Understanding inappropriate behaviour

Written by Suraj Shah. Inspired by greatness.

When you see someone behaving inappropriately, what feelings arise in you and how do you approach the situation?

A friend was recently telling me about a party he attended several years ago where there was this one married man in his mid 40s, who was slightly drunk and was chatting up many of the other women in the room. My friend was furious at this guy’s behaviour. This guy appeared sleazy and was tarnishing an otherwise fun night out for everyone else there.

Several months later, my friend had a chance meeting with this ‘sleazy’ man at a community group meeting, and it turned out that the guy had a young daughter with a severe case of autism, where she woud continually bite into furniture, just like a dog. This guy was struggling to look after his daugher and he was simply acting out. He was not himself. His behaviour at the party was clearly inappropriate, which he himself had recognised, but had resorted to drinking his sorrows away and attempting to find an escape from the struggles of his day-to-day reality.

My friend, upon learning the truth of this guy’s situation, felt great sadness. In fact, even while recounting the story to me, he had tears rolling down his eyes. He had vowed that from that day on, he would never again let first impressions count so much for how he viewed the people in the world around him. He resolved to discover the underlying truth of the situation, the struggle, fear or sorrow that somebody is going through, and sought to make sense of their behaviour, nomatter how inappropriate they behaved.

Opening eyes to sorrow

I’m grateful my friend had shared that story with me. It helped to open my eyes to the reality of just how much our family, friends, neighbours and colleagues in the world around us struggle to survive in life and make sense of the situations they face.

It helped me to notice where I lack compassion and understanding, and the work I now need to do to better tolerate and care for those around us who just want acknowledgement that life IS tough.

When they behave inappropriately

It may be that someone is drunk and seemingly uncrontrollable at a party, drowning away their sorrows of a broken relationship or the sudden death of an adored spouse.

Perhaps they have their feet up on a seat in the bus with music blaring out of their earphones, attempting to drown out the troubles of the world around them, yet never really being able to mask the deafening noise of their minds.

It could be that they are a colleague being controlling yet hostile, attempting to take charge of their working environment while a messy divorce is crumbling the stability of family life from under their feet.

Responding to inappropriate behaviour

Step back a moment and just observe how they’re behaving. See it for what it is. Separate their actions from how you feel about it. Start with the assumption that their inappropriate behaviour is not who they are at their core.

But please don’t for one moment think I am suggesting that you just let them continue to behave in this way. We all have a responsibilty to help improve the world around us and give support to those who are silently crying out for it.

You may find that it is your duty to do something about it – perhaps to hear them out and if they ask for guidance, then to suggest something that may help them. It may also be your duty to take care of the people that their actions are affecting.

Life ain’t easy, not for any of us

It’s clearly evident that this life is not easy. Not for any one of us.

We may have health, but be lacking in money. We may have millions in the bank, but no real friends to trust and care for. We may have friends and plenty of money, but be struck with a terminal illness.

We may appear to have it all – health, wealth, friendship – but still the greed of wanting more, or the fear of it all inevitably coming to an end.

Life is certainly not easy, for any one of us.

Less expecting, more understanding

Perhaps with a little more care, compassion and understanding, the way we respond to other people’s behaviour will be based on a deeper appreciation of what they are going through and founded on the truth of the situation, rather than our own expectations and judgements.

Then and only then will we see the world for what it is, our life for what it is.

No more facades. No more hiding from the truth. No more disappointment from expectations not met.

Just more care, more compassion and more understanding.

To be an ocean of love

Written by Suraj Shah. Inspired by greatness.

This one’s to all the ladies who calmly endure pain and hardship, and to their husbands who lovingly care for their wife’s every single need — I salute you.

We’ve had a bereavement in the family. My wife’s aunt (we’ll call her ‘masi’) passed away at the age of 51. She had been facing an ongoing battle with cancer for many years. Masi leaves behind her husband (we’ll call him ‘masa’) and a 17 year old son.

At the prathna sabha — a prayer meeting where the community come together to take strength from detachment-cultivating songs and pay their condolences to the family — members of the family and community spoke about masi’s life and her virtues.

Samta bhaav: calmly enduring the ups and downs of life

Masi’s cancer was advanced. It had gotten into her bones and affected every part of her body. She was constantly in so much pain and yet her focus was clear. She knew she needed to remain calm, stay strong, persevere and raise her son to become the wonderful young man he is today.

In Jain dharma, there is a term known as “samta bhaav”. It means to have a feeling of calmness and peace in any given situation. It means to have equanimity regardless of the pushes and pulls and ups and downs of life.

