The collective emotions of the world have heightened recently due to the war in Gaza and continuing conflict in Ukraine. Even in our sleepy beach town in Southern California, about half the students at my kids’ high school stayed home the other day for fear of violence due to the suspension of a Muslim student for harassing a Jewish girl.

It seems that everybody’s talking about this stuff, in the news, online and at the dinner table. And we all have an opinion, some siding more with the Israelis, others with the Palestinians. I’m not going to tell you my position because it’s irrelevant to this piece.

What is relevant? What I’ve learned over these past many years studying the great spiritual masters. People like Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna, Ram Dass, Eckhart Tolle and Mickey Singer. And texts like The Bhagavad Gita and the Tao te Ching.

The heavyweights all agree

What’s fascinating is that they are all on the same page on this subject of what to do about conflict and suffering in the world or, put another way, righting the wrongs plaguing humanity.

So what is it that they teach us to do? Is it to fly to Israel and join the Israeli Defense Force or the Hamas militia? Is it getting in the face of your adversary and shouting them down with epithets? Is it firing off an angry letter-to-the-editor of your local newspaper promulgating the righteousness of your position?

No. It’s none of those things.

Sri Ramana spells it out

What they do teach is captured beautifully in an anecdote about Ramana Maharshi, who is in the Pantheon of Indian saints.

In the mid 1930s, a particularly turbulent period with Hitler and other fascists on the rise, Sri Ramana was pressed on the question of where the world was headed and what could be done to avoid war. Here’s how he responded:

Without understanding yourself, what is the use of trying to understand the world? This is a question that seekers after truth need not consider. People waste their energies over all such questions. First, find out the truth behind yourself; then you will be in a better position to understand the truth behind the world, of which yourself is a part.”

And that’s the answer to what Sri Ramana and Ram Dass and Eckhart and all the rest believe is the optimal response to dealing with the world’s ills.

START by going inside and working on becoming more conscious, i.e., ‘finding the truth behind yourself.’

That is job number one, two and three.

After that, if you want to get involved as an advocate/activist, by all means, go for it. Neither I, nor any of the aforementioned spiritual heavyweights, is saying it’s bad to get involved in the issues facing the world. Far from it.

Advocate from conscious presence

The key is to do so from a place of conscious presence and not at the direction of the ego. As I’ve heard Mickey, Eckhart and Ram Dass state many times, if all you’re doing is spewing your egoic anger on your adversaries then you’re not helping matters. You’re making things worse.

You know who advocated from a place of conscious presence? Gandhi. He didn’t lash out at the British colonial powers ruling India. He didn’t operate through anger. He was measured. Patient. Nonviolent.

Ditto with Martin Luther King, Jr., who was also nonviolent. But firm. And unyielding. He was a minister who walked the walk of Christ’s pronouncement: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers…’

MLK and Gandhi had great success

You know what else Gandhi and MLK had in common? They were the most successful advocates of the past hundred years. They got results.

India eventually gained its independence from Great Britain and nobody played a more vital role than MLK in advancing the rights of African-Americans.

These were two deep, highly evolved human beings. They had, between them, spent countless hours going inside and becoming conscious. At their core they were spiritual people and everything flowed from that center.

That was the work that enabled them to accomplish so much in India and America.

The takeaway

What this all boils down to is asking people to consider redirecting their energies with respect to any response to this latest Gaza tragedy. At least try to be aware that when we blow up at somebody over this or lash out in some way, whether in a Twitter or TikTok post or at the office or at the dinner table, we’re not helping the situation.

We’re just capitulating to our lower selves, AKA our egos. We’re turning on the spigot and spewing bile.

Next time you feel your ego tugging at you to “let it rip,” consider stopping. And taking five deep, cleansing breaths. Better yet, find a quiet place and meditate for ten minutes.

Because Eckhart, Sri Ramana, Mickey, Ram Dass, et al got it right. Going inside and becoming more conscious is the answer.

And I know that sounds holier than thou and like a cop out. But it isn’t.

It’s the long-term answer to curing what ails humanity.