Are Indians more spiritual?

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. [1]

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.” [2]

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.” [3]

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”[4].   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. ” [5]

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. “ [6]

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.


  1. A.B. Purani.  Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo, Second Series, p 197
  2. Mother Mirra Alfassa.  Mother’s Agenda, Nov 22 1958.
  3. A.B. Purani.  Evening Talks with Sri Aurobindo, Second Series, p 74
  4. Mother Mirra Alfassa.  Collected Works.  vol. 3, p 4.
  5. Champaklal.  Champaklal’s treasures, p 27.
  6. Mother Mirra Alfassa.  Mothers Agenda, May 1 1958.

See also

  1. How does a Guru act?
  2. True family and True country
  3. Are earthquakes due to Divine retribution?
  4. Is fear and awe of God necessary?
  5. Why bad things happen to good people
  6. On some customs and traditions of Hinduism
  7. Kundalini in ancient Greek and other non-Indian cultures
  8. The occult forces behind artistic movements
  9. Spirituality : between morality and immorality
  10. True intent of the caste system
  11. Difference between religion and spirituality
  12. Similarities between Sumerian Anki and Vedic Agni by Jean-Yves Lung

32 thoughts on “Are Indians more spiritual?

  1. Supriyo

    I have heard at least one Western monk of the Ramakrishn Order tell that as soon as he landed in India, he experienced a different sense of Time and Space, the effect of a whole civilization having turned Godwards for milleniums.

    He said that Indians are mostly like fish who don’t even know they are staying in water.

    Indians are fast turning materialistic (though it’s hard to pronounce such things with generalization) and one wonders what the future holds for the general atmosphere, regardless of what a few exceptional group of people do.

    1. Sandeep Post author

      Lets see how it evolves, Supriyo. After all, one can’t expect everyone in a country to be “spiritual” because that won’t be reflective of the principle of evolution. Politics, capitalism, labour, etc. all need to have their play.

    2. Ramananda

      Dear Supriyo,
      I think that this analogy which you have heard from this monk is correct. I have experienced the same spiritual feeling coming to India and especially on holy places. But I think that to some extend indians nowadays can be called even more materialistic then europeans or maybe even americans.

      1. Sandeep Post author

        In religion all other countries are paupers; India is the only millionaire.
        (– Mark Twain, who visited India for 3 months in 1896)

        Read more on Twain’s travels here. His travelogue of the trip is titled Following the Equator

      2. Ramananda

        Dear Sandeep,
        This is comment from 1896 and you know very well that India has changed a lot of from this date. There is tremendous spiritual power in Vedas, Puranas, Upanishads and other scriptures. There is no doubt that India produced the biggest number of saints and spiritual thinkers. But still there are some spiritual, yogic and tantric practises which are more prominent in Europe. Or some part of astrology as well. But my main point is that the ‘normal’ Indians nowadays are not spiritual at all, manytimes lacking even basic human qualities – for example not helping injured people on the street and so on. And what is even more important I was not speaking about the religion which is basically just material way of development. If you will read famous Bhagavata Purana just from the very second verse of this Purana, you will find that all material religion is basically avoided there. The other very important point is that Indians are also big showbottles – just trying to appear religious then secretly making abortions or going to prostitutes or killing the cows. They are generaly very hypocratical in their behaviour.

      3. Sandeep Post author

        Hi Ramananda

        You mistook the intent of my comment. I agree with what you said. In fact, I say the same in the beginning of the article. I posted Twain’s remarks purely for their historic relevance.


      4. Sandeep Post author


        Check out Pavan Varma’s book “Being Indian“. He brings out all the contradictory facets of Indian life. Some of the points you made here may already be discussed there.

        Shahani also made some fine observations in his 1970s book India without make-up.

  2. Pingback: Does dying in holy cities like Varanasi bring salvation? | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  3. ipi

    O soul of India, hide thyself no longer with the darkened Pandits of the Kaliyuga in the kitchen & the chapel, veil not thyself with the soulless rite, the obsolete law and the unblessed money of the dakshina; but seek in thy soul, ask of God and recover thy true Brahminhood & Kshatriyahood with the eternal Veda; restore the hidden truth of the Vedic sacrifice, return to the fulfilment of an older & mightier Vedanta.
    Sri Aurobindo

    (363−Thoughts and Aphorisms)

  4. ipi

    Book:The Sunlit Path by the Mother
    (Wonderful Book , very simple)

    Spiritual Life: East and West

    Whatever difference there is between the West and the East in relation to spiritual life lies not in the inner being or nature, which is an invariable and constant thing, but in the mental habits, in the modes of outer expression and presentation which are the result of education and environment and other external conditions. All people, whether occidental or oriental, are alike in their deepest feelings; they are different in their way of thinking. Sincerity, for example, is a quality which is the same everywhere. Those who are sincere, to whichever nation they belong, are all sincere in the same way.

