Naropa University

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Naropa University is a Buddhist-inspired alternative studies college in Boulder, Colorado. It offers a "contemplative liberal arts education", which in several of its programs, flirts with New Age woo and pseudoscience. Their retention rate is rather bad, with a first year retention rate of only about 60%.[1]

The organization was originally founded as the Naropa Institute in 1974 by Chögyam Trungpa,Wikipedia a former Tibetan Buddhist monk, with the assistance of famous beatniks Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman. Though certainly an interesting man and a key figure in the spreading of Buddhism to western countries, Trungpa was fairly terrible at being a Buddhist monk (and/or ex-monk turned spiritual teacher), having a history of lechery, chemical dependence and incidences of the sort of hypocrisy and crassness that we've also seen from certain western religious and spiritual leaders.[2]

Questionable classes[edit]

While they have a number of reasonable-sounding courses like Early Childhood Education and Creative Writing, not all of them are. It does not quite amount to overt quackery but some of its classes are esoteric to the point of raising a few red flags. For example…

Somatic Counseling Psychology The master’s degree in Somatic Counseling Psychology looks at the relationship between the mind and body as a dance: As one goes, so goes the other.

Grounded in the assumption that the body (soma in Greek) can be used to help individuals transform, this cohort program will give you the academic, experiential, and contemplative experience necessary to begin a compassionate, clinical practice.[3]

Trans-personal Ecopsychology Naropa University’s low-residency degree in Transpersonal Ecopsychology integrates psychology and ecology in the study of human-nature relationships. At Naropa University, Contemplative practice and transpersonal psychology provide a foundation for this integration.

The two-year, 38-credit low-residency program begins in the summer semester. Each year, students take two courses on campus in the summer and two courses online in both fall and spring semesters. The first year is devoted to study of ecopsychology, ecology, transpersonal psychology, and contemplative practice. [4]

Further strangeness[edit]

Sharoni Stern fell under the cult-like influence of her Butoh dance instructor at Naropa University, which contributed, if not led, to her eventual psychological breakdown and suicide.[5] Her family set up the nonprofit organization Families Against Cult Teachings in response to her degraded mental state and eventual death.[6]

Chögyam Trungpa's successor Thomas Rich (sometimes known as Ösel TendzinWikipedia) was HIV positive but knowingly had unprotected sex with many students in the 1980s. Trungpa advised Rich not to tell people about his HIV status and use Vajrayana ritual purification to prevent the spread of the disease.[2]

The Boulder Buddhist Scam[edit]

The Boulder Buddhist Scam[7] is a blog by a former Naropa student detailing various questionable actions and transgressions by their staff. It's up to the reader to decide if it's spot-on whistleblowing or axe-grinding, but it is an interesting read no matter what.

External links[edit]