Meera Nanda

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Meera Nanda (born 1954) is an Indian writer and historian of science, who has authored several works critiquing the influence of Hindutva, postcolonialism and postmodernism on science, and the flourishing of pseudoscience and vedic science. She currently is a visiting faculty of humanities and social sciences at IISER Pune.

Quotes[edit]

  • The roots of “Vedic science” can be traced to the so-called Bengal Renaissance, which in turn was deeply influenced by the Orientalist constructions of Vedic antiquity as the “Golden Age” of Hinduism. Heavily influenced by German idealism and British romanticism, important Orientalists including H.T. Colebrooke, Max Mueller and Paul Deussen tended to locate the central core of Hindu thought in the Vedas, the Upanishads and, above all, in the Advaita Vedanta tradition of Shankara. Despite the deeply anti-rational and idealistic (that is, anti-naturalistic) elements of Advaita Vedanta, key Hindu nationalist reformers – from Raja Ram Mohun Roy and Bankim Chandra Chatterjee to Swami Vivekananda – began to find in it all the elements of modernity. Vivekananda took the lead in propagating the view that the monism of Advaita Vedanta presaged the future culmination of all of modern science. Since modern science denied the role of any supernatural force outside nature, Vivekananda claimed that only Vedantic monism was truly scientific for it treated God as an aspect of nature and did not invoke any force external to nature….
    • (Prophets Facing Backward: Postmodern Critiques of Science and the Hindu Nationalism in India) 2003 (also quoted in [1])
  • The Hindutva literature is replete with glowing tributes to Hindu “renaissance”, which they claim to be similar to the European Renaissance that ushered in the modern age in the West. What they forget is that the Renaissance in the West re-discovered the humanistic and naturalistic sources of the Greek tradition that had been overshadowed by the Catholic Church – the Renaissance humanists rediscovered this-worldly philosophy of Aristotle and critical-realist Socrates over the other-worldly philosophy of Plato. The neo-Hindu “renaissance”, in contrast, re-discovered the most mystical and anti-humanistic elements of the Vedic inheritance – Advaita Vedanta – that had always overshadowed and silenced the naturalistic and scientific traditions in Hinduism and Buddhism. Neo-Hinduism is no renaissance, but a revival. There is no denying that the neo-Hindu “discovery” of modern science in ancient teachings of Vedas and Upanishads had a limited usefulness. Since they had convinced themselves that their religion was the mother of all sciences, conservative Hindus did not feel threatened by scientific education. As long as science could be treated as “just another name” for Vedic truths, they were even enthusiastic to learn it…..
    • (Prophets Facing Backward: Postmodern Critiques of Science and the Hindu Nationalism in India) 2003 (also quoted in [2])
  • The more prominence Hinduism gets abroad, even for wrong reasons like the new age and paganism, the more prestige it gains in India.
    • "Dharmic ecology and the neo-Pagan international: the dangers of religious environmentalism in India", 18th European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies, Lunds University, Sweden. 8 July 2004. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad. Return of the Swastika: Hate and Hysteria versus Hindu Sanity (2007) Also in [3] [4]
  • It is this pagan connection that has brought people like Koenrard Elst, David Frawley and many others in close collaboration with Hindu nationalists.
    • "Dharmic ecology and the neo-Pagan international: the dangers of religious environmentalism in India", 18th European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies, Lunds University, Sweden. 8 July 2004. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad. Return of the Swastika: Hate and Hysteria versus Hindu Sanity (2007)
  • "Indian government funded in part the work of ISKCON (Hare Krishna) in re-forestation of Vrindavan. Department of environment is supporting temples to maintain sacred groves. Ecological aspects of Sanatana dharma have been included in the school text books of at least one state, UP."
    • "Dharmic ecology and the neo-Pagan international: the dangers of religious environmentalism in India", 18th European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies, Lunds University, Sweden. 8 July 2004. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad. Return of the Swastika: Hate and Hysteria versus Hindu Sanity (2007)
  • I will argue that sacredness of nature does not protect nature. Just because people venerate trees and rivers does not meant that they will take care of them.
    • "Dharmic ecology and the neo-Pagan international: the dangers of religious environmentalism in India", 18th European Conference on Modern South Asian Studies, Lunds University, Sweden. 8 July 2004.
  • Pride in the achievements of your own tribe is a legitimate emotion. But when pride is fuelled by prejudice against others, it becomes jingoism. Hindu triumphalism is jingoism, pure and simple. It is in fact a very dangerous jingoism targeted directly at Muslim and Christian minorities at home. The fundamental problem with Hindu triumphalism lies with its entirely self-serving and wilful denial that the great monotheistic religions of the world - Islam and Christianity - do have ample theological justifications for pluralism and tolerance.
  • Far from being considered the crown jewel of Hinduism, yogic asanas were in fact looked down upon by Hindu intellectuals and reformers—including the great Swami Vivekananda—as fit only for sorcerers, fakirs and jogis….
    • “Not as Old as You Think… …nor very Hindu either. There is telling evidence to debunk this nationalistic myth”, Open The Magazine, 2011, Online Edition, [5] (also quoted in [6])

