Naropa was founded in 1974 by a Tibetan lama, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a charismatic spiritual leader who also cut a rakish and unforgettable presence in Boulder. The reputation of Rinpoche was of a hard-partying man and a genius who was the first to adapt Buddhism to American tastes.
Rinpoche attracted a rebel generation to Naropa, including Howl poet Allen Ginsberg, who founded the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa, named after the famous "beat" writer.
At Naropa, a more measured Buddhist influence spread, too, with visits from ordinary teaching lamas to the Dalai Lama.
Chogyam Trungpa was rakish indeed, if Wikipedia's right...
An incident that became a cause célèbre among some poets and artists was the Halloween party at the Fall, 1975, Snowmass Colorado Seminary, a 3-month period of intensive meditation and study of the Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana vehicles of Tibetan Buddhism. The poet W. S. Merwin had arrived that summer at the Naropa Institute and been told by Allen Ginsberg that seminary was where it was really at. Although he had not gone through the several years worth of practice required, Merwin was insistent he attend, and Trungpa eventually granted his request - along with his girlfriend as well. At seminary the couple stayed to themselves. At the Halloween party, after many, including Trungpa himself, had taken off their clothes, Merwin was asked to join the event, but refused. On Trungpa's orders his Vajra Guard forced entry into the poet's locked and barricaded room; brought him and his girlfriend, Dana Naone, against their will, to the party; and eventually stripped them of all their clothes, onlookers ignoring Naone's pleas for help and for someone to call the police.
Also this week:
Albert Hofmann, the mystical Swiss chemist who gave the world LSD, the most powerful psychotropic substance known, died Tuesday at his hilltop home near Basel, Switzerland. He was 102...
He then took LSD hundreds of times, but regarded it as a powerful and potentially dangerous psychotropic drug that demanded respect. More important to him than the pleasures of the psychedelic experience was the drug’s value as a revelatory aid for contemplating and understanding what he saw as humanity’s oneness with nature. That perception, of union, which came to Dr. Hofmann as almost a religious epiphany while still a child, directed much of his personal and professional life.
Dr. Hofmann was born in Baden, a spa town in northern Switzerland, on Jan. 11, 1906, the eldest of four children. His father, who had no higher education, was a toolmaker in a local factory, and the family lived in a rented apartment. But Dr. Hofmann spent much of his childhood outdoors.
He would wander the hills above the town and play around the ruins of a Hapsburg castle, the Stein. “It was a real paradise up there,” he said in an interview in 2006. “We had no money, but I had a wonderful childhood.”
It was during one of his ambles that he had his epiphany.
“It happened on a May morning — I have forgotten the year — but I can still point to the exact spot where it occurred, on a forest path on Martinsberg above Baden,” he wrote in “LSD: My Problem Child.” “As I strolled through the freshly greened woods filled with bird song and lit up by the morning sun, all at once everything appeared in an uncommonly clear light.
Who was a spiritual adpept? Who was the imposter? Both? Either? Neither?
My 2 cents: It's irrelevant. The whole damn question. And luckily there are other choices...and they don't involve brain-checking at the door or signing properties over to somebody who's really "just some guy."