Sanskrit Pronunciation scholar Manorama

Questioner:

Dear Manorama,

We met in January 2015, for a Sanskrit workshop. I am teaching an “introduction to yoga” class in which I talk about mudras and mantras. I have two people who were afraid to chant mantra because they were told it is dangerous if you don’t have the proper pronunciation …

I believe chanting from your heart with the purest intentions will compensate not speaking Sanskrit properly, but I thought that maybe you have a better answer I could offer or info that can help dissolve their fear.

Thank you very much.

Manorama:

Dear Heartfelt Teacher,

Your question is relevant and one that I often get so I am responding to it in my blog, as I think others will benefit from reading your question and my response to it. Firstly, I want to say that as a teacher, it’s great that you reached out to consider this question in a more in-depth way.

Regarding your question, here are my thoughts: In the beginning, what is important for a student is that he or she shows up. That is actually hard in the early phases of growth. The first steps in their development are: 1. Showing up and 2. Establishing connection with the subject and in some cases with the teacher. But after you show up and have that muscle firmly underneath you, it is then time to refine your work within the practice. At that point, you want to work to grow your knowledge of the subject.

Think of it this way – in the same way that asana practice has alignments that are important, so it is the same with Sanskrit mantras. The proper pronunciation is not about being a stickler. It is about connecting on the most profound level with your self through sound. This connection includes the alignment of the breath and the sound synchronizing within the mind and heart of the individual. So my answer is the following: initially play with the mantras, and feel the beauty and share them through your heart. Once you have a real affinity and thirst for them, start to work with the alignment of the mouth positions, breath patterns and metrics to gain the full extent of the meaning. When you do this, you will feel the luminous experience that is offered by the rishis.

Thanks for your question.

Warmly,
Manorama

* Photo by Derek Pashupa Goodwin