    Only the forms given to this sincerity vary.

    The mind works in different ways in different peoples, but the heart is the same everywhere; the heart is a much true reality, and the differences belong to the superficial parts. As soon as you go deep enough, you meet something that is one in all. All meet in the Divine.

  5. mike

    Also, a person could be born in the west who has had many lives in lndia [and could be a great soul], or on the other hand, a person who has had many incarnations in the west could now be born in the east [so who is more Spiritual under that criteria]. lt’s meaningless.
    Ramananda, what’s a ‘showbottle’.

    Personally, l think Bollywood is degrading lndia [although l haven’t seen much of it]. Doesn’t seem to be any spiritual content anymore – or am l wrong?

    1. ipi

      Mike well said. Bollywood is 100% doing that . After reading your writing how you can see with microsopic view outside of movie theater which applies to all places. After a while being in yoga one even does not like watching movies. Hollywood and Bollywood where movies are not made for building inner life doing lot things not good as i was watching a lot i know it very much and i wish parents both if can follow yogic life but the sad part is one parent wanting does not happen and kids go in the same path of watching movies.

      1. Ramananda

        It is not only Bollywood. I personally think that much more influence has the complete spiritual degradation of most brahmana families which is just unbeliviable. Bollywood makes Indians just more naive. And even nowadays in India you can watch so many TVs and movies from outside. Also big point is that even if some people are now trying to follow the shastra and yoga – many times they cannot adjust this for current situation. So like this maybe few very spiritual people can attain some advancement but not most of them. I think that much more then ever before the big spiritual revolution is needed. Someone who will be real selfrealized person not just following those who were maybe realized but already passed away and lived in completely different situation. But I think that revolution will be outside of India. India is now starting to be just good for business. Anyway still there are spiritual people and of course spiritual places.

      2. Sandeep Post author

        Ramananda: Bollywood makes Indians just more naive.

        yes, its escapist fare. What you learn from them is that Romance is easy, Revenge always works, Good always wins over Evil, etc.

        Ramananda: I personally think that much more influence has the complete spiritual degradation of most brahmana families which is just unbeliviable.

        Could you elaborate on what you mean by degradation of brahman families?
        Where did you visit in India, what did you expect, and what did you see?
        Love to know more.

      3. Ramananda

        Well I visited India from 2002 till 2011 like 14 times. My stays were from 1 month till half year. I have many friends in India, very close friends from very respecteble high class families. Degradation of brahmana families lies basically that they do not understand spirituality. They usually just follow some tradition with not so much spirituality. That is the better case. Many times they havedegradated completely just drinking, taking drugs, going to prostitute, cheating and so on. Well I was expecting more spiritualy advanced people in India and actually when I have found that most of the population is on worse spiritual level then most of the Czech (I am from Czech so I am judging the nation whichI know the most) I was really suprised by this. Also very small spiritual advancement of so called Gurus or Brahmins stroke me very much. My feeling to India are just very split. There is spiritual power and there are spiritual people in the middle of complete degradation in so many aspects. Because having so many friends in India who offered me either to do spiritual things or business there and because of big original spiritual power which India has I am still considering partly live in India but What I see also as problem for me is the fact that sometimes it is very difficult to convince respectable or older people that the way how they are doing is not so much correct or just that me as European I have some values which are important for me and that I do not consider the traditional Indian values valuable for me. So now I am thinking a lot of what to do. I have many offers and also I have business in Europe. Let us see how everything develops.

    2. Sandeep Post author

      Mike: Ramananda, what’s a ‘showbottle’.

      Braggart or exhibitionist, I presume.

      Mike: Personally, l think Bollywood is degrading lndia [although l haven’t seen much of it]. Doesn’t seem to be any spiritual content anymore – or am l wrong?

      True, Bollywood is degrading India. They churn out cheap, garish and vulgar trash and its just getting worse in the name of so-called “progress”. The movies need not be spiritual but it could at least be edifying. They could choose themes which uplift people and project more constructive values, but unfortunately the producers and directors themselves tend to be men of poor character so that can’t happen. One production house, Rajshri productions used to be run by Tarachand Barjatya, who was a devotee of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. Due to the Mother’s influence, he decided to make only clean movies, but he is gone now.

