A Critical Look At Neo-Hindu Religious And Spiritual Fads

Written by January 7, 2011 12:57 pm 19 comments

While many critics of Hinduism may not have been explicit in their condemnation of Hindu religious hypocrisy, one can fully share their anguish and frustration at the modern practice of Hinduism and how the popular expressions of this religion in India have evolved or rather degenerated.Cosmic Meditation

Nothing typifies this better than the currents spiritual fads in the Hindu community. One of the few reasonable interpretations of spirituality could be to consider it as an endeavor of moral rectitude with a vigorous and uncompromising pursuit of ethics. But unfortunately that is not what masses and the elite understand it to be or are indoctrinated by religious propagandists.

What spirituality stands for today

Spirituality is now a contemporary fashionable term for all kinds of pseudo-intellectual verbiage that supposedly explains concepts like mind-body separation, eternity of the soul, consciousness, self and host of other supra-sensory entities and experiences along with the grand promise of achieving ‘self-realization’ through esoteric meditative/yogic practices and rituals.

Of course the few discerning can see through all this self-realization as a case of delirious self-proclamations of whatever states of ecstasy, frenzy or tranquility that the delusion and feverish imagination of the spiritual brigade of swami’s, gurus, and babas can come up with by flogging the ever-suffering lingo of spiritual terms to sprout new words and phrases of greater meaninglessness.

Let’s look at terms like ‘Supreme knowledge’, ‘Ultimate Reality’, ‘Higher Truths’, ‘Knowledge of the Self’, ‘Unconditioned Consciousness’, ‘Highest Truth’, ‘Freedom from Illusion’, ‘Universal Consciousness’, ‘Universal Soul’, ‘Awareness of the Self’, ‘Self-realization’, ‘Pure Consciousness’, ‘Field of Pure Potentiality’

While these words and terms may be music and symphony to the novices and doyens of the spiritual variety, but any search for the meaning and significance of these in the lexicons and thesauruses of old and new is hardly likely to return any meaningful result.

It will be observed that the term ‘Consciousness’ is the darling of most ‘spiritual connoisseurs’. What does it mean?

Let’s look at the most favorite definition of it all.

“Consciousness is that from which everything arises, and everything lives and passes through and into which everything ultimately dissolves into”

This may sound very poetic, expressive, metaphorical, pithy and more. But it practically means very little despite all the weight of books, speeches and writings that the spiritualists keep throwing at it.

This belief in the all-pervading reach, permeation and influence of Consciousness on both the life and lifeless alike may seem of a piece with some kind of revolutionary leap of understanding that the hordes of religious believers keep making from time to time. But this leap is not that of understanding or knowledge, but rather the leaps and bounds of faith hurtling down the bottomless pit of a new spiritual fetish.

It is neither possible nor the intention of this article to recount all the rhapsodies of delusive delight and frenzy that the term Consciousness inspires in the spiritual cognoscenti, but this one famous quote about Consciousness should make the sane and skeptical smell the stench of baloney and nonsense from this much spiritually hallowed term.

“Consciousness exists not just in you and me, but breathes in the soul of mountains, seas, woods and trees and is the same even in a stone. Nay it permeates the entirety of existence.”

Quotes like this expose the classic muddling of ideology, allegory and mundane facts of life that is so typical of the these kinds of desperate flourishes of poetastry from the spiritual brigade.

The true nature of today’s spirituality

But leaving aside the distractions of rhetoric, this belief is no different from belief in gods, ghosts, goblins, genies, jinn’s, tooth fairies, angels, pixies, elves, leprechauns, souls, sphinx (which probably inspired our Vishnu’s Narasimha avatar adventure), phoenixes, griffins and Pegasus, which makes asses of the intelligence of most.

The most honorable and respectable term that describes beliefs like these is irrationality. Less flattering allusions to such beliefs are:

  • Superstitions
  • Blind belief
  • Wishful thinking
  • Magical thinking
  • Delusions
  • Religious obsession
  • Religious and spiritual fantasy

Unfortunately our commitment to civility and the need to maintain the dignity of rebuttal restrains us from heaping pejoratives and expletives to deride such absurd beliefs.

Consciousness as a subject rightly belongs to the domain of neural sciences and cognitive research, and is not something to be debased and trivialized by the pipe-dream theories and fantasies of the hordes of religious prophets, god-men and their foolishly cheer-leading devotees.

A closer look at the genealogy of ‘Brahman’

Let’s take what could probably be for now a last skeptical swipe at the rising tide of popularity of ‘Consciousness’ that is finding itself in bed with its alter ego from the Hindu revivalist creed, the Brahman. In that process we may trace genealogical path of Hindu spiritual discourse in its descent from inquiry into absurdity.

Brahman, that formidable beast which sprang to life from the strange unity of Hindu theology and myth now has multitudes of mostly Hindu persuasion bowing to its supposed spiritual invincibility.