Samta bhaav arises from a knowing that everything around us is merely temporary — it will come and go as appropriate, based on the knots we have bound to ourselves through our previous behaviours. Those knots we have bound in the past bring rise to these present situations in our life.

Samta bhaav is a feeling that arises as a result of knowing in the depths of our heart that we are wholly responsible for the situations that are manifesting in our lives right now. Our present behaviours — the way we endure the situations we face — will determine the knots we bind and the subsequent situations that present themselves to us.

Masi, through the day-to-day endurance of physical pain, demonstrated samta bhaav to us.

Despite what she was going through, she would have a smile on her face and not let talk about her medical condition dampen the vitality of her life and her family.

We can take inspiration from that, learn to ease our own suffering and eventually free ourselves from our own self-made traps.

Pyaar ka saagar: being an ocean of love

During the prathna sabha, there was a devotional song performed, titled ‘Tu pyaar ka saagar hain’ (external links: music video; lyrics translation).

The song expresses devotion towards the great souls who have experienced their true limitless inner bliss and freedom from suffering.

These great souls are an ocean of love, overflowing with compassion. We look to them to give us just one drop of love (from that ocean of love) to quench our thirst, our thirst for freedom and ultimately cure our otherwise endless suffering.

Pyaar ka saagar means ‘ocean of love’. By taking a drop from the ocean of love, may we also be free to fly across our own ocean of suffering.

During the words from family members shared at the end of the prathna sabha, masi’s eldest brother spoke briefly about masi’s virtues and then directed our attention towards masa (masi’s husband) — an embodiment of ‘pyaar ka saagar’, an ocean of love.

Masa, in all these years, stood firmly next to masi, taking care of her every single need. From the ups and downs, the holidays and the hospital visits, and everything in between, he was right there, by her side, supporting masi through the journey.

He would work hard at the office all day and then tend to masi in the evenings and throughout the night. He is someone who clearly understood his duty and continued to diligently fulfill it.

Masa personified an ocean of love by consistently being at masi’s side, helping her endure what life presented her with.

Striving to be an ocean of love

As the upcoming years and decades unravel, I hope that my wife never has to suffer any physical pain, emotional turmoil or mental anguish.

But if she has to face any of this, then I hope I have the strength, stamina and diligence to care for her every need and soften her day-to-day suffering.

I look towards masa, my father, grandfather and other great men out there, and seek to become an ocean of love just like them.

Calm inducing rituals

Written by Suraj Shah.

Soon after the death of a loved one, emotions are all over the place.

There is so much to organise. Relatives fly in from around the world. Family and friends call up and come round to support, arriving early and staying till late.

During such a delicate time, close family members experiencing the loss need something to help bring calm to the madness.

Calm during chaos

In the timeless Jain tradition, we have one such method to bring about calm at a time of chaos.

Within a day or so of the death, we hold a prayer meeting. Distant family and friends of the bereaved and other members of the community congregate in a hall, giving them the chance to offer their condolences to the family.

What I value the most during these two hour sessions are the songs that are sung. These “vairagya na stavano” are songs from the Jain and other Indian traditions that bring about detachment.

What is detachment and why is it important at a time of loss?

In our day to day lives, we spend so much time indulging in objects of the senses, constantly being seduced by the desires of our body and its constant demands.

We succumb to likes and dislikes in pretty much everything we do.  These attractions and aversions bring about damaging emotions of anger, greed, ego and deceit.

When we lose someone that we like so much it is easy to fall into a sorrowful and bitter state – but there is a way to rise above it.

Detachment cultivates freedom from attractions (likes) and aversions (dislikes).

Songs that help bring about detachment, the “vairagya na stavano”, result in calm and clarity in our lives.

These songs paint a compassionate picture of how:

  1. The soul is separate from the body.
  2. Even though the body is momentary, the true self (soul) lives forever.
  3. Nothing we do can change someone else’s destiny.
  4. Nothing we do can change our own current situation.
  5. We have great power to influence our own future experiences.
  6. We have great power to remain calm no matter what we are experiencing right now.
  7. There are those who are completely liberated from suffering.
  8. There are those who are in a state of abundant, infinite and eternal bliss.
  9. Those liberated souls presently in a state of eternal bliss have left a path for us to attain it too.
  10. Having faith in words of these wonderfully compassionate souls and patiently treading the path they have shared will bring about great calm and clarity in our lives.

At a time of sorrow and chaos, attaining a sense of calm seems fairly straightforward.

In your faith, tradition or community, what calm inducing rituals do you take part in?