The widely travelled Swami Kriyananda says that yogis and god seekers have so intensely meditated for thousands of years in this country that one can feel spirituality even in the air.
'India, of all ancient cultures, has clung to the highest truth, that god is the only reality, that this universe is His dream, and that our duty is to reunite our souls with Him,' the 85-year-old said in an interview.
'That is why so many great souls have been born (in India),' he added.
Kriyananda, one of the few direct followers of the iconic Paramhansa Yogananda who are still alive, however, finds India more materialistic today compared to his first visit way back in 1958.
'But it is a necessary step for India,' Kriyananda, who was originally J. Donald Walters, told IANS. 'She needs to take her rightful place among the great nations of the world.
'But she will never be able to escape her spiritual roots. She will become more intensely spiritual than before - in time.
'No, I don't really feel as at home in India today as I felt 50 years ago. But that will change.'
Kriyananda was 22 years old and a callow American in his own words when he met the Gorakhpur-born Yogananda in 1948 in Los Angeles and instantly became his disciple.
This happened after he had read Yogananda's 'Autobiography of a Yogi', one of the most celebrated works in spiritual literature.
Kriyananda spent four years with Yogananda until the latter died in 1952. Since then, he has spent more than six decades espousing 'Sanatan Dharma', Kriya Yoga and ways to meditate -- all based on Yogananda's teachings.
In 2003, he shifted to India with a small band of American and Indian disciples. All of them have worked silently on the spiritual front without hankering after publicity.
Kriyananda, who will release in Mumbai Jan 8 his just published biography of Yogananda, considers himself more Indian than American since his own Guru was an Indian.
'I have had an opportunity to meet many great souls (in India). To me, the greatest saint I ever met was my own guru,' he said of Yogananda, who was born in 1893 into a spiritually inclined middle class Bengali family.
Apart from authoring over 140 books, Kriyananda has composed more than 400 pieces of music, taken around 15,000 photographs and set up eight spiritual communities.
He has travelled extensively in India, meeting holy men and saints. These have included yoga masters who have lived for over 100 years.
And despite failing health and a recent blood transfusion, Kriyananda has just finished a work of fiction and is working on producing three movies, including one on Yogananda.
The American, who speaks Bengali too, does not believe he can be called a Western spiritual export to India.
'I first came to India in September 1958. For me, it was like coming home. I know I belonged here. I had always felt a stranger elsewhere.'
(Aditya Gait can be contacted at email@example.com)