It is quite plausible to speculate that the “Brahman” that is the toast of most of the present times’ spiritual hallucination, was most probably coined from Brahmanaspati, an obscure god of the original vedic pantheon. Brahmanaspati has 2 hymns dedicated to him in Book1 of Rig Veda and 4 hymns dedicated to him in Book 2 of Rig Veda. There are a few oblique and direct references to him in the remaining Books of the Rig Veda, but he lost the favor of dedicatory privilege that was always available to deities like Indra, Agni, Vayu, Varuna-Mitra. Besides Brahmanaspati had to contend with Brihaspati, Prajapati, Vaschaspati and Vanaspati (kidding here) from being crowded out in the rat race of rig vedic hymnal competition.

But Brahmanaspati apparently benefited from the proximity of sounds with other important entities of Vedic nomenclature like Brahma (the creator), Brahmana (the pious) and Brahm (universe, illusion, entirety etc, depending upon context).

MeditatingAll this confusingly hoary pedigree of Brahmanaspati was probably good enough for the post-vedic seers to thrust him from the obscurity of the Vedas into the full radiance of upanishadic glory, where scarce any upanishadic text of note could resist waxing eloquent about his or its mystical prowess. As the creators and directors of ‘Brahman’ went around casting a spell of duplicity of upanishadic proportions, sages and seers of the late BCE and early CE age, of varying shades and stripes, who had nothing but their sanity to lose, set sail on their ship of meditative dreams and trances, in an almost sedative submission to the pied piper verses of the Upanishads.

The only problem with their grand quest for the Upanishadic holy grail of the Brahman, that one can perceive with the benefit of hindsight and history, is that while these grand sires were steadfast in contemplative grace and poise under the shade of the banyan, peepul, neem, mango, bodhi or fig tree of their choice, the goal-post of self-realization of the Brahman kept shifting from one Upanishadic puzzle to the next. From Aitreya to the Taittiriya Upanishad and from Brihadaranyaka to the Swetashwara Upanishad, with the elongation of names, inscrutable clues to the persona of Brahman kept on piling, one upon the other. Somehow in the midst of puzzles and tussles of Upanishadic interpretation, our ambitious seers missed the woods of the core Upanishadic emphasis on self-introspection for the trees of meditative, yogic and propitiatory distractions and red herrings. For whatever lofty purpose the Brahman began an earnest post-Vedic journey, he has ultimately ended up as a fig leaf of Hindu spiritual delirium.

Apart from other things, Brahman owes his resuscitation in the post-upanishadic period in large part to the evangelical efforts of Adi Sankara, the pioneer and father of Hindu spiritual gobbledygook. He wrote many commentaries or ‘Bhashyaas’ on Vendanta Sutras and Bhagavad Gita. To those valorous enough to hazard a migraine of chronic proportions or in search of insomnia cures, the link to Sankara’s mind-numbing bhashyaas are here.

How misinterpretation and vagueness come to the rescue of spiritualism

The point here is not decide the merits of Adi Sankara’s philosophy, but to wonder at the mindset of a society and nation that worships its religious prophets without caring to know whether their works make any sense or not. It is that mindset and attitude which surely believes that any high-sounding Hindu tenet that passes most people’s understanding must be presumed to be imbued with deep cosmic, ethereal and other worldly significance that is beyond the meanness of mortal perception and intelligence and whose sole privilege of interpretation must lie with spiritual aristocrats of the Adi Sankara and Madhavacharya ilk.

It is by the devices of misinterpretation and obfuscation that these nebulous and vaporous entities of metaphysical speculation, such as ‘Nirguna Brahman’, ‘Saguna Brahman, ‘Jeevatma’ and ‘Paratma’ are allowed to invade the realm of mainstream thinking. There is little doubt that Adi Sankara ably led this charade of exhibiting the ‘Emperor’s clothes’ of Vedic or Vedantic spirituality. No wonder that the Hindu multitudes are still busy in the ‘wild goose chase’ of the Brahman and Atman.

Thus it is not hard to see how spiritual literature and discourse provides the ultimate refuge and cover for various forms of religious quackery and intellectual fraud.

Fast forward to spiritualism of today

The sad part is that it is flourishing and increasing in influence due to the legitimacy, endorsement and patronage it is receiving from many mainstream groups and institutions not only in India, but even in countries like USA and UK.

In fact Hindu spirituality is infiltrating US mainstream opinion in a significant way because of the popularity of celebrities like Deepak Chopra and the activities of affluent NRI’s. Hardly any eminent Indian intellectual or celebrity worth his salt has come forward to challenge and repudiate the nonsense that Deepak Chopra is spreading. It is left to western intellectuals like Micheal Shermer and Robert Caroll to carry the burden of skeptical assaults on the Chopra-brand of quackery.

It is distressing to note that even professed atheists of renown like Amartya Sen in their chase for political acceptability and concern to be seen on the right side of diplomacy are voicing ambiguous opinions about religion-inspired terrorism and violence as well as spiritual quackery arising out of post-modern interpretations of ancient Hindu scriptures. Nobody has articulated this concern better than Meera Nanda.

