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Naropa Traditions

Naropa Traditions

the Bow

So, hold, feel and give. That is the meaning of the warrior's bow, which we do every day here at Naropa University. — Adapted from an essay by Frank Berliner, Naropa University faculty

It has become something of a tradition at Naropa University to begin classes and meetings with a bow. Although this ritual is by no means compulsory, it seems to have taken widespread hold at the university over the years. Many students and staff find themselves performing the bow countless times during their time at Naropa, and many take enjoyment and comfort in the growing familiarity that a ritual such as this one can provide when it is repeated often.

The bow we make to each other at Naropa is a way of acknowledging and honoring the qualities of warriorship that each of us has the capacity to express and to share with others.

The warrior whom we honor when we bow is someone who is brave enough to be a truly gentle person. So, in bowing to each other, we honor the inherent bravery, gentleness and wakeful intelligence that each of us can experience personally. We also honor Naropa as a place where the deepest purpose of our education is to cultivate these qualities and bring them to fuller expression in whatever field of learning we may choose.

contemplative Education

Contemplative education is an educational philosophy that integrates three critical elements.

Here’s how we practice those elements at Naropa University:

  1. Rigorous academics—Challenge yourself with the Naropa curriculum, which blends Eastern wisdom studies and traditional Western scholarship. Classes are small and thrilling. Understand that you will read and write a lot.
  2. Contemplative Practice—Bend your body and your mind through meditation, yoga, and other mindfulness practices.
  3. Experiential Learning—Apply the wisdom and knowledge you’ve acquired and gain career insight and skills through global volunteerism, internships, and community-based learning.

Why do all of this? To find the work of your heart. To prepare for it. And to live an openhearted life that nourishes your soul and your corner of the world. Naropa University is the nation’s leader in contemplative higher education.

shambhala day

prayer flags on Shambhala Day

Shambhala Day celebrates the Tibetan New Year that occurs in late February or early March each year. Shambhala is an ancient tradition that is rooted in the longing we all have to be completely authentic and to live in a society that cultivates our true expression as human beings. This longing is the basis of education at Naropa. Shambhala Day is an opportunity for you to reconnect to your aspiration; to reflect upon the goodness of the world; to express joy, humor and tenderness; and to enjoy the community of others who are similarly inspired. It is a school holiday and is celebrated by the Naropa community with a shared meal and a program of performances by students and faculty. All buildngs are closed except for those in use for celebration events.

In Shambhala: Sacred Path of the Warrior, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche puts the matter this way:
"There are seasons in your life in the same way as there are seasons in nature. There are times to cultivate and create, when you nurture your world and give birth to new ideas and ventures. There are times of flourishing and abundance, when life feels in full bloom, energized and expanding. And there are times of fruition, when things come to an end. They have reached their climax and must be harvested before they begin to fade. And finally, of course, there are times that are cold and cutting and empty, times when the spring of new beginnings seems like a distant dream. These rhythms in life are natural events. They weave into one another as day follows night, bringing, not messages of hope and fear, but messages of how things are."

practice day

Every semester Naropa suspends classes for Community Practice Day. During Community Practice Day, Naropa students, faculty and staff can attend lectures, participate in new forms of contemplative practice and perform service in the community.


Convocation Calligraphy

Convocation is Naropa's traditional ceremony, occurring once a year in the beginning of the fall semester, during which we come together as students and teachers to celebrate the start of another academic year. During convocation, we create and join a community that welcomes each moment whole-heartedly with beginner's mind, so that we might gently wake each other up, all year long.

naropa seal

sealThe Naropa University seal was designed by Naropa's founder, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, on whose teachings the school's philosophies are based; thus, its meaning speaks to the Naropa experience with simultaneous relevance to the school's history and its present-day form.

The Sanskrit words written in Tibetan on the ribbon at the bottom of the seal—"prajna garbha"—literally mean "womb of wisdom," but translate more loosely as "place where wisdom is nurtured." The word "prajna," meaning wisdom, differs from the traditional academic view of knowledge. Often defined by Trungpa Rinpoche as "knowingness," prajna encompasses greater insight, independent of accumulation of facts or information.

The wheel of dharma, or wheel of the teachings, appears at the center of the seal and signifies the power, communication and reach of Buddhist-based teachings. At the center of the wheel of dharma is the "coil of joy," which symbolizes the transformation of the three "poisons" (passion, aggression and ignorance) into the three "wisdoms" (appreciation, clear seeing and openness).

The wheel of dharma has another, secular significance: a great monarch could roll their chariot wheels over great distances, spreading teachings and understanding into the world at large. The connotation here is of spreading benefit, rather than proselytizing.

Literally, "prajna" is the flame that burns conceptual mind. The flames surrounding the seal create a mandala and boundary around the learning space. That space requires unconditional commitment to learning without a personal agenda.