      I haven’t watched a Bollywood movie in several years. Its only when you start practicing Yoga that you regretfully discover all the bad habits that you have unconsciously absorbed from that Bollywood trash.

    3. Ramananda

      As Sandeep already wrote you ‘showbottle’ is used as exhibicionist. They just wants to appear spiritiualy or religiously but in their heart there is no real desire to follow and secretly they are doing many bad things.

  6. mike

    “As Sandeep already wrote you ‘showbottle’ is used as exhibicionist. They just wants to appear spiritiualy or religiously but in their heart there is no real desire to follow and secretly they are doing many bad things.”

    Yes, l know the one’s you mean. The world is swarming with charlatans right now. Thank God for the few genuine articles like Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Aurobindo and Mother.

  7. mike

    Ramananda,l missed your post on your travels in lndia, somehow, but it was interesting what you have to say. l’ve only been there once in my life – to SA’s ashram and sai baba’s place in puttarparthi [God what a difference in atmosphere of the two places. Sri Aurobindo ashram had such a quiet and light feel to it]. l think the present generation is probably being slowly corrupted by western influences and as lndia is an Emerging economy [on a par with US and China now l think] it might be the place to be, where business is concerned. Although, the Mother had a vision some time ago about the Chinese pervading lndia [l think She said this would be a catastrophe. The danger might have passed now, but the chinese aren’t to be trusted in my opinion, especially when they’ll always back pakistan again lndia. They are already moving into Africa and building Factories etc…. lt’s a slow takeover l’d say].
    l don’t know about the Czech Republic [l’m in uk] so l.m not sure about the state your country’s in right now. Europe is in a financial crisis as you probably know, with greece and other places going bankrupt. l think the ‘euro’ might be on the verge of collapse – everywhere l look ppl are buying Gold.
    Anyway, the weather has to be better in lndia than where you are now lol.

    1. Ramananda

      Hi MIke,
      weather is better in the winter otherwise during late April till middle of October I like it in Czech. Winter is just too much long for me in Czech. Yes Europe is in crisis but the condition of every country is different. For example Czech has much more lower debt then India what to speak about Greece, Italy and so on and we do not have Euros. So we are quite safe. But my point was about spirituality. Czech they do not like organized religion but they are quite spiritual. In India I had most remarkable meetings with unknown sages who were just treasure of the Vedic and also spiritual wisdom, I like very much Himalayas and Orissa still not poilted places. Regarding the Chinese – of course they have quite big power but I do notž think they will overtake India. India will slowly grow. Just giving you one advice do not buy gold now as investment. Price will not go up for at least few years. If you are in UK pound is still very safe and regarding Euro. Euro will not collapse at least in following years. Still EU is big power and even the level of the debt is big here – still in EU it is just 80% of GDP (India has almost the same) in USA they have more then 100% And if USD or Euro colapses the one who will loose the most will be China anyway. So crisis is here but I do not believe in any of these nowadays so popular theories. Russia will go up and I think that EU can maybe collapse or at least change form and many countries will leave in 2018 and 2019 not before. Then East Europe will join to Russia and it will be big power and there will be big cooperation with India.

  8. mike

    Thanks for the information and advice ramananda. l didn’t realise czech had that attitude toward organized religion. Spiritually, lt’s very mature considering how so many countries are still dependent on church tradition etc…
    Yes, l think america could come out of this worse off. l saw a documentary about secret america recently and hoards of ppl are living in tent cities across the US. There is a lot of poverty there which isn’t being publicised. And apparently, lot’s of countries like china [l believe china is mostly using the Euro now] aren’t using the dollar anymore.
    Good luck on your future move.

  9. Pingback: A movie on Sri Kumaré, the Guru | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  10. nizken

    Positing a new topic here, since I did not know where else it can be posted (except under this thread)
    Why are gurus and spiritual traditions found only in India?
    I’m sure there have been many other spiritual or at least mystical-oriented schools in other parts of the world too (perhaps some of them were ancient like the Sumerian Enuma Elish, Pythagoreans, Hellenic etc.) but there are other traditions all over the Middle East and Iran even today I assume.
    The Hermetic tradition or Hellenic schools probably did die off a long time ago, and I’m not sure if they were truly spiritual traditions either, but don’t you think it’s a bit strange that none of the other countries would produce an authentic spiritual realizer? Catholic pre-Reformation Christianity had a mystical tradition in it as well but I don’t know if it has produced any authentic gurus in the last 500 yrs. The only exception would probably be the Kabbalists in Judaism like Luria etc (The Mother also was of Jewish heritage lol)

    I’d be delighted to know what everyone thinks of this. Is it because only Hinduism has maintained the tradition of guru-vada? At any rate, i’m really intrigued by this issue and would like to hear from all points of view.