One should not be surprised to find that religiosity among NRI could be much more than those of Indians back home. The marginal decline of religious organizations like Hare Krishna movement and the ISSO has been more than made up by the rise of groups like Chinmaya Mission (CM) and Art of Living (AOL) which are receiving overt and covert support from Hindu fundamentalist organizations like Hindu Janjagriti Samiti (HJS) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP). CM and AOL act as the masks and front-end of the known Hindutva fundamentalists and receive a lot of informational and logistical support to grease and lubricate their propaganda.

Some observations on the workings of Hindu cults like Chinmaya Mission

Since I was associated with CM in California for sometime till in the recent past, I would like to share some insights about their workings.

CM mainly attracts patronage on the basis of their Bal-Vihar childrens’ classes, which can be called glorified moral science classes based on Hindu mythology. Using the patronage and donations from Bal Vihar, they have widened their scope of propaganda of indoctrination to snare adults and youth using the tools of discourses on Bhagavad Gita and other Hindu scriptures.

Some CM centers in USA have caught on to the current fads of meditation and yoga and are providing these services which is drawing the interest of local Americans in addition to the NRI’s.Chinmaya

Of course NRI’s are apparently falling for the appeal of these centers as glorified socio-cultural clubs that pander to the social and cultural insecurities of parenting in their land of adoption. While many NRI’s may be cynically using CM for their ulterior motives, they are unwitting participants in the religious brain-washing that happens in its various events and forums.

How can any cult be without its colorful Swamis and Gurudevs, especially the bright Orange?. CM is no exception to this. But it would be amiss not to dwell upon to the psychological factors at work in their appeal and popularity.

This happens to a lesser extent in the smaller centers of CM in US, but in large centers in Houston, discourses and satsangs are events where audience is willing cannon-fodder for spiritual pontification. It is amazing how apparently intelligent and educated people suspend their logic, reasoning and understanding and sit in these gatherings with a blank mind and a childish pre-disposition to hypnosis and mesmerism by the sing-song monologues of the ‘Swamiji’s’ and ‘Gurudev’s’, speakers whom Skeptics know to be just capable and artful exponents of oratory and crowd psychology manipulation.

Since the communication in these settings is invariably uni-directional with hardly any interactivity of discussion or debate, there is a lot of subliminal messaging that can slip through the psyche of an already brain-dead audience. Also the devotional, cultural and religious hype that precedes and surrounds these events replete with hero-worshiping praise of the Swamis/Gurus, music, prayers, soft chanting of OM’s and mantras is a formidable challenge to rational and logical faculties and defenses of most people.

Of course skeptical sociologists can come down very hard on religion for manipulation of crowd psychology because it is quite manifest here, but other spheres like network marketing, motivational workshops, selling of financial and intangible products also employ these psychological tricks in similar, varying or greater degrees to prey on the weaknesses of human mind. Why! Even many workplaces are not secure from tactics that are effectively questionable tools of influencing/manipulating group behavior.

The challenges from Spiritualism and lessons for Skeptics

The point of all this apart from other things is to underscore the formidable challenges that skeptics and rationalists are up against in their crusade for sanity in the world, which are:

Spiritual doctrines and ritualism are a worse scourge than religious ritualism and more difficult to dispel because of their deception and ability to pass off as a serious intellectual pursuit, and its frequently observed ability to pull wool over the eyes of even robust empirical disciplines like medicine and healthcare.

  • The messianic zeal of most religionists of the world, like Christian creationists or Hindu revivalists who can stop at nothing and will adopt all means, fair and foul in the pathological pursuit of their goals.
  • The dangers of spiritualism are not confined to its foundational theories and doctrines, but are further magnified and spread far and wide by its hydra-headed pseudo-scientific surrogate fads like astrology, numerology, vaastu-shastra, herbalism etc. These share the same motivation for intellectual deception and the sophistry to serve what are essentially hobbies or pursuits of a desultory nature at best or unproductive and non-value adding activities at the worst, with the gloss and veneer of important or meaningful disciplines which are supposedly for human advancement and welfare.
  • Secularists are still in need of trustworthy political allies. But experience has shown that even professedly secular political parties are fickle and susceptible to the compulsions of social mood swings and caste/electoral arithmetic. The track record of even Communist and Dravidian parties in promoting scientific and rational thinking is pretty dismal. The pulls and pressures of governance and competitive populism are too strong for them to stay on the trajectory of their original ideological motivation. Objectively seen, Communist and Dravidian parties of India have only their rejection of God and religion to recommend themselves. The poverty of ideology, vigor and progressiveness in their social, political and economic ideas is too stark to be not noticed.
  • There are only so many Meera Nanda’s, Narendra Nayaks, Micheal Shermers, Richard Dawkins, Prabhakar Kamath’s in the world. May their tribe increase manifold.

References:

  1. Hindu Revisionism: Was Shankaracharya Deceptive Or Just Ignorant? by Prabhakar Kamath.
  2. The Upanishads Attempt To Reform Brahmanism, by Prabhakar Kamath.
  3. Postmodernism, Hindu Nationalism and ‘Vedic Science’, by Meera Nanda.

Image Sources:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/garlandcannon/4284870787/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/alicepopkorn/1676300378/

Ranganath R. writes about subjects concerning religion and culture on his blog, “Critical sagacity“.

