The moment you give Maharishi University of Management (MUM) and the TM movement at large a chance to shine, they still fail. My private three year — and continued — study of the Vedas includes a focus on ancient Brahmi scripts such as Cuneiform, Gupta script, and Devanagari. For those not aware, the Sanskrit language is manifest in an assortment of scripts much like how we can switch the font of a document in word processing software. The Gupta script was particularly inspirational because this era harbored a focus on the transcription of a large body of knowledge from the ancient oral / written traditions, which became later manifest in the Devanagari we read today.
There are numerous other scripts I find not only intriguing, but cosmetically appealing — Javanese for example. I was also fortunate to glean the gem of knowledge bestowed by faculty of the Maharishi University of Management (MUM) library, a script known as Grantha — kudos. But it was the Devanagari which ultimately became my focus in both writing and reading a few years prior to my discovery of Maharishi University of Management.
On numerous occasions I was surprised by the professor’s inability — or perhaps refusal — to provide concise feedback to my Sanskrit or Devanagari queries. Below, I outline the wholeness of these experiences in greater depth.
One lecture turned toward Maharishi’s discourse of the Rig Veda’s instantiation, the first sounds unfolding with the words “agním īḷe puróhitaṃ …” — which was quite familiar. But in numerous cases I found professors claiming the first sound as the “a” in the word “father” rather than the “a” in the word “America.”
While the lesson is potentially enlightening, I could understand why conflicts in pronunciation might arise as I reflect on the youtube video from the Maharishi Channel in which Maharishi himself seems to mispronounce the sound in essentially the same lesson “The value of reading Vedic Literature in Sanskrit” 00:03:27 of the 16 minute video.
As the lecture developed, the professor wrote a “ga” on the board (ग), and turned to the class proclaiming it to be a “na”, when in fact “na” would be (न) in the dental — and ironically translates to English as “no”.
I didn’t want to correct the professor as it may undermine the credibility of the lesson that was unfolding, but since it was such a fundamental error I notified the professor that they had in fact scribed a “ga.” Simple error though, surely the result of having lapsed in their Devanagari study, and upon my citation — and a slight delay — they made the necessary correction.
Unfortunately, the lesson continued with further error as the professor adorned the now correct dental “na” (न) with a diacritic to form “ne” (ने) — pronounced as the English word “nay.” Unfortunately, the professor turned to the class to tell us it was a “ni” — pronounced like the English word “knee” — which was wrong on both counts of script and pronunciation.
With continued irony, I supplied a clue to the professor saying “That would be a neigh.” Again, I understand how the script can escape the mind when not in frequent use, but I was uncertain why there wasn’t a bit more provisioning. Slowly but surely, the professor bent the diacritic down further, glancing at me for approval. It was close, but I added “You need to add a line.” Finally it resulted in a (नि)rather than the desired “knee” sound (नी)… but I let it slide so as to not undermine the credibility of the lesson at large — nor the professor. I felt as though I personally lost some measure of credibility by not insisting on the correct नी.
Other lectures included the popular “Yatha pinde tatha brahmande”, cited from the Upa Veda. But when I’d inquire on details of the specific location, there was never a response. The lack of response is likely a positive thing I suppose, this entry epic enough as is.
The point of the matter is that Maharishi University of Management (MUM) isn’t necessarily as knowledgeable on Sanskrit and the Veda as one might expect, though there are a few key scholars who do in fact possess a deep and coherent understanding of the knowledge. Erroneously, I was under the impression that all my professors would have a mastery of fundamental Vedic knowledge in the script and pronunciation at least, as they boast of “reading Sanskrit literature for sound value.”
Below, a collection of some of my Devanagari practice. I have a long way to go, and so much to learn. While I’m still not satisfied with my fluency in reading and writing sanskrit in the Devanagari, it continues to be a deeply rewarding form of meditation and enlightenment for me.