Question: Can we make as much spiritual progress living in the world and leading the life of a householder as we would living an ashram life?

Sri Chinmoy: Unfortunately, it is not possible. Again, we have to know what kind of ashram life we are speaking of. One may live in an ashram, but at the same time think constantly of ordinary life — "That person has become a success and the world is appreciating him. This person everybody is extolling to the skies. But I am doing nothing but living in an ashram." This kind of thing is not real ashram life at all. If you live a proper ashram life, if you are constantly aspiring and have no outer bondage, then there is no one to come between you and God. If your whole life is given totally and unconditionally to God-realisation, if you are running towards the Goal all alone with only God in mind, naturally you will make the fastest progress, while someone who has family problems and has to deal all the time with the unaspiring world will naturally make slower progress.

But there is a way that the householder can make very fast progress. If the householder feels that he is looking after his near and dear ones, not because they are near and dear to him, but because the Living Presence of God is inside them, this is very good. If God comes into the picture all the time, then there will always be a soulful feeling towards the near and dear ones. It is the same thing with a student. If someone is studying to get world information or world knowledge which he feels is necessary, or if he is studying so he can get a good job, then that person will make no progress. But if the person studying feels that he has the capacity to receive and reveal God's Light only in a small quantity right now, but that the knowledge he is getting from books and the outer world is only a preparation for the inner knowledge, then this is the right attitude. Right now he is reading books written by others. But a day will come when he will be in a position to read his own book, which is already written inside his soul. Right now he does not have the capacity to read his inner book, but he feels that the inner life is leading him and guiding him in and through the outer knowledge. Today you have the capacity only to receive just a little of God's Light, through books. But tomorrow you will have a larger vessel and enter into the Ocean of God's Light.

If you have this divine attitude towards studies or towards your family, then you will make very fast progress. Then, if you are sincere and surrendered to God's Will, when the Hour strikes and God feels the necessity of your entering into ashram life, you will do so. If, in the beginning, you are not given the opportunity, do not feel that you are not meant for the spiritual life. Far from it! God knows His Will far better than you do. There are certain reasons why He wants you to go through the householder life or the student life — the life of outer responsibilities.