Naropa University: Integrating Buddhism in Modern Education


Naropa University, founded in 1974, is the first accredited Buddhist-inspired university in the United States. Located in Boulder, Colorado, Naropa offers a unique educational experience that combines contemplative practices with traditional Western academics.


  • Unique educational philosophy centered around contemplative education
  • A diverse range of programs emphasizing personal and social transformation
  • Strong community engagement and sustainability initiatives

The Founding and Philosophy of Naropa University

Naropa University was founded by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher who sought to integrate Eastern and Western educational traditions. The university is named after the 11th-century Buddhist scholar and abbot of Nalanda University in India, who was known for combining scholarly wisdom and meditative insight.

Contemplative studies, a cornerstone of Naropa’s philosophy, combines classroom learning, experiential learning, and meditation to foster a transformative learning experience. This approach aims to develop students’ self-awareness, compassion, and critical thinking skills.

Academic Programs and Departments

Naropa University offers a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs in areas such as psychology, environmental studies, peace studies, religious studies, and the arts. The university is known for its unique and interdisciplinary programs, such as the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, founded by poets Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman. Students can also earn a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling with a concentration in Buddhism Informed Contemplative Counseling.

Experiential learning is a crucial component of Naropa’s curriculum. Students engage in internships, fieldwork, and community projects to apply their knowledge in real-world settings.

Campus Life and Student Experience

Naropa University has three separate campuses in Boulder, each easily accessible through the university’s bus route. The campuses offer a range of facilities and resources to support student learning and well-being.

Students can participate in various organizations and extracurricular activities, such as student government, clubs, and community service projects. The university also provides support services for success in their pursuit of higher education and personal growth, including counseling, tutoring, and career development.

Community Engagement and Sustainability

Naropa University is committed to environmental stewardship and sustainability. To promote sustainable practices and social justice, the university partners with local organizations and community projects.

Initiatives for a sustainable campus and curriculum include green building practices, renewable energy use, and the integration of environmental studies across disciplines.


What is contemplative education, and how is it integrated at Naropa University?

Contemplative education combines traditional academic learning with Buddhist teachings, such as meditation, compassion practice, and self-reflection, to foster a holistic and transformative learning experience. At Naropa, contemplative practices are integrated into the curriculum across all disciplines.

Can you describe some of the unique programs offered at Naropa University?

Naropa offers several unique programs, such as the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, which focuses on experimental poetry and writing, and the BA in Yoga Studies, which aligns academic study with yoga practice. It is also the only Buddhist-inspired institution to offer a Master’s Degree in Buddhist Psychology and a concentration in Contemplative Counseling (formerly called Contemplative Psychotherapy and Buddhist Psychology). Other concentrations include Mindfulness-Based Transpersonal Counseling and Nature-Based Transpersonal Counseling.

What kind of community engagement initiatives does Naropa University participate in?

Naropa partners with local organizations and community projects to promote sustainability, social justice, and community well-being. Students have opportunities to engage in community service and fieldwork as part of their academic programs.

How does Naropa University support student well-being and success?

Naropa provides a range of support services for students, including counseling, tutoring, and career development. The university also emphasizes the integration of contemplative practices to support students’ personal growth and well-being while pursuing higher education.

What are the career prospects for graduates of Naropa University?

Naropa University graduates pursue careers in various fields, such as psychology, education, environmental studies, and the arts. The university’s career services and resources support students and alumni in their professional development and job search. Many graduates use the Buddhist teachings they have learned, such as compassion practice and meditation practice, in professions relating to social work or mental health.


About the author

James Ranson

I’m an editor, traveler, and fan of the great outdoors. I’ve been to all 48 continental US states, and my drives through Colorado’s rugged peaks and snowy forests (not to mention whiskey tastings in Denver!) still stand out in my memories. I’m excited to use my ten years of editing experience to develop engaging and informative guides and articles that enhance the outdoor experiences of both Colorado residents and visitors. Whether a piece is about exploring the best ski resorts, uncovering scenic trails for hiking, or finding the most inspiring drives through the Colorado Rockies, my aim is to provide comprehensive and accessible content that encourages adventure and exploration.