Naropa University Celebrates Forty Years as Contemplative Education Leader

"The purpose of the Naropa Institute is to bring together the dynamics of opposites...When opposites rub against each other, there is a spark of energy. Our interest is to make Naropa a place where intellectual activity will be combined with experience, to blend the two kinds of knowing: the intellectual with the intuitive."--Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche1

Boulder, Colo. (February 10, 2014): This year, Naropa University celebrates forty years since its founding by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1974. In an explosion of energy reminiscent of Naropa's first summer, the university's celebration begins this February and continues for eighteen months, marked by illuminating talks, inspiring artistic offerings, and transformative workshops and conferences with some of the world's leading thinkers, contemplatives, writers, and scientists.

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1939-1987) was a revered teacher and lineage holder in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition as well as an Oxford trained scholar. Arriving in the West following a legendary exodus from Tibet, Trungpa Rinpoche envisioned a school that would combine the contemplative traditions of the East with the scholarly traditions of the West. Inspiration for such a place came from Nalanda University, an institution in India during the fifth through twelfth centuries that joined intellect and intuition and welcomed faculty and students from a diversity of traditions. When Trungpa Rinpoche arrived in Boulder in 1970 at the invitation of some University of Colorado professors, he began to make his vision a reality. In June 1974, the Naropa Institute's first summer attracted more than 2,500 students from all over the country, with an impressive faculty that included the spiritual teacher Ram Dass; poets Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, and Philip Whalen; musician John Cage; scientist Jeremy Hayward; and many more scholars and artists.

"Today Naropa University honors the founder's inspiration, builds on four decades of academic excellence and acclaimed artistic expression in providing undergraduate and graduate education, and professional and creative development to thousands of students and the Boulder community each year. Once alone in daring to offer contemplative education coupled with traditional Western academics, Naropa was central to the birth of a mindfulness and contemplative movement found in universities, businesses, cultural and governmental institutions throughout the world," says Naropa University President Charles Lief. "Since its founding, Naropa has also generated more than a half a billion dollars in economic activity in Boulder," Lief also notes.

During this fortieth anniversary year, our celebration will include events that explore the intersections of mindfulness and science, compassion and society, and art and the creative acts of everyday life. We will examine the current research in the healing potential of mindfulness; explore a new paradigm based on community, interdependence, and mindful living; and learn how we can live with an open heart, and through compassion in action, contribute to a kinder and more just world.

Visiting luminaries include:

  • The Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, Shambhala Buddhist lineage head and Naropa University lineage holder;
  • Amishi Jha, PhD, renowned University of Miami brain researcher;
  • Richie Davidson, PhD,University of Wisconsin researcher;
  • Dan Siegel, MD, Mindful Awareness Research Center co-director;
  • Vandana Shiva, PhD,environmental activist and author;
  • Joanna Macy, PhD, Buddhist scholar and environmentalist;
  • Bernie Glassman, PhD, Zen Peacemakers founder;
  • Lama Tsultrim Allione, Western Buddhist teacher;
  • Ringu Tulku Rinpoche, Tibetan Buddhist master of the Kagyü order;
  • Noah Levine, American Buddhist teacher and author;
  • Ha Vinh Tho, PhD, Bhutan's Gross National Happiness Centre program director;
  • Sharon Salzberg, meditation teacher and best-selling author;
  • Nina Simons, Bioneers co-founder;
  • Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Buddhist scholar and meditation master.
  • Charles Eisenstein, author, speaker, and self-described "degrowth activist"

To learn more and register for Naropa University's fortieth anniversary events, please visit call 303-245-4871.

Naropa University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Naropa University is a private, nonprofit, nonsectarian liberal arts institution dedicated to advancing contemplative education. This approach to learning integrates the best of Eastern and Western educational traditions, helping students to know themselves more deeply and engage constructively with others. The university comprises a four-year undergraduate college and graduate programs in the arts, education, environmental leadership, psychology, and religious studies.


1An interview with Florence Helitzer, "Bringing Meditation & Buddhism to U.S. Higher Education," The Princeton Quarterly, 1975.