This post was written by:

- who has written 13 posts on Nirmukta.

An accountant and a man of commerce by background and education, I am a Business Applications analyst by work and profession. I am a lover of diverse intellectual pursuits and interests. I have over time cultivated interests in literature, history and social sciences. In terms of beliefs, I have had in the past my share of swings between irrationality and rationality. As hopefully thinking processes and impulses mature, I am learning to cultivate the faculty of examining all systems and forms of thought and opinions, in whatever it is received and only accept those that accords with reason, logic and understanding.

19 Comments

  • Meera Nanda and Richard Dawkins in the same category? Are you serious? Who funds Meera Nanda? The Tempeleton foundation. tHE LINK BELOW provides additional information about the foundation.
    http://edge.org/3rd_culture/horgan06/horgan06_index.html

    Also I the so called analyses of Hindu philosophy and thought can also be applied to most Indic Religion. Wonder what the title would look like if you had substituted the word Hindu with any other religion of Indic origin. And all religions, including tribal and shamamic are based on superstition. Also one religion is conspicously missing when the author talks about ■The messianic zeal of most religionists of the world”
    Does not surprise me at all.

    • Satish Chandra

      Yes the Templeton foundation has an agenda to promote that religion is compatible with science. But if you had a tiny bit of a clue as to what Meera Nanda writes about, you’d know that her views are completely in line with metaphysical naturalism. So with all that foundation grant money, she’d never written anything that supports the compatibility of science and religion. Oh, the horror! So all you have is a stupid conspiracy theory that Meera Nanda is promoting religion.

      • oBJECTION WAS PUTTING MEERA Nanda and Dr.Dawkins in the same category. And I have read what she writes about. And what gave you the idea that I was putting forward a stupid conspiracy theory? And by the way I do consider myself an Atheist and not all those who criticize Ms.Nanda`s selective , biased writings belong to the Sangh Parivar. But I do look forward to read articles on Islamic conception of God, Intelligent design etc. So dont be horrified.

        • Satish Chandra

          Well, your comment did ask “Who funds Meera Nanda” and then linked to a critique of the Templeton Foundation as if those two mean something together. Either you have no clue that the foundation funds atheists and doesn’t expect them to produce research which vindicates their agenda that religion and science are compatible or you did have a clue, but are JAQing off. If it’s the first, now you know better and if you still insist on “Who funds Meera Nanda”?, the burden lies on you to provide evidence that Meera Nanda thinks religion and science are compatible.

          If it’s the second, you are just another Hindu apologist amongst a long line who thought they’d derail any criticism of their beloved Sanatana Dogma by asking irrelevant questions like “What about Islam?”. Here’s a hint – this article is about Hinduism. You will find criticism of Islam elsewhere on this site and on our network. You would do well to learn how to search.

          • Wow such anger. You are condescending, presume too much, but you live in a simple binary world. But I have seen that in virtually all your posts. I am a neurobiologist, so probably know something about what anger does to our bodies. so chill.
            I guess the world would have been a happier place if all of us accept the one and only truth: “metaphysical naturalism”
            The tempelton foundation has long been associated with the right wing, conservative ideology and a lot of atheist scientist have been critical about the way it functions and awards fellowships, and no they are not closet Hindu apologist.
            I have never understood what or who a Hindu apologist is, I dont think Hinduism can be considered as a religioN but to be called a Hindu apologist must be something bad, someone who is mired in superstition, is an idiot, has not discovered the true meaning of life.

            wHEn i MENTIONED about Islam and ID, I meant that I was looking forward to read article by Ms.Nanda on that subject. I mean she got the fellowship for studies on Religion and Science, but her output seems to be more on Hindu Religion and science. If you know any articles, papers, books she has written on Islam, ID, evangelical christianity, would you provide me the references.

            I am also interested to know your thoughts/opinions on the veracity of this reference
            “Nanda has supported Protestantism as being scientific, while describing Hinduism as the exact opposite”, as Rajiv Malhotra points out. [Breaking India, Amaryllis, Delhi 2011, p.262].

            Have a good day.
            PS: Do I need to sign any pledge, to prove that I am a “hardcore” athesist” a rationalist, have been physically attacked by RSS goons. Of course I would have been dead if it was one of the Abrahamic faith, who have a history of `My God, my book or my prophet, or off with your head” And I certainly do not supports Sanatana Dogma”
            But I admit I was taken aback by the intensity of your attack and personal accusation, maybe it has something to do with binary logic.
            Good Day

          • Satish Chandra

            Spare me the tone trolling. Hindu apologists like you love demanding certificates from those who criticize Hinduism – What about Islam? What about Christianity? What about [anything other than Hinduism]?. Have you ever asked Dawkins for such certificates? Can you provide me with references on Dawkins’ writings on Hinduism? Of course, you can’t. The best you can do is JAQing off without any evidential basis. Since you are a neurobiologist, maybe you should take some logic 101, and then comment?