Quotes about Meera Nanda[edit]

  • Meera Nanda, originally a bio-technologist, crossed over to humanities... Since then, she has been writing articles and giving lectures denouncing Indian culture as inherently anti-scientific and accusing Indian nation builders of paving the way for pseudo-science and even of having a Nazi mindset. Another of Nanda’s article – ‘Calling India’s Freethinkers’, accuses Swami Vivekananda and Bankim Chandra (forefathers of the Indian national resurgence) of the ‘cardinal sin’ of trying to appropriate modern scientific thought for Hinduism. Even Nehru, who fostered scientific rationalism, gets lumped into this charge. She calls on the ‘progressive scientists’ of India to ‘carefully but firmly un-twine the wild and uncontrolled intertwining of science and spirituality that has been going on in Hinduism since the time of Swami Vivekananda in the late nineteeth century’. All attempts to investigate Hinduism in the light of science are declared to be linked to Hindutva, including work by the ‘apologists associated with the Ramakrishna Mission and Aurobindo Ashram’. She finds that any claim of Indian culture being scientific ‘constitutes the central dogma of Hindutva’. Links between Indian culture and science resonate with ‘deeply Hindu and Aryan supremacist overtones’. ... In what seems to be a blatant contradiction, she solicited and was awarded the John Templeton Foundation Fellowship in Religion and Science (2005-7), which coincidentally occurred under the leadership of a self-declared Evangelical Christian in 2006. Nanda has supported Protestantism as being scientific, while describing Hinduism as the exact opposite.... Nanda is representative of a pattern: The Templeton Foundation brings together science with Judeo-Christianity, and uses willing Indians like Nanda to attack Indian spiritual traditions.
    • Malhotra, R., Nīlakantan̲, A., & Infinity Foundation (Princeton, N.J.). (2016). Breaking India: Western interventions in Dravidian and Dalit faultlines.
  • ‘Meera Nanda doesn’t like India. And she hates popular Hinduism with even greater passion’.
    • India Today review of her book The God Market: How Globalization is Making India More Hindu , Random House, 2009. Quoted from Malhotra, R., Nīlakantan̲, A., & Infinity Foundation (Princeton, N.J.). (2016). Breaking India: Western interventions in Dravidian and Dalit faultlines.
  • A recent case in point is Meera Nanda, who has been for some years on a self-appointed mission to expose all claims to knowledge by (let us lump them together, as she does) Hindu enthusiasts, nationalists, right-wingers or Hindutva activists. Her latest contribution, “Hindutva’s science envy”, blames in a vast sweep “the current crop of Hindu nationalists and their intellectual enablers” for being the progeny of thinkers like “Bankimchandra Chattopadhyaya, Vivekananda, Dayananda Saraswati, Annie Besant (and fellow Theosophists), Sarvepalli Radhakrishanan, M.S. Golwalkar and countless other gurus, philosophers and propagandists” — doubtless a most despicable crowd!
  • The claims Meera Nanda makes there about my own position are factually wrong and seem to be based on what Prof. Meenakshi Jain has aptly called "the Marxist bush telegraph". ... for now I will conclude with an observation on what seems to be her sincere declaration of interest. Among the points that "worry" her, she mentions this as the final one... Here, she really lays her cards on the table. It is very good that, unlike many other "secularists", she does not try to be clever and claim to speak for "true Hinduism" against a "distorted Hinduism" of the Hindu revivalists. Instead, she clearly targets Hinduism itself, deploring any development which might make Hinduism "gain prestige". Let us see if I can translate that correctly: wanting something or someone to suffer rather than to prosper is what we call "hate". She hates Hinduism, and her academic work is written in the service of that hate. To me, that is not the end of the matter. As a Catholic, I was taught never to give up hope, one of the great Christian virtues along with faith and charity.... Ms. Nanda has described how environmentalism in India is often clothed in Hindu language and symbolism. Thus, in trying to protect trees, women tie rakhis, the auspicious red threads which sisters tie around their brothers' wrists on the Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan, around these trees.
