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from rediscovery of India: Meera Nanda’s Ignorance Revisited

February 16, 2011

About two years ago, writing about how Meera Nanda proudly strutted her ignorance, I observed two things at the outset:

Perhaps it takes only a Meera Nanda to have the guts to strut her ignorance with such confidence. It took me a few days to digest what she actually wants to say.

Now, two years later, we see that she’s lost none of these two distinguishing traits that mark her as a writer–I’d have said “intellectual” and “scholar” but she’s herself left enough records to show otherwise—of ignorant and confounding mass of words. Exhibit N, 12 Feb 2011:  Not as Old as You Think.

The byline in itself is enough to prevent you from reading the ignorant nonsense of oceanic proportions. It says Yoga is not “very Hindu either. There is telling evidence to debunk this nationalistic myth.” But I did myself a disservice by swimming through her verbal scum because scholarly falsehoods are more dangerous.


One of the first things that confronts you when trying to write a rebuttal to any piece of Meera Nanda is: how the hell do I respond? As you sift through her textual muck, you detect a few patterns, which all lead up to the whole picture:

  1. Hinduism is bad
  2. Hindutva is worse
  3. There’s nothing positive about either/both
  4. Nationalism is dangerous
  5. Everything associated with Hinduism is negative/bad/dangerous by default

Her current piece though is novel and deceptive because it preempts “objections” by “Hindutva fanatics” and “nationalists.” Here’re the “objections:”

Indians tend to affirm their claims on yoga by trotting out the familiar icons of the ‘5,000-year-old Vedic tradition,’ which supposedly stretches from the Pashupati seal of the (actually very unVedic) Indus Valley civilisation to the Bhagvad Gita and the venerable Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Yoga, Indians like to solemnly declare, is ‘eternal’ and ‘timeless’ and all the great yoga masters, from Swami Vivekananda to BKS Iyengar to Baba Ramdev of our own time, have only restored or reinstituted an ancient practice. It is also commonplace to hear Indians—even those who are not particularly spiritual themselves—blame Americans and other ‘decadent’ Westerners for reducing their spiritually rich tradition to mere calisthenics. Lately, Hindus in America have started flying the saffron flag over American-style yoga, which consists largely of yogic asanas and stretches. The leading Indo-American lobby, Hindu American Foundation (HAF), has recently started a vocal campaign to remind Americans that yoga was made in India by Hindus. Not just any ordinary Hindus, but Sanskrit-speaking, forest-dwelling Brahmin sages who learned to discipline their bodies in order to purify their atman. The purist Hindu position, articulated by the HAF, is 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.


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