The short answer to the question “Are Indians more spiritual” is “no, certainly not“. If you look at the hoi polloi, they can be as materialistic as people in other countries – spending their leisure hours shopping in malls and merrily wining and dining their way through life. But the long answer is a little more complicated since it requires some occult perception of the cultural and subconscious atmosphere which pervades in every country. In this article, we present some observations by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother Mirra Alfassa on the East-West differences as regards the spiritual pursuit. Do bear in mind that these observations are not eternal truths. These remarks were uttered at a certain point in time and come with an expiration date, because conditions in various countries can change over time.
Every country has a unique subconscious atmosphere. When people living in a certain country persevere in a certain cause over the centuries and contribute to a common base of knowledge, it leaves a distinct imprint in the subconscious atmosphere of that country. Subsequently, if you are reborn in such a country, you tend to unconsciously imbibe that knowledge if your soul is ready for it. For example, if you are born in the West, you tend to automatically grasp the need for volunteering and civic order. If you are born in Brazil, you might unknowingly absorb the ability to dribble the ball and quickly blossom into an above-average soccer player. Similarly, if you are born to parents who belong to a certain profession, you tend to grasp their skills more rapidly than some other skills. This unconscious assimilation occurs because there are subtle sheaths of our body which are, unbeknownst to us, influenced by the family and country that we are born into (for more on that, see Subconscient). It is this occult insight which forms the basis for the following remarks by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother on the differences in temperament between people born in different countries.
The atmosphere in India
Disciple : Do you think that it is more easy to get the spiritual life in India than in any other country ?
Sri Aurobindo : It is not a question of my thinking, it is a fact. Because we have been doing that work for the last four to five thousand years the whole past is living in a remarkable way, so that the slightest touch can open a man to it if he has anything in him which supplies the necessary material.
Disciple : Why is it that the spiritual life is more difficult in Europe than in India ?
Sri Aurobindo : Firstly, because the Europeans never had it in such a degree as the Indians and secondly what they had is far away from their mental and vital life, and so it has receded behind. Perhaps it is coming back now there also. That is why Europeans who have got a spiritual aspiration turn to India. It does not mean that they turn to Indians but to the accumulated spiritual force that is here. At any rate it is easy to make a start in India.
Disciple : Is it not also easier to fight the obstacles that come in the spiritual life in India than outside ?
Sri Aurobindo : Not necessarily, – and not all. There are some obstacles which you can easily overcome here but there are others which you can overcome more easily in Europe. For instance, Mayavada (the theory that posits the world as an illusion) is more difficult to get rid of in India than in Europe.
Disciple : Are Indians more spiritual than other people?
Sri Aurobindo : No, it is not so. No nation is entirely spiritual. Indians are not more spiritual than other people. But behind the Indian race there is a past spiritual influence. 
Along similar lines, the Mother Mirra Alfassa spoke of the favourable vibrations in various places of pilgrimage in India in this conversation with a French disciple, Satprem:
“There are places that are favorable for occult experiences. Benares is one of these places, the atmosphere there is filled with vibrations of occult forces, and if one has the slightest capacity, it spontaneously develops there, in the same way that a spiritual aspiration develops very strongly and spontaneously as soon as one lands in India. These are Graces. Graces, because it is the destiny of the country, it has been so throughout its history, and because India has always been turned much more towards the heights and the inner depths than towards the outer world. Now, it is in the process of losing all that and wallowing in the mud, but that’s another story … it was like that and it is still like that. And in fact, when you returned from Rameswaram with your robes, I saw with much satisfaction that there was still a great dignity and a great sincerity in this endeavor of the Sannyasis (renunciants) towards the higher life and in the self-giving of a certain number of people to realize this higher life.” 
The desiderata for Yoga
In these remarks made around 1926, Sri Aurobindo expatiated on the differences he had observed:
“Two things are necessary in this yoga : balance and a strong hold on the earth. By balance I mean the different parts of the being adjusted to one another, or some steadiness, a quiet poise somewhere in the man, – not an unsteady inner condition.
A strong mental being is also very necessary. Otherwise, when the experiences come the man turns upside down. In India, our mental development – I mean the outer man’s development – is not at all proportionate. There is the psychic being ready in many cases, there is the aspiration for spiritual life and faith also. But mind, reason, intelligence – the dynamic mind – are very crude. That is why I hesitate sometimes to give the yoga.
In Europe the outer parts are very well developed – reason, expression, the dynamic mind etc. But then there the whole thing ends. There is a great poverty in the inner being. Some of the Europeans are, really, babies in spiritual life.
To combine the inner development with the outer would be ideal.
Science, for instance, steadies reason and gives a firm grounding to the physical mind. Art – I mean the appreciation of beauty pure and simple, without the sensual grasping at the object – trains up the aesthetic side of the mind. The true artist has always the pure love of beauty – free and impersonal. Philosophy cultivates the pure thinking power. And politics and such other departments of mental work train up the dynamic mind.
All these should be duly trained with the full knowledge that they have their limited utility. Philosophy tends to become mere mental gymnastics and preference for one’s own ideas and mental constructions. So also Reason becomes the tyrant and denies anything further.
But if the training is given to these parts with an understanding of their limitations then they may serve very usefully the object of this yoga. As I say, they must all admit a higher working in them.” 
Materialism, surrender and the physical sheath
People raised in countries which have been long devoted to materialistic perfection can exhibit a strong rationalistic outlook coupled with strong skepticism and even cynicism in spiritual matters, leading to a reflexive rejection of the possibility of embodied divinity. Commenting on this problem, the Mother Mirra Alfassa said Westerners resist surrendering to a human Guru because it “threatens their personal independence” and the strong sense of individuality which they imbibed with “their mother’s milk”. That is why she asked them to meditate on the heart instead:
“The Western mind always finds it difficult to submit totally to a Guru and without total and unquestioning surrender to the Guru, his help to you is paralysed. That is why generally I advise Westerners to find the guidance and the Presence within themselves; it is true that this process is very often open to uncertainty and self-deception, mistaking some voice of the ego in disguise for the Divine’s guidance. ” 
In another conversation, she pointed out that the resistance arises due to the nature of the physical substance one inherits by virtue of birth:
“In a considerable number of people, it is their body, the physical body, that obstinately resists. The difficulty is greater for Westerners than for Indians. It’s as though their substance were steeped in falsehood. It also happens with Indians, of course, but generally the falsehood is much more in the vital than in the physical – because after all, the physical has been utilized by bodies belonging to enlightened beings. The European substance seems steeped in rebellion; in the Indian substance this rebelliousness is subdued by an influence of surrender. “ 
These are just some general observations. Ultimately, every individual is different since his/her past lives have to be factored in while considering suitability for the spiritual path.
- A.B. Purani. Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo, Second Series, p 197
- Mother Mirra Alfassa. Mother’s Agenda, Nov 22 1958.
- A.B. Purani. Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo, Second Series, p 74
- Mother Mirra Alfassa. Collected Works. vol. 3, p 4.
- Champaklal. Champaklal’s treasures, p 27.
- Mother Mirra Alfassa. Mothers Agenda, May 1 1958.
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