            Btw, when I say apologists I mean those who think Hinduism doesn’t deserve a Dawkins style treatment and hence think Meera Nanda is biased without any shred of evidence other than saying “A”, then “B”, and hence “C” without ever bothering to establish a causal link between the three. Also, you being atheist means diddly squat. There is no shortage of atheists in India and in the Indian diaspora who can’t stand it when people like Nanda dare to criticize Hinduism because Hinduism isn’t a religion and is whatever and being that whatever somehow magically takes away all the ills caused by it.

          • I am sure you have read her article about neo-paganism,envirionmentalism and their sin of being anti christian “the left’s
            critique of the scientific revolution as disenchanting the world, but blame it on
            Christianity, rather than on science per se. All the ills of modernity that the left and right both agree upon are pinned on to the monotheistic conception of God who stands outside nature, creating this split between man and nature.
            And this anti-Christian turn makes dharmic ecology very friendly to the anti-Christian, neo-pagan groups that are mushrooming in Europe, notably in mostly protestant countries such as England, Ireland, Germany, Iceland, Belgium, Lithuania, Norway and even in Russia.
            Western Neo-pagans are mostly disillusioned Christians. They reject the transcendent God of Abrahamic faiths, who created the natural order, but now stands outside nature.
            They are attracted to paganism which sees the sacred as manifested in nature more
            rationally and aesthetically convincing.

            Her complete article is here:
            http://www.sacw.net/DC/CommunalismCollection/ArticlesArchive/072004_D_Ecology_MeeraNanda.pdf

            Wow the transcedent God of Abrahamic faiths. So the learned lady says it is wrong to blame christianity instead science should be blamed. Her anti paganism, does it remind you of an earlier age when holier-than-though- crusaders took upon themselves to “save the pagans and covert them to the one and only true transcedent god of Abraham or rather the god of a Abrahamic tribe that was resuced in a political master stroke by a Roman King.

            I dont think Dawkins would ever write something like this. So back to my assertion, why Ms.Nanda and Dawkins in the same sentence.

          • Satish Chandra

            I guessed as much. You don’t know anything about Meera Nanda other than what you read in the critiques by the likes of Malhotra and Elst. You just assumed Nanda is identifying as “left” and actually agrees that there is something like “crisis of modernity”. But what is the cause of this “crisis of modernity” if at all it exists? It is science. The Hindu right has simply co-opted the post-modernist nonsense of “science disenchanting the world” and replaced science with Christianity. Nanda has no love for post-modernism. So what does the part so you carefully quote mined, in the hopes of confirming your bias, really mean?

            It means the Hindu right has found a common enemy with the neo-pagans and are using that to spread Hinduism (She says later in that section – “There are contacts between the RSS ideologues and the
            British, Irish and Lithuanian neo-pagans.”). It takes a certain stretch of imagination to think that it means “it is wrong to blame christianity instead science should be blamed”. She never said that. You did in your haste to support your untenable position. How can science be blamed when she doesn’t even agree that there is even a “crisis of modernity”. Since you claim you know how to search, I leave it as an exercise for you to find what Nanda’s position on post-modernism is.

            So it looks like you can’t even be bothered to know what Nanda’s philosophical positions are, but are very bothered enough to find a link on Templeton Foundation, and then use that as an excuse to insinuate a falsehood, and then act surprised when called an apologist?

            Btw, since you want to establish your atheist credentials and given that you unquestioningly bought the Hindu right’s propaganda on Meera Nanda, let me leave this here – Savarkar was against ills like untouchability and that surely didn’t make him likeable to some Hindus. But there is a difference between atheists like him and atheists who are secular humanists.

          • So now I am a Gullible person who buys into Hindu right. You state the “It takes a certain stretch of imagination to think that it means “it is wrong to blame christianity instead science should be blamed”. She never said that.

            Lets us look at her article

            1. “Western Neo-pagans are mostly disillusioned Christians. They reject the transcendent God of Abrahamic faiths, who created the natural order, but now stands outside nature. That troubles Ms.Nanda a lot. Notice he assumption, or rather an assertion of her faith that such a god does exists. Wonder if Dr.Dawkins would say such a thing.

            2. “Not surprisingly, Hindu nationalists are very keen on winning the Western neo-pagans to their side. This will give them a chance to hollow out Christianity from within and give Hinduism a global scope.

            This again bothers her a lot. How dare they do such a thing.

            3. “Western Neo-pagans are mostly disillusioned Christians. They reject the transcendent God of Abrahamic faiths, who created the natural order,

            Is this a Sunday sermon or what?

            4. “they take the left’s
            critique of the scientific revolution as disenchanting the world, but blame it on
            Christianity, RATHER THAN ON SCIENCE PER SE (My emphasis) All the ills of modernity that the left and right
            both agree upon are pinned on to the monotheistic conception of God who stands outside nature, creating this split between man and nature.

            So she is bothered by the fact that Pagans are attacking the christian god who stands outside nature (Please give the guy something to sit on, must be boring, standing outside nature and not doing anything) Can this be considered a superstition, since the original article talked about superstitions. Now a non intereferring god has been postulated by many religions, in fact, the (superstitious) belief in Karmic cycles indicates a firm, strong determinism that even God/s cannot change, then there is the Creation sutra in Rigveda, that even suggest “Maybe even god do not understand the meaning of creation and came later than the creation.”

