If you think up Himalayan Gurukul (Residential University located in Indian Himalayas), what would you imagine and expect? Resident students, meditation, Vedic chanting, spiritual education, yoga, vegetarian food, low fee, lush green hills, cool temperatures, etc. Where would you find one? Possibly in Uttrakhand, India. Could there be one in USA? You mean students studying Veda and taking only vegetarian food in this time and Century! Yes, it is there, and it is in the middle of USA.
It is in the Iowa State of USA. I am talking of Maharishi International University (MIU) earlier Maharishi University of Management (MUM), located in Fairfield, Iowa. I have had the privilege of visiting MIU in 2015 as a guest speaker to speak on, ‘ 10 Must Reads from Harvard or 1 Must Read from India: Insights for Being Inspirational Leader’. I was amazed to meet and see people and the place, and the Vedic City. ‘Atithi Devo Bhav’ (Treat your guest as the god) was witnessed right from the Des Moines airport, where my host, Prof Scott Herriott, Dean of the Business School, MUM kept patiently waiting for me along with his spouse for 2 hours, as my flight was delayed. On way, Prof Herriot told me that yesterday, on the occasion of Akshay Tritia, we have launched quite a few new initiatives. You would nearly never hear those kind of words in Indian universities these days, because under politico- secularism of India since 1975, you would get labelled Hindu communal. In Indian culture, Akshay Tritia is considered an auspicious day to launch any new initiative. The day is also famous as Bhagwan Parshuram Jayanti (birthday). MIU carries on ancient Indian tradition and culture in the most modern setting in the most advanced country of the world. It has some really innovative lessons for business schools, particularly those facing declining numbers and imminent closure, around the globe.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was its founder. The founding leadership and faculty of this University included many Ivy League trained scholars. The core ideas that gravitated people to form this university were the Science of Creative Intelligence (SCI) and Transcendental Meditation (TM) and its scientifically researched benefits in daily work and life.
This University was started in 1973 in a rented building in Santa Barbara in California and moved to Iowa in 1974. The campus of Maharishi University in Iowa was earlier the campus of Parsons College that went for sale in 1973. Over the last five decades, this University has immensely grown to offer undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees. The programs of study are offered in the field of Art, Business, Computer Science, Education, Maharishi Vedic Science, Media and Communications, Physiology and Health, Sustainable Living, and others.
What distinguishes this university is their consciousness- based education. While University works to match their curriculum and pedagogy with any other national or international university, they mix it up liberally with knowledge of the Self. The profound power of realizing your real Self, as Atman, in Indian tradition and culture, has been elaborated and established since ages. The Vedas, Puranas, Upnishads, Bhagwad Gita and other texts provide ready reference on the subject. Maharishi’s famous saying that to keep the tree healthy, water its roots and not its branches and leaves, resonates on the campus everywhere, all the time. To develop yourself completely, first know yourself. Who am I? Am I my first name? Am I my last name? Am I a body? Am I a mind? Am I an ego? Am I a soul? This university reminds and re-propagates that you are, at the deeper conscious level, Atman. Based on my personal experience, to anyone interested in knowing more about Atman and Who am I?, I may recommend reading just one Chapter (Chapter 13) of Bhagwad Gita (Gita Press, Gorakhpur, India).
The US climate data show that average temperatures in Fairfield, Iowa may vary between minus 9.1 degree Celsius, in January and 30.5 degree Celsius, in July. The average snowfall can vary between 12.7 Centimeters in December and 2.5 Centimeters in April. The place is hilly. The place is lush green. The place hums with meditation, vegetarian food and the science of it. A dome is available for collective meditation and understanding the impact of collective meditation. The student and faculty mess and cafeteria serve vegetarian food only. A lab maps and analyses the impact of Transcendental Meditation on human brain. You may learn Vedic science to film making on this campus.
Like in any modern institute of professional and technical education, in their Business and the Computer Science departments, job placement is high on their agenda. The Computer Science and the Accounting programs have been redesigned to earn early and extended industry internships. By adding early and extended industry internship component, the fee load has been significantly reduced for the students. It is pretty innovative and should be attractive for students with limited financial resources. It may also be an eye opener for many run-of-the-mill management institutes who face student number depleting and imminent closure.
If you wanted to experience, relive or support higher education with ancient Indian tradition, culture and values, Maharishi University of Management (MUM) at Fairfield, Iowa is the place to be. Thank you, MIU!
Dr Sat Parashar, PhD is former Director, IIM Indore. He teaches at University of California, San Diego, and is a Financial Services Professional. He may be reached at [email protected]