Naropa Magazine Spring 2013
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President Lief's Inauguration Calligraphy

President Charles G. Lief executes the ceremonial stroke of Ashe, drawing down the blessings of Naropa's lineage. 

From The President

Diving into the Naropa Cauldron

The year 2014 will mark the close of four decades of the five-hundred-year project that was envisioned by our founder, the Venerable Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. The great opportunity of looking at our forty-year history is the chance to take a breath and reflect on what has worked well and where we can grow as a university.

You might think that mindfully taking breaths and reflecting is second nature to Naropa—doesn't it underlie all that we do? But the fact is, as an institution, we are just the manifestation of the totality of the discursive minds of our students, faculty, and staff—of the past, the present, and the future. We can't be separate from that. But we are also the expression of wisdom and insight of that same community, and that is our power and our mission. Naropa has made a great difference in the lives of thousands who have encountered the university—those who have studied here and those who have graduated and are making a remarkable difference in the world.

We have to speak honestly and from personal experience about how diving into the Naropa cauldron can be a transformative experience, one by which our students who are engaged in a journey of contemplative education can emerge as fuller human beings more deeply connected to one another and to the greater world. More importantly, feeling the responsibility to act as compassionate, wise, and generally helpful people, and doing so while on their lifelong personal journey.

We have to be able to convincingly demonstrate Naropa's commitment to offering opportunity to a diverse cross section of students, faculty, and staff, allowing our community to reflect the real world. We must be a place that invests time and resources to become free from bias and also to make sure that we act clearly and reflect honestly when we slip, as will no doubt happen. We also need to walk our talk as a university committed to sustainability. We should celebrate that we are in the top tier of schools that engage in good environmental practices, but we also have to go far beyond that to become an institution where sustainability is a spiritual value that underpins all that we do.

It's also time again to look at our founding heritage. There is one thing that is crystal clear to me; it's a fact of Naropa's life: Naropa University was founded by Trungpa Rinpoche, the Buddhist teacher most responsible for bringing the Buddhist Dharma to the West. More than that, he bridged the traditional Buddhist teachings and practices of Asia to our very different Western culture and society. And he did that magically and majestically with an extraordinary understanding of the Western mind. Naropa was Trungpa Rinpoche's university in 1974, but then he very clearly, powerfully, and confidently gave it away in 1985 to an independent board of trustees, ably led by our Chair Emeritus Lucien Wulsin, knowing that the world needed Naropa and needed it to be free from any conventional or simplistic concept of what our university is or what it could become.

Trungpa Rinpoche acted with a certainty that the seed that was planted was genuine; that the future, while unpredictable, would emerge from a solid foundation; and that our connection with the founding lineage would stay strong. Naropa's lineage is in our institutional DNA. That connection is real and deep and, at the same time, our future is open, unconventional, and unpredictable. We remain committed to training gentle and wise warriors who will transform our world.

Lief signature

Charles G. Lief