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Meera Nanda (born 1954) is an Indian writer and philosopher of science based in the United States,[1] who has authored several works on the intersection of religion and science.

Meera Nanda
Born 1954
Occupation Writer, academic
Nationality Indian

Contents

Life and careerEdit

Nanda was educated in science and philosophy with a PhD in biotechnology from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and a PhD in science studies from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.[2][3]

She was a John Templeton Foundation Fellow in Religion and Science (2005–2007).[1][4] In January 2009, she was a Fellow at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute for Advanced Study, in the Jawaharlal Nehru University for research in Science, Post-Modernism and Culture.[5] She was also a visiting faculty of history and philosophy of science at Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Mohali from 2010 to 15 May 2017.

Religion and Hindu nationalismEdit

Nanda has authored several works on religion, most notably Prophets Facing Backward: Postmodern Critiques of Science and Hindu Nationalism in India (2004),[6] and her 2009 book The God Market which examines how India is experiencing a rising tide of popular Hinduism, including Government of India financing of Hinduism despite the nation's secular characteristic. The book was also reviewed by William Dalrymple in Outlook Magazine.[7][8]

Nanda notes the popularity of yoga exercises in the west, and the discomfort of Indians with this popularisation, who "blame Americans and other 'decadent' Westerners for reducing their spiritually rich tradition to mere calisthenics."[9] Yet, she questions the idea that yoga is a "timeless" and "eternal" practice, which lies at the heart of Hinduism.[9] She has criticised the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) for

The purist Hindu position [...] that all yoga, including its physical or hatha yoga component, is rooted in the Hindu religion/way of life that goes all the way back to the Vedic sages and yogis.[9]

Nanda notes that the yoga asanas do not have Vedic origins, and were treated with disdain by the 19th century Hindu elites, including Swami Vivekananda. She further notes that the separation of the physical practices from their cultural background started in India, not in the west, when Indian nationalists tried to counter western influences and

... hatha yoga took on many elements of Western gymnastics and body-building, which show up in the world-renowned Iyengar and Ashtanga Vinyasa schools of yoga. Far from honestly acknowledging the Western contributions to modern yoga, we Indians simply brand all yoga as ‘Vedic,’ a smug claim that has no intellectual integrity.[9]

HAF rebutted her claims in a reply which pointed out that even the few sources she mentions in her book such as Mark Singleton, have themselves not made the claims that she ascribes them to. HAF also presented a brief outline of the recorded history of yoga, which disproved her arguments.[10]

Her critique has been rejected by the right-wing Hindu American Foundation. Swaminathan Venkataraman, of the Hindu American Foundation, alleged that Nanda harboured "hatred" for Swami Vivekananda, and that she feared the emergence of an articulate Hindu voice bringing Hindu perspectives into the public sphere.[11] Rajiv Malhotra criticised her for denouncing Indian culture and painting Hinduism as anti-scientific while allegedly praising Protestantism as scientific.[12]

However, Nanda has pointed out that her criticism was equally applicable to all "resurgent religious-political movements" not only among Hindus, but also Christians and Muslims. The Bush White House's recruitment of Christian evangelicals and corporate scientists to shape policies on issues such as open support for Biblical Flood geology and stem cell research was very similar to the state support for Vedic astrology by the Hindu nationalists.[13]

WorksEdit

  • Postmodernism And Religious Fundamentalism: A Scientific Rebuttal To Hindu Science. New Delhi: Navayana. 2000. ISBN 81-89059-02-5
  • Breaking the Spell of Dharma and Other Essays. New Delhi: Three Essays Collective, 2002. ISBN 81-88394-09-2.
  • Prophets Facing Backward: Postmodern Critiques of Science and the Hindu Nationalism in India. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2004. ISBN 81-7824-090-4. Excerpts
  • Wrongs of the Religious Right: Reflections on secularism, science and Hindutva. New Delhi: Three Essays Collective, 2005. ISBN 81-88789-30-5
  • The God Market. Random House, 2010. ISBN 81-8400-095-2.
  • Ayurveda Today : A Critical Look, with C. Viswanathan. Penguin, 2010. ISBN 9780143065128.
  • Science in Saffron: Skeptical Essays on History of Science. New Delhi: Three Essays Collective, 2016. ISBN 978-93-83968-08-4.[14]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b Meera Nanda Profile Three Essays.
  2. ^ Reception of Darwinism in India (A talk by Professor Meera Nanda), Indian Institute of Science
  3. ^ Meera Nanda Posts and Profile
  4. ^ Ranjit Hoskote (21 November 2006). "In defence of secularism". The Hindu. 
  5. ^ List of scholars invited to JNIAS JNIAS Jawaharlal Nehru University website.
  6. ^ Ranjit Hoskote (3 May 2005). "Book Review: Paradigm shift". The Hindu. 
  7. ^ William Dalrymple (18 January 2010). "Review: The Glitter in The Godliness". Outlook. Retrieved 8 September 2013. 
  8. ^ "Books: A market for holy men: How globalization has had an impact on Hinduism and our public sphere". Mint. 21 August 2009. 
  9. ^ a b c d Meera Nanda, Yoga. Not as Old as You Think, OPEN 12 February 2011
  10. ^ https://www.hafsite.org/whats-new/open-magazine-features-haf-yoga-piece-audacity-ignorance
  11. ^ Swaminathan Venkataraman (7 March 2011). "Disguised Hinduphobia". OPEN Magazine. Retrieved 7 March 2011. 
  12. ^ Malhotra, Rajiv; Neelakandan, Aravindan (2011). "India: A left-wing frontier". Breaking India: Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines. Amaryllis. ISBN 8191067374. 
  13. ^ Nanda, Meera (2005). "Response to my critics". Social Epistemology: A Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Policy. 19 (1): 147–191. doi:10.1080/02691720500084358. 
  14. ^ Nanda, Meera (16 September 2016), "Hindutva's science envy", Frontline, retrieved 14 October 2016 

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit