Talk:Naropa University

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This reads like an advertisement for this university. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Spikehay (talkcontribs) 02:51, 24 February 2007 (UTC).

I agree. This page seems to abandon any sense of neutrality, and completely omits any mention of the various scandals that have plagued Naropa's history (Trungpa's well-known history of alcoholism, sexual liasons between administrators and students, etc.). I have a fondness for Naropa myself (as an alumni), but in the interest of providing a neutral POV, I think these things should at least be mentioned. When I Was Cool by Sam Kashner might be a place to start looking for references for anyone interested in tackling this. 05:36, 27 February 2007 (UTC)

I agree that there is a lot of info on the school itself, but "scandals" need evidence. There needs to be proof to statements made and I think you'll find that the above statement does not come from a "neutral POV" as the author is an alumni. Additionally, the cited Kashner piece contains no evidence of any of the mentioned "scandals."

I will start a "Criticism and Controversy" section. As the previous, unsigned, comment indicates, material in this section is likely to be challenged and will need to be carefully written and sourced. Bertport 11:01, 23 June 2007 (UTC)

Obviously this is a challenge for wikipedia because Naropa cannot be denied in that it is signficant and unique university and, yet, its very nature contrasts ultra rationality and factuality of the kind that wikipedia prides itself. Naropa is the object and the subject and that is always a tight squeeze for wikipedia. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:51, 8 January 2008 (UTC)

"Like the Dalai Lama and other exiled teachers, he continued to teach and transmit the wisdom of the Buddhist dharma." - The wisdom of the Buddhist dharma? Unless that can be restructured as something like, "Trungpa states his goal is to..." then that should definitely be struck for its non-neutral tone. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:33, 9 January 2008 (UTC)

OK, I took the time to remove any language that was clearly POV and advertising the school, yet leave factual information about degree program details or unique features of the school. There is probably more refinement to be done, but I think I got most of the problematic non-neutral and advert issues out of the article: at the expense of a lot of detail about the programs. I hope someone will someday add additional detail about unique features of Naropa, but I think this is a much better place to evolve the article from. I suggest that we now remove the advert and non-neutral banners, unless anyone has any objects. Please add them here. I'll remove the banners in a week if consensus agrees. Please also comment on any of my edits here, I'll watch this page for discussion and suggestions. - Owlmonkey (talk) 07:36, 14 January 2008 (UTC)


Any news on the size of the school's endowment? I'm sure it must have some generous alumni.

Only $2.9 million, as per yahoo[1] - Owlmonkey (talk) 05:21, 14 January 2008 (UTC)

Peter Marin Citation and Quote[edit]

First off, this change by PastorJennifer (talk · contribs) is copied as is from an amazon review by Dean Farwood and is a copyright violation. Deleting it. But more generally, Peter Marin worked for a few weeks at Naropa, and wrote that scathing critique in Harpers in 1979. But he's not a neutral commenter. Naropa is a religious university and the rest of the quote - which was omitted - follows:

The history of America has in fact had little to do with reason, consisting instead of wave upon wave of zealotry and ideology, and religious excess, generations of superstition and foolish beliefs, and a yearning for salvation and the ceaseless abdication of the stoic virtues necessary to democratic life: independent thought; the acceptance of human weakness; humility in the face of complex truths; the refusal to abjure either choice or responsibility; and the willingness to choose conscience and uncertainty rather than submission and safety.

His 1979 article in Harpers (included in his 1995 collection of essays) has some factual information that is citable, but his quotation is POV. - Owlmonkey (talk) 05:21, 14 January 2008 (UTC)

I also removed the earlier quote by Marin as non-neutral, but added more details about the controversial incident with an additional citation, though it has plenty already and the Sanders citation is probably the only one necessary. The rest cite that one. - Owlmonkey (talk) 06:01, 14 January 2008 (UTC)


I have been looking over the official site, and I find that much text here was originally plagiarised from that site. So perhaps my major cuts can be forgiven. (Also, there were some inaccuracies in the list of degrees.)--Dawud

Warning: pro-Naropa whitewashing[edit]

This page apparently has a tendency to attract edits from Naropa partisans (whether volunteers or employees I can't say) which replace factual, neutral language with descriptions taken from their marketing department. Perhaps some sort of administrative intervention is in order...?

A word to the wise, Naropa people: propaganda that looks like propaganda, is bad propaganda. --Dawud —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:49, 6 July 2008 (UTC)

By "Naropa people" I assume you're referring to "Naropa partisans". I don't think all Naropa people are trying to white wash this article. But copyvio and POV editing is annoying. In my experience, school articles generally tend to attract negative vandalism more often. It is perhaps a positive note that this one is attracting more positivity issues than negativity issues. Nonetheless, I share your frustration generally with un-encyclopedic editing. - Owlmonkey (talk) 19:44, 6 July 2008 (UTC)

Response to “pro-Naropa whitewashing”[edit]

While no one is denying that Trungpa’s life contained controversy, these events occurred over two decades ago and are already (and more appropriately) mentioned at length on his own bio page (a link to which is provided). If you still feel strongly about mentioning such events on the Naropa page, please leave the other content alone as it provides more accurate information about the institution than was previously listed (degree programs, for example, which were incorrect).