            OOPs I showed my Hindu roots, maybe I should quote Koran now or Avesta to prove my objectivity.

            I dont know about others but the article shows clearly where her sympathies lie and this is suppossed to be objective.

          • Satish Chandra

            1. “Western Neo-pagans are mostly disillusioned Christians. They reject the transcendent God of Abrahamic faiths, who created the natural order, but now stands outside nature. That troubles Ms.Nanda a lot. Notice he assumption, or rather an assertion of her faith that such a god does exists. Wonder if Dr.Dawkins would say such a thing.

            She didn’t say that god exists, but is stating what Abrahamic faith believes in. Are your reading comprehension skills so bad that you think that reporting what a faith states is equivalent to believing in that faith?

            2. “Not surprisingly, Hindu nationalists are very keen on winning the Western neo-pagans to their side. This will give them a chance to hollow out Christianity from within and give Hinduism a global scope.

            This again bothers her a lot. How dare they do such a thing.

            I thought with your credential waving and all, you were against Hindu nationalism. But as I guessed correctly, you are not. You are very much in favor of Hindu nationalism, a thing which causes significant harm. No wonder you are all worked up against Meera Nanda. Despite all the whining about name calling, you are indeed a Hindu apologist.

      • By the way I did staed that I was an athestist not because i was boasting, but because in research, it is called full disclosure. The sad thing is that if i criticize e.g. Islam, or Christianity I become a Sanghi, If a person born a muslim, criticized Hinduism or other religions, he is a fanatic, etc. So a person who was born in a Hindu family is critical of hinduism, he automatically is considered objective. Imagine the scenarion if Ms.Nanda e.g. declares that she is a christian/muslim or follows any other god that can be found on
        http://www.godchecker.com/

        and then begins her essay on (political?) Hinduism and the dangers it poses to the civilized world, misguiding the pagans in Europe America id denying the one and only non intereferring transcedental (Chrstian) God.

        By the way when ever I come across the word transcedental, I imagine the state of trance one enters when one is in a dentists office.

      • You state that “She didn’t say that god exists, but is stating what Abrahamic faith believes in. Are your reading comprehension skills so bad that you think that reporting what a faith states is equivalent to believing in that faith.

        So now i do not even have reading comphrension skills!! Is that all you can do.

        You still dont get it do you, all her talk about god outside nature, how rising paganism is a bad thing (children reading Harry Potter)and how they are in touch with Hindu nationalist. BTW they also interact with Green Peace so by your Heroines twisted logic, they are equally guilty of supporting (mis)guided pagans who are angry with a the one and only one who stands outside nature.
        Funny you started out by throwing big words like metaphysical naturalism, and accused me of being a stupid conspiracy theory nut. You remind me of some of the American (fake/pseudo)liberals who in order to prove their liberal credentials insert themselves in a debate about e.g. violent Koranic verses by pointing out similar verses in Bible. Maybe you need to check out the Iranian athestic, agnostic website, and learn from them what objectivity is.

        Sometime ago I had read an article , (I forgot who wrote it) on the Hinduization of tribals. The author was horrified that photos of hindu gods are increasingly seen in households. The author of course did not think that images of Jesus was equally offensive or unnatural. And historically it is the Abrahamic faith that have used every possible means at their disposal of saving pagans and infiedels or have you forgotten the inquisitations, trails of Galleleo, Bruno, witch hunts and burnings, how pagans were dealt with. No wonder Ms.Nanda is worried about pagans making a come back.

        I find it most insulting when I am told that just because I do not follow a particular prophet, or a book that suppossedly has all the final answers, i am doomed and need to be saved. Such arrogance, intolerance.

        You have these extreme tendency to indulge in name calling, baseless accusations, questioning motives of people who differ with you, making unwarranted personal attacks, that too in a forum that is devoted /dedicated to free thought and secular humanism.

        I repeat, the only reason Ms.Nanda was in the same sentence was she was critical of Hinduism. I have fwd our exchange to Dr.Dawkins, with whom I have regular interactions.

        Satish, I am still waiting for a full disclosure from you. I have tried to read all your postings on the forum and what struck me was the bitter personal attacks you indulge in. You demean anyone who does not agree with you, or whom you cannot pigeon hole. You live in a simple binary world, the us-and-them. You alone have grasped the truth, use big words and anyone who disagrees with you is a Hindu apologist. You dont even know me and yet presume to know me.

        What I find revealing is the complete absence of reactions from the author.

        I repeat, Ms.Nanda and Dr.Dawkins in the same sentence does not make sense, everything the author has written can be equally valid, with some minor changes, to all Indic religions, and with a bit of rewriting e.g. The fads and superstiotions in Sikhism, who also carry weapons as a part of their religious duty. Imagine what the reaction would have been. It seems only person born in the Sikh/Buddihist/islamic faith are allowed to be critical about the religion they are born in.

        Still waiting for the authors reactions, and I have seen him respond to comments in other articles he has written on the forum.

