “I heard he’s mean to his parents and he beats children! He is the worst!”
The pile of dung was decreasing day by day. And the King said, “The slander! It’s working! People must be really slandering me! Look at the pile going down!” By the end of the week many people had spread slander through gossiping about the King. The slander became meaner and meaner. And people were now saying very bad things and some people started to really hate the King. One towns person said, “I heard he hates God! He’s very cruel to holy men and he bows to stones! He's a faithless and blind heretic. He shouldn't be alive!!”
Pretty soon the pile decreased to be so small there were only a few pieces of horse dung left, and the King said, “There’s hardly anything left. Thank you people. Thank you for slandering me! It looks like I won’t have to eat anything now!” And finally there was only one patty of horse dung left. The King said, “hahaha! Only one! I love those who slander me!! They’re saving me!! Hahahaha!!" The King waited for this last piece of dung to disappear. He kept waiting, the King knew that people were still slandering him, yet this last piece did not disappear... The King wondered, “why won’t this last one go away?"
After another day it still didn't disappear even though lots of people were still slandering him, the King said, “I don’t want to eat this, something is wrong, why won’t it go away?” So the King went to see the Sadhu again, and said, “excuse me Swami ji, sir, it’s just that... there’s still one horse patty left, and...” the Sadhu interrupted “Yes, yes I know, and you don’t want to eat it, I know, I know. There is one person who has not slandered you. The Sadhu smiled with a sparkle in his eye, and explained, "He is a Hermit who lives by himself. If you want him to slander you. If you want him to eat that last piece so you can be free, if you want him to think you are bad, you have to personally go yourself.” The King replied, "I will go immediately."
So the King went to the Hermit’s house. Now, the hermit was also a holy man, he was very wise. The King knocked on his door. From inside the Hermit yelled, “Go away King. I’m not eating it, it’s yours. You have to eat YOUR OWN dung!”
When we slander someone else, we take on that person’s garbage. Sometimes it’s hard not to not talk behind people’s backs, especially when those other people do something we think is bad. But, if you stop yourself from saying bad things about others... Then you will not have to eat their garbage.