Sri Chinmoy: This same question was asked by a University student at the Inter-American University in Puerto Rico recently and I shall be happy to answer it again for you. It depends. First of all, we have to know the standard of the aspirant. If the aspirant feels that the inner life, the spiritual life, is of paramount importance, that he cannot do without it — if he is of that calibre — then he has to devote most of his time to the inner life, the spiritual life, to God-realisation; his inner being will tell him to what extent he can contribute to society. But if the aspirant is just learning the ABC of the spiritual life, then I wish the aspirant to accept society as something important, needful and significant in his life, something that goes with the inner life and something that should be accepted along with the inner life.
Again, I wish to say that if he is a true aspirant, he has to go deep within in order to know how to help society. To help society is a wonderful thing. To be a philanthropist is a wonderful thing, and if that particular philanthropist goes deep within and gets the direct message from the inner being, from God, then I think that only at that time will his help to society be really meaningful. Otherwise, the so-called help or contribution to society by an aspirant will be an act of self-aggrandisement, self-nourishment, a feeding of his ego.
So we have to know where the individual aspirant stands. In order to realise God, one does not have to leave society altogether for good. If one leaves society, or in the larger sense, humanity, then how can one establish and manifest divinity here on earth?
But one has to be wise in his spiritual search. He has to know that God comes first and then humanity. If one goes to humanity first and serves humanity according to his limited capacity or just to feed his ego, then he is not fulfilling God in society or in humanity So to serve humanity properly, divinely, one has first to go to divinity and from there, one has to approach humanity. At that time, the help will be most beneficial.