        • Anil,

          Just happened to notice your comment:
          “What I find revealing is the complete absence of reactions from the author.”

          Not sure what you find revealing in it

          Since this is a very old of article of mine I had not subscribed to its comment alerts. Somehow chanced on this after I got an email from Shirish

          Could not go thru the entire exchange between you and Satish. But I get a sense that the provocation is traceable to something beyond or before this article.

          Meera Nanda is a typo which I have failed to correct. The link on it is about an article by Shaker Srinivasan providing a response to Amartya sen.

          There are articles of Meera Nanda on this blog and that would have been the better place to quarrel about MN.

          So commenting on that exchange is unlikely to provide any value

          The objections or arguments voiced in your comments seem to have very little to do with what I have written in the article. Dawkins is mentioned in my article but I have made no opinions about him.

          If there is a problem the article or I pick only on Hinduism,to the exclusion of other irrationalities, this is a wrong question to pose.

          Still the best defense I can give is that Hindu Apolegetics is something I feel I am more adept at countering than the apologetics of other faiths.

          Also just because the title says Neo-Hindu fads, does not mean that other faiths are fadless. But because of that Hindu fads and fetishes cannot be spared their fair share of criticism

      • SHIRISH PARANJPE

        My first time on this forum. I have been following the discussion (?) between Satish and Anil. The first thing that struck me was the complete silence from others and the authors on these debate (?). I am also taken aback by the vehemence of Satish`s reaction. Every second-third sentence of his is loaded with innuendo, personal attacks. Anil you are too polite to say this and I appreciate your level headed approach.

        But using Satish`s logic, maybe he too is a christian apologist, posing as a rationalist.

        The interesting thing I noticed about Meera Nanda article on Pagan-environment-A god -who-does-not interfere is the complete absence in her article on Christian environmentalism e.g. The Green Bible, a book written by Matthew Sleeth, a Christian environmentalist:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Sleeth,_MD

        or

        http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/ecology.html

        the words like sacred duty abound. So Meera Nanda objects pagan environmentalism but is silent (to my knowledge) on christian environmentalism. One could argue it is a front of ID, proponents, the American Christian right.

        A person who has been awarded a fellowship on Science and Religion makes a living by attacking Hindu-pagan-anti monotheistic-left axis for blaming Christianity chooses to be silent on Green christian. To me this is extreme bias and lead me to question her credibility and objectivity. So sacred environmentalism is bad only if non Christians or even Islamist indulge in it (they are people of the book, after all).

        It would have been nice if Ms.Nanda had summarized, criticized Green Christians in her article. But the Lady is upset because the rising tide of Paganism has allied with Hindu right and cast apprehension on her concept of (Christian) God. If anyone on the forum knows, has read otherwise, I would have no problem in accepting that I was wrong, and she indeed is an impartial thinker fit to be in the company of Dr.Dawkins.

        Satish displays an almost Pavlovian response when he perceives or encounters ideas that he does not agree with. His first response is `you are stupid, ignorant fool, you are a closet fundamentalist etc’. He talks and thinks like a zealot, a bigot, an extreme intolerance to ideas that he does not agree with.

        To me the problem is this: If I say I agree with Sam Harris, then I do so because I am a closet Islamist/Hindutva fanatic,who support Mr.Harris only because he is writing against Christianity.

        This is the problem that Anil alludes too. On this forum, if a person of Hindu origin criticizes Mohammedanism/ Christian fundamentalist he is a Hindu apologist. Same goes for people who are critical of a religion that they are not born into. You see because if they do, People like Satish will go on an auto pilot mode and indulge in name calling.

        BTW, Anil are you referring to the attack in Pune by A Hindu organization on an exhibition on Ganesha hosted by a leftist organization. I was part of that group, and our lines may have crossed. And the Gujarat flood relief operation, are you referring to Morvi dam disaster and the flooding. I was there too and got beaten up by, followers of some Swami Narayan cult.

        So to conclude, Satish, employing the same tactic you use, you are a closet christian apologist.

        Anil, our task is not easy. If we support Harris it is because as closet Hindus we appreciate his attack on Christianity. If we support Al Sina then that definitely proves that we are Bajrangis.

        That how twisted the agenda of people like that closet christian fundamentalist Satish is. So on this forum, the only way you can prove your credibility is by attacking Hinduism, if and only if you are born Hindu, if you dare to criticize religions you are not born into and you were a born Hindu then you are definitely a Bajarangi.

        No amount of personal statements, full disclosures from you or me will satisfy rigid fundamentalist like Satish. Either you are with us or against us, he seems to suggest.

        • Satish Chandra

          You are a liar. “Anil Gupta” is a sock puppet of yours. You and your sock puppet account posted at about the same time here and on the IndianAtheists facebook page with the exact same words.

          Your comment on facebook – http://i.imgur.com/tg3fX.png

          From the sock puppet’s first comment:

          Meera Nanda and Richard Dawkins in the same category? Are you serious? Who funds Meera Nanda? The Tempeleton foundation. tHE LINK BELOW provides additional information about the foundation.
          http://edge.org/3rd_culture/horgan06/horgan06_index.html

          Next time you want to indulge in such disgusting tactics, you should use a web proxy to hide your real IP address.

