In the traditional path of knowledge, the seeker abandons the life in the world and focuses his entire attention on achieving the spiritual realization. No thought is given to the fate of humanity, society or the world, as they are considered to be a distraction, an illusion or a lesser reality. Sri Aurobindo recognizes the truth behind this exclusive concentration, but does not deny or belittle the role of the universal manifestation or of the individual. He seeks rather to place the world and its forms, forces and events into the proper context.
“…since the individual and the universal are terms of that higher and vaster Being, their fulfilment must have some real place in the supreme Existence. There must be behind them some high purpose in the supreme Wisdom and Knowledge, some eternal strain in the supreme Delight: they cannot have been, they were not, created in vain.”
The question then arises as to whether one should follow the promptings of altruism or philanthropy to serve humanity. Sri Aurobindo observes that as long as the individual remains rooted in the world of mind-life-matter and in the consciousness of the ego, the leverage he has to truly aid humanity is strictly limited and circumscribed. He advises that it is only from the standpoint of the Divine, and the firm achievement of that standpoint, that true knowledge of the world and its purpose can arise, and thus, this must be the basis for any aid provided by the individual. “The greatest service to humanity, the surest foundation for its true progress, happiness and perfection is to prepare or find the way by which the individual and the collective man can transcend the ego and live in its true self, no longer bound to ignorance, incapacity, disharmony and sorrow. It is by pursuit of the eternal and not by living bound in the slow collective evolution of Nature that we can best assure even that evolutionary, collective, altruistic aim our modern thought and idealism have set before us. But it is in itself a secondary aim; to find, know and possess the Divine existence, consciousness and nature and to live in it for the Divine is our true aim and the one perfection to which we must aspire.”
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 9, The Release from the Ego, pp. 343-344