About Naropa

“The point is not to abandon scholarship but to ground it, to personalize it and to balance it with the fundamentals of mind training, especially the practice of sitting meditation so that inner development and outer knowledge go hand in hand. . . . A balanced education cultivates abilities beyond the verbal and conceptual to include matters of heart, character, creativity, self-knowledge, concentration, openness, and mental flexibility.”
—Judy Lief, trustee and former Naropa University president

A Naropa University Education

Naropa University has offered mission-based contemplative education to both undergraduate and graduate students for more than forty years. Informed by ancient Eastern educational philosophies, contemplative education at Naropa experiments with another way of knowing through its joining of rigorous liberal arts training and the disciplined training of the heart. Transcending the belief that knowledge arises in the thinking mind only, this educational philosophy invites students to embrace the immediacy of their interior lives as a means for fully integrating what they learn.

Contemplative education is not solely traditional education with a course in meditation thrown in; it is an approach that offers an entirely new way of understanding what it means to be educated in the modern Western liberal arts tradition. At Naropa University, students wholeheartedly engage in mindfulness-awareness practices in order to cultivate being present in the moment and to deepen their academic study. Woven into the fabric of the curriculum are practices that include sitting meditation, Taijiquan, aikido, yoga, Chinese brushstroke, and ikebana. The depth of insight and concentration reached through students’ disciplined engagement with contemplative practices alters the very landscape of learning and teaching at Naropa.

Through such a focused self-exploration, students acquire the ability to be present in the classroom and in their lives, to engage in active listening with an open mind, to analyze a subject, and to integrate what has been learned with personal experience. Other resulting qualities include the development of openness, self-awareness, and insight; enhanced speaking and listening skills; the sharpening of insight; and an appreciation of the world’s diversity and richness. From this self-understanding comes an ability to appreciate the value of another’s experience.

The goal of a Naropa University education is not to nurture the solitary contemplative only; it is also to cultivate those at the other end of the spectrum whose interior work acts as preparation for compassionate and transformative work in the world. More specifically, the value of contemplative education is measured in Naropa students’ ability to put their wisdom and insight into practice through creative, helpful, and effective action.


Naropa University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. (www.ncahigherlearningcommission.org).


The Naropa University student body is a vibrant and active group that comprises a mix of approximately 1,049 undergraduate and graduate students from forty-eight states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and twenty-four countries. Naropa graduates can be found in the United States and around the world in a variety of service professions, creative endeavors, and research initiatives. Naropa’s student/faculty ratio is nine-to-one, and an average class size is fourteen students.


Naropa faculty members are dedicated to teaching, learning, research, and Naropa’s mission of contemplative education. They share an interest in, and experience of, contemplative practice that helps to create and sustain the educational environment important to the university. The faculty’s wide-ranging and recognized professional experience contributes a sense of immediacy and relevancy to the classroom.


The university is located on three campuses in the city of Boulder, Colorado: the Arapahoe Campus in central Boulder; the Paramita Campus at 30th Street in north Boulder; and the Nalanda Campus in east Boulder. The Arapahoe Campus and surrounding grounds include a performing arts center, a meditation hall, classrooms, faculty and administrative offices, and the Allen Ginsberg Library. The Paramita Campus houses the Graduate School of Counseling and Psychology (Transpersonal Counseling, Somatic Counseling and Contemplative Counseling programs). The Nalanda Campus is the center for the performing and visual arts and houses art studios for Visual Arts and Art Therapy programs, the Music program, and an events center for Extended Studies and Naropa community events.

The city of Boulder, twenty-five miles northwest of Denver, is situated against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Boulder is a cosmopolitan city of 100,000. The city offers a variety of cultural resources and supports several theater and dance companies and a symphony orchestra. A number of Boulder-based schools offer a range of specialized training in the health fields. These institutions provide variety in Boulder’s educational environment.


Naropa was founded in 1974 by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a lineage holder of the Kagyü and Nyingma Buddhist traditions. A scholar and artist as well as meditation master, Trungpa Rinpoche has become widely recognized as one of the foremost teachers of Buddhism in the West. With the founding of Naropa, he realized his vision of creating a university that would combine contemplative studies with traditional Western scholastic and artistic disciplines. Naropa University is inspired by Nalanda University. Established under the auspices of Mahayana Buddhism, Nalanda flourished in India from the fifth to the twelfth centuries. At Nalanda University, Buddhist philosophy and the discipline of meditation provided an environment in which scholars, artists, and healers from many Asian countries and religious traditions came to study and debate. Nalanda was known for its joining of intellect and intuition and of spiritual inquiry and intellectual rigor, and for the atmosphere of mutual appreciation and respect among different contemplative traditions.

The university takes its name from Naropa, the eleventh-century abbot of Nalanda University and a great Buddhist scholar, teacher, and practitioner. Naropa was renowned for bringing together scholarly wisdom and meditative insight.

Naropa Seal

The 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 spread of true 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 three “wisdoms” (appreciation, clear seeing, and openness). The wheel of dharma has another, secular significance: great monarchs could roll their chariot wheels over great distances, spreading teachings and understanding into the world. The connotation 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 personal agenda.