        • FYI:
          The Green Christians touting the “Green Bible” crap are definitely not part of the “American Christian Right” you are referring to. The Green Bible guys represent the not yet fully re-paganized (or re-paganizing) Christian fringe and are most definitely ensconced in the same progressive umbrella that charlatans like Rajiv Malhotra are in. In other words they are ideologically in opposition to the “American Christian Right”. American religion-political landscape is not an analogue of the Indian one. Just because one finds “Bible” or “Christian” or “Church” in their nomenclature does not mean they belong in the same camp.

  • mY post got cut off. sO IS THE STATEMENT ATTRIBUTED TO Rajiv Malhotra TRUE are not.

    Yes we want a DAWKINS LIKE TREATMENT FOR ALL RELIGIONS, INCLUDING Hinduism In fact a long time ago in Pune we did that and were attacked by RSS goons, Then again during a flood relief operation in Gujerat, we were attacked by followers of a swamy and by the State police for being critical of the said swamy. And what makeds you think i that I feel Hindusism has done no wrong, once again, you presume too much.

    But why am i even trying to convince someone who has decided that: 1. I am a troll, I like jacking off, I am an Hindu apologist, I cannot do a search, I need to take lessons in logic. Apoligies if i have left any other adjective you have used to denigrate me, my intentions…

    Get a life and grow up.

    I was actually interested in the opinion of the writer of the article not someone who needs to learn some hdecorum and public decency

  • Actually it was my first time on this site, and I I think it is a great site. A simple question fome, and i have been called things that I find hard to believe. Satiish starts by saying “ all you have is a stupid conspiracy theory that Meera Nanda is promoting religion.” But her own writings reveal what she thinks about e.g. paganism, environmentalism and the unfairness in blaming by pagan/leftist the one non intereferring transcedental god , instead of blaming science.
    Remind me once again, what her fellowship was abour: Religion and science. All her posts, writing that I jhave read appear to be more like Hindu religion and science. Now it is possible that I may have missed some of her articles/books/essays on abrahamic religion and sciene. So I requested Satish to provide me if any, since he can search, is logical, is not a troll, is not a hindu apologist, does not like jacking off…
    But I am surprised that such personal attacks are allowed, actually they should not be censored at all, so that any one who is reading this “discussion” will have all the data to help decide.
    I repeat, I still do not understand why he had included Dawkins and Ms.Nanda in the same sentence. It is possible that he does not agree with everything that Satish is (presumably) saying in his defence. Perhaps he should join the discussion, because, after all, my post was a reaction to his article.

    • Satish Chandra

      You started with the assertion that Nanda promotes religion. So far you failed to provide a single shred of evidence for it. The only “evidence” you have is she only talks about Hinduism and not other religions in her one paper you happened to quote mine. That is why you need a logic 101 course. Because your evidential standards mean Dawkins is an RSS sympathizer because he only criticizes Christianity and Islam in his book The God Delusion and not the RSS.

      Now you are going into a stupid, irrelevant rant about pagan persecution and what not. Again, logic 101. Take that course. Dawkins is a metaphysical naturalist. And no, those are not big words. What it basically means is that science is the only way to know about the world. So any belief system (like paganism) that doesn’t rely on science is bad. But in your twisted logic, saying a belief system is bad because it doesn’t rely on science is equivalent to some things you cooked up in your delusions.

      Oh, since you said you like this site, you may want to reconsider that opinion. The very person you hate with a passion, writes here. And since you still seem incapable of searching and reading Nanda’s other writings, let me do your homework:

      I am often told rather gleefully that all my labors are wasted because they I am not aiming my rationalism against Christians and Muslims. Some go even further and assume that because I am critical of Hinduism, I must be a secret Christian, and I must be working for “the proselytizers”! Apparently, no one born a Hindu can legitimately raise questions about the “Eternal Truths” of the faith.

      It does not examine the many flagrant irrationalities and fanaticisms that exist in Islam and Christianity, to say nothing of the many folk expressions of Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism.

      From here:

      Whereas the ‘religions of the book’, that is, Islam and Christianity, bind the faithful by demanding obedience to the letter and the spirit of their revealed dogmas

      From here:

      Indeed the BJP government can teach a thing or two to the creation scientists in the U.S. Creationists, old and new, are trying to smuggle in Christian dogma into secular schools in the U.S. by redefining science in a way that allows God to be brought in as a cause of natural phenomena.

      in contrast with those obscurantist Islamic fundamentalists across the border who insist on keeping science out of their madrassas

      Christianity and Islam at least acknowledge the radical otherness and difference of other faiths, even as they attempt to convert them, even at the cost of great violence and mayhem.

      I think that is enough to point out your utter cluelessness. And yes, do forward all this to Prof. Dawkins. I’m sure he’d have a good laugh at you thinking Meera Nanda is promoting religion. And finally, before you get butt hurt again about my tone and all, you should know that there is a certain someone who does it a lot more eloquently.

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