    • Elst, Koenraad, Return of the Swastika : Hate and Hysteria versus Hindu Sanity (2007)
  • But her orthography betrays the American roots of her ideological orientation. In 2005-2007 she was in the employ of the John Templeton Foundation, an American Christian lobby-group that claims science as compatible with and even a product of Christianity.... It is not clear whether Meera Nanda has actually converted to Christianity or is merely one of those secularists who, after the fall and discrediting of Communism, have found new patronage in the US-centred Christian network. But fact is that she champions the Christian cause in India. ... That is why a Templeton Foundation agent on a mission to demonize Hindu resistance seizes on this opportunity to criminalize criticism of Islam by associating it with Breivik. [...] Here we have a Templeton scholar in the paid service of the Christian lobby, who tries to implicate the long-dead scholars Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel, veterans of the Gandhian non-violent struggle, in the Breivik affair [...] With her false accusation, dragging me and especially dragging Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel into the Breivik affair, Meera Nanda has dishonoured herself. I will have a hard time seeing anything but a debtor in her. How did the Marxist intellectual Meera Nanda find employment with the Christian Templeton Foundation? Why, she led them to believe that she was a scientist and philosopher of science, sharing with her prospective employers a proven anti-Hindu animus. ...she doesn’t have the mind of a scientist. She has the mind of a believer, or at least of a politician who wants to keep the believers happy... Meera Nanda can only stand on the other side, criminalizing fundamental criticism of Islam, because she is not a scientist at heart... But we know who Meera Nanda is. She is a troubled woman projecting her own obsessions on others. She is animated by hatred of Hinduism and can’t keep a story straight. But she can make her Marxist and Christian employers believe that she serves their purposes well.
  • Nanda writes disparagingly of “Hindu” intellectuals––including those in the West—who try to produce alternative sciences often inspired by post-modernism. She is unaware that many—including Einstein and Schrödinger—fit her descriptions of such “Hindu” Western prophets “facing backward” who revolutionized science by “alternative sciences”. Shemisreads those positions she criticizes into one anti-science conspiracy of post-modernism and Vedic science adherents. ... Instead of rewriting received Western wisdom to fit this real historical experience of India, she resorts to only Western conceptual categories. She damns both Indian social reality as well as attempts at fresh Indian conceptualization. For her, secularization means brainwashing the local populaton into an unashamed McCauleyite template illustrating deep feelings of insecurity about her own culture... Hers is a collage of ill-argued and tendentious positions; a generally unconvincing polemic. ... She is indeed a backward looking prophet, looking backward to the Western certainties of that age.... Our age begs an important question. How does Asia prepare itself for the Asian century which from all accounts would be on us within the next few decades and India,warts and all, among the leaders? At that global frontier, Asians would have once again to think for themselves drawing inputs from their many different subcultures. But Nanda seems to deny the possibility of such creative attempts.
    • Goonatilake, S. (2005). “Prophet” Looking for a Nineteenth Century Future. Social Epistemology, 19(1), 129–146. doi:10.1080/02691720500084341

External links[edit]

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