Photo courtesy of Naropa University Archives
Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche was the visionary founder of Naropa University. Born in Tibet, he was recognized as a tulku (reincarnated teacher) at a young age and received extensive training in Tibetan monastic traditions. Trungpa settled in the West after fleeing Tibet in 1959 during the Chinese invasion, where he then played a significant role in bringing Tibetan Buddhism to the Western world and adapted the teachings to a modern context to make them broadly accessible. He founded several meditation centers and organizations, was a prolific author on a wide range of topics related to Buddhism, meditation, psychology, and the human condition, and inspired many contemplative Eastern arts to flourish in the West.
Trungpa envisioned Naropa as a place where students could engage with the discipline of higher education while also cultivating mindfulness and awareness. This innovative model attracted influential figures from various fields, including literature, poetry, psychology, and the arts, further enriching the university’s unique atmosphere. Despite his profound influence, Trungpa’s life was not without controversy, as he struggled with personal challenges and faced criticism within the Tibetan Buddhist community. Nevertheless, his teachings, writings, and the institutions he founded, continue to impact countless individuals seeking spiritual growth and self-awareness.