    1. Sandeep Post author

      India’s spiritual traditions have been preserved not because of guru-vada but because people are gullible and because daily life is so chaotic that people naturally turn inwards !

    2. Sandeep Post author

      Alright, I was joking when I wrote the previous answer to your comment 🙂
      Sometimes it is fun to throw what they call a googly in cricket or curveball in baseball.

      The uniqueness of the Indian spiritual tradition lies in the concept of the Kundalini awakening, which is indispensable to Self-realization and which was not found elsewhere – at least not to that degree. That may be the reason why people continue to succeed in Yoga and propagate the teachings.

      But I think your question is answered in the article itself. There is something in the atmosphere, as Sri Aurobindo says, that makes it easy to open up to the Divine. And the Mother’s remark is also significant : “the physical has been utilized by bodies belonging to enlightened beings”.

      On a few occasions, Sri Aurobindo spoke of persistent race memory that can help or hurt individuals:

      Memory is the indispensable aid of the mind to preserve its past observations, the memory of the individual but also of the race, whether in the artificial form of accumulated records or the general race memory preserving its gains with a sort of constant repetition and renewal and, an element not sufficiently appreciated, a latent memory that can under the pressure of various kinds of stimulation repeat under new conditions past movements of knowledge for judgment by the increased information and intelligence. (Synthesis of Yoga, Supramental Instruments)

      (speaking of Bengali temperament) …Above all, he has in a greater degree than other races the yet undeveloped faculty of direct knowledge, latent in humanity and now to be evolved, which is above reason and imagination, the faculty which in Sri Ramakrishna, the supreme outcome of the race, dispensed with education and commanded any knowledge he desired easily and divinely. It is a faculty which now works irregularly in humanity, unrecognised and confused by the interference of the imagination, of the limited reason and of the old associations or samskāras stored in the memory of the race and the individual. It cannot be made a recognised and habitual agent except by the discipline which the ancient Indian sages formulated in the science of Yoga. But certain races have the function more evolved or more ready for evolution than the generality of mankind, and it is these that will lead in the future evolution. In addition, the race has a mighty will-power which comes from the long worship of Shakti and practice of the Tantra that has been a part of our culture for many centuries. No other people could have revolutionised its whole national character in a few years as Bengal has done. (CWSA, Early Cultural Writings, Brain of India)

    3. Sandeep Post author

      George W. Bush Returns To America After Spending 4 Years In The Himalayas

      JACKSONVILLE, FL—Garbed in unwashed robes and wearing a long, gray, wispy beard, former president George W. Bush returned to the United States this morning after spending four years on a spiritual journey in the Himalayas.

      “Nearly four years have passed since I embarked on my search for the answers to life’s mysteries, and now the complex passages of time have returned me here once more, to my homeland,” said the bedraggled yet serenely smiling 43rd president of the United States, accompanied by a young monk named Dawa whom he met during his two years studying in a Tibetan monastery, and by a mountain goat he reportedly adopted as a spiritual companion

      Throughout the makeshift press conference, the former president refused to respond to the name George Bush, repeatedly reminding onlookers that he now preferred to be called “Gomtesh,” a moniker reportedly bestowed upon him by members of the monastery after he “passed through to another realm of being.”

      Full article @,29688/

  11. Pingback: Sri Aurobindo on Nationalism | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  12. Pingback: Energy but it is not my energy | Integral Yoga of Sri Aurobindo & The Mother

  13. 01

    Haha, these articles are great. They have these, hmm, provocative titles like should women dress modestly or are indians more spiritual and I’m pissed off and thinking what that sucker wrote, but then it turns out articles are just fine, heh.

    Obsessive rationalism has its problems, but I don’t think guru issue is due to europeans being rationalistic. We had enough pedo priests and scammy pastors. You could go on spirituality is not religion, guru is different bla bla bla, but in a sense he/she has similar role to a pastor – spiritual leader and good example for followers. If good examples you encountered weren’t that, uh, good then… Well. There’s only so many times in a row one can get scammed before starting to wonder if divine is trying to teach him/her self-reliance.

    Ahh, Czech Republic! How come czechs are secular and poles continue with that catholicism nonsense? Weren’t czech and pole ‘brothers’ in that legend?
    Recession doesn’t = no business. Some types of business do better in recession. Also historically recession produces strongest corporations. If you can do it in recession, you can do it any time.


Join the discussion!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s