The anonymous editor who posted the above note clearly does not understand Wikipedia policies and is in no position to say who is "qualified" to edit the article or what constitutes a keep-worthy edit. This person should slow down and learn more about how Wikipedia works before aggressively entering into edit wars. Bertport (talk) 18:02, 7 July 2008 (UTC)
What's more, deleting the comments others have left on the talk page is, to say the least, bad form. Bertport (talk) 20:53, 7 July 2008 (UTC)

Moving forward[edit]

OK, moving forward, what specific changes are still good to make? There are some things pointed out in the recent back and forth worth making, and I haven't looked at the article for a few months, here are some nits I have now:

  • Correcting errors in the degree list, the April edits introduced some errors
  • In the History Section
    • Trungpa Rinpoche is not a Kagyu teacher with Nyingma ties, he's equally Kagyu and Nyingma as per the Surmang tradition
    • Shambhala Training is just one facet of the dharma centers, probably need to cf. Shambhala International instead
    • The Merton incident looks out of place to me in the middle of the history section, highlighted too much. If consensus is really to include it - i would omit it altogether, it's already included in trungpa's article - at best it would be in a separate section and more about the class that investigated it and not as much the incident details.
    • The "party school" comment would need a good citation, does the school appear on someone's list of top party schools or something?
    • Same with "encouragement of free sexual relations" and "alcohol consumption", I've never seen a citation that he advocated such things.
    • Are there citations for what Naropa was like in the 1980's and what they had to "confront" during that time period?
  • Contemplative Education
    • The comment that what is taught is "alternative rather than mainstream" may be correct but it is an opinion. Do we have an attribution for that or a citation?

Any thoughts on these specific points? In looking through the history, I think all of these issues I have were introduced by user Dawud between April 15th and April 19th, so I'm interesting in his feedback on these in particular. This is the version before those changes: [2] - Owlmonkey (talk) 22:39, 7 July 2008 (UTC)

    • Okay, my vote then, for the time being, is to revert to the pre-Dawud alterations, which were quite massive and, in my opinion, decreased the quality of the page considerably. After looking at the pre-April version you linked to, I recognize it as more accurate (though the MDiv degree is still listed under the MA degrees instead of as its own degree) and a great deal more complete. Rather than considering Dawud's version (which, to me, appears to have an ax to grind) the default until the page can be filled out and improved, why not use this version as the default? Toward the end, it still includes mention of the controversy.

If proof is needed of the actual degree programs, nobody knows better what Naropa offers than Naropa itself: (talk) 20:16, 8 July 2008 (UTC)

I think the pre-Dawud revision identified by Owlmonkey above is a good baseline to revert to. I think the brief mention of the Merwin incident is reasonable to include in the article. Notice that most of the cited sources are primarily about Naropa, and those sources thought the incident was pertinent. The board of Naropa and the board of Vajradhatu were mostly the same people. Bertport (talk) 08:32, 10 July 2008 (UTC)
A revert to there sounds good. And it sounds like a revert to that point has consensus - with any needed degree fixes. - Owlmonkey (talk) 16:38, 11 July 2008 (UTC)
We recently had another rash of massive, POV, and unexplained Dawud edits, with effects similar to the last time. I have reverted. Bertport (talk) 05:03, 2 November 2008 (UTC)
And I intend to continue to revert them right back. What part of this needs explaining--the fact that I have cleaned up the ungodly mess that was your article structure (hint: single sentences don't need subheadings)? Or the addition of citations from Robert Goss's scholarly article discussing Naropa's religious stance and relations with Vajradhatu? --Dawud —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:15, 2 November 2008 (UTC)
Dawud, the discussion above should make it clear to you that you need to explain your intentions and discuss with other editors before launching on another massive editing spree. Other editors had a discussion about your previous edits and agreed to revert them. So, then you just come back and crank up a new round without talking to anyone? That ain't playing ball. Bertport (talk) 15:39, 2 November 2008 (UTC)
As far as I can see, it's just you and Owlmonkey. And whatever your motives, the results were an article which veers uncomfortably close to an ad for Naropa.
So, changes:
(1) You neglected to explain the name of the school. This strikes me as an obvious piece of information people will want.
(2) I moved "nonprofit" to the info box, on the grounds that most people will assume colleges to be nonprofits unless told otherwise. (I also think that readers will figure out that Colorado is in the USA.)
(3)The nature of Naropa's religious origins, and current ideology, was handled inadequately. You simply repeated their favored buzzwords ("Buddhist inspired", "non-sectarian")without indicating what these actually mean in the Naropa context.
(4) Added a line about the Jack Kerouac school to the beginning, since this is important in its own right.
(5) Some slight detail added to accreditation.
(6) Eliminated biographical information about Trungpa's childhood etc., since that is a subject properly left to his own article.
(7) The sources I have seen (including Goss) refer to Trungpa simply as a Kargyudpa teacher, and ignore whatever Nyingma ties he may have. I take your word for it that he has these, but they seem to be far less significant.
(8) I threw all the historical information in one section, and attempted to put it in chronological order. Before, you had the psychology and poetry programs in separate (but small) sections. Also, "criticism" had been relegated to a separate section at the end, which I believe is frowned upon.
(9) Added quotes from Goss about Naropa's early ties with Vajradhatu, and later independence therefrom, as well as its quest for accreditation.
(10) Added information about current presidents.
(11) Added bare bones of a reference to the AIDS / alcoholism scandal, with the intention of looking up published references.
(12) Oh yeah, a quote from Bhagavan Das about Naropa being a party school. You'll note that I exercised great restraint in not continuing the quote, which details sexual escapades.
(13) Goss quotes discussing the meaning of "nonsectarian" as used by Naropa. (Since he cites several of Naropa's own professors, I don't see how this could possibly be objectionable.)
(14) Quotes from Naropa's website on "Contemplative education," illustrating that Buddhist language is used to describe this.
(15) Got rid of separate section for Community Practice Day, which is only a paragraph long (and doesn't need to be any more than that).
(16) For the academic programs, I got rid of all the separate sections--which had the effect of making the table of contents almost as long as the article!--and also eliminated the part about minors, which I felt to be non-noteworthy. (People can always consult Naropa's catalogue for the fