Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hindu Nationalists, postmodernists and intellectual dishonesty

Walter Truett Anderson identifies postmodernism as one of four world views. These four worldviews are the postmodern-ironist, which sees truth as socially constructed, the scientific-rational in which truth is 'found' through methodical, disciplined inquiry, the social-traditional in which truth is found in the heritage of American and Western civilisation and the neo-romantic in which truth is found either through attaining harmony with nature and/or spiritual exploration of the inner self. (Walter Truett Anderson (1996). The Fontana Post-mosernism Reader).
Most of those in the Hindu nationalist movement can fit into the neo-romantic version who believe that truth is found either through attaining harmony with nature and / or spiritual exploration of the inner self. There are some Hindu nationalists who opine that truth may even be found in the heritage of traditional Indian civilization. There are atheists and rationalists too in the vast fold of Hindu nationalism.
In principle, Marxists are supposed to be atheists. In India, the earlier generations of Marxists were indeed atheists, though they followed the Stalinist strategy of a "common front" in forming an alliance with Christians and Muslims against the principal enemy, Hinduism. This way, their secularism of the Marxist is being infiltrated with religious elements. It is becoming a "religious secularism. That is why they are silent on Muslim and Christian excesses.
Christian and Muslim denominational schools -- which receive state funding under Art. 30 of the Constitution (unlike Hindu denominational schools, which are excluded from this provision for not being "minority institutions") -- mix religion with academics in their curriculum. Yet these secular worthies never express any objection to this massive nationwide intrusion of religion into education at vast taxpayers' expense.
Also, when Hindus complain of factual problems such as missionary subversion or Muslim terrorism, it is always dismissed as “RSS propaganda".
Meera Nanda and the Prophets Facing Backwards:
Meera Nanda is a postmodernist who has spun a yarn on Hindu nationalism in her book – Prophets Facing Backward”. In her book she creates a scare scenario about Hindu metaphysics taking on the garb of science.
She says that those who are deeply skeptical about traditional religious claims often are shallowly accepting of New Age, Eastern, and holistic ways of looking at the world.
“But as secularists have begun to take on religion there is a danger that in calling for a rigorous evidence-based examination of one area they leave other areas untouched. In banishing religion from the front door some of these secularists are happily letting other forms of supernatural thinking in through the back. “
“… Attacks by feminists, environmentalists and others on the sins of 'reductionist western science' have created a positive aura around 'holistic science' which, it is claimed, overcomes the gap between the subject and the object. It is easy to debunk faith. Faith is by definition a relationship of trust regardless of evidence. “
“Spiritualism has learned to dress up its metaphysical abstractions in the clothes of empiricism, neuro-physiology and quantum physics. In contrast to the obvious irrationality of believing in an all-powerful, all-knowing invisible being, belief in 'spiritual energies' which can be 'directly experienced' by anyone simply by altering the state of their consciousness can appear so much more rational, even 'scientific'. “
Nanda says that Hindu metaphysics is equally unscientific. Nanda takes Sam Harris, author of "The End of Faith," to task for not being as critical of his own spiritual beliefs as he is of Islamic, Christian, and other fundamentalists.
“But this bilious attack on faith, the aspect of the book which has received all the attention, only sets the stage for what seems to be his real goal: a defense, nay, a celebration of Harris' own Dzogchen Buddhist and Advaita Vedantic Hindu spirituality. Spirituality is the answer to Islam's and Christianity's superstitions and wars, he tells us. Spiritualism is not just good for your soul, it is good for your mind as well: it can make you "happy, peaceful and even wise". Results of spiritual practices are "genuinely desirable [for they are] not just emotional but cognitive and conceptual".
She points along these lines that while God, Allah and Jehovah are abstractions. The same is the case with Hindu metaphysics like “being”, “nonduality” and “pure awareness”
“In science (Thomas Kuhn notwithstanding) anyone with functioning senses, adequate training and right apparatus can see the same star, the same DNA molecule, the same electron. But not everyone with adequate training in meditation techniques, and the right atmosphere, sees the same mystical reality: some see God, some see nothing at all and some, without any meditation at all, see what the mystics see. The mystical beliefs which Harris so approves of are every bit as unscientific, untestable and unverifiable as the religious belief he so aggressively attacks.“
Refuting Meera Nanda and postmodernists : Meera Nanda and her cohorts of postmodernists are actually worried that Hindu spirituality is gaining acceptance among the intellectuals of the west – who have discarded their irrational Abrahamic faith with Hindu/Buddhist/New Age spirituality. She says that Hindu spirituality – even though it may seem sophisticated – is as much shallow as the Abrahamic faiths. She is wrong here. The Abrahamic faiths offer paradise in heaven or Janaat in the afterlife. However, the Hindu spiritual practices are more focused on the moment. Most of the meditation techniques – whether it be the vipassana or Tantra/Yoga – do not offer any after-life inducements. They are ways of getting centred on the self. They are exercises that aim at well-being of the individual with little emphasis on belief. Her storm in the tea cup may disaffect a neophyte not an expert.

1 comment:

Indian said...

Hindu nationalists belong to the social-traditional school in which truth is to be found in the heritage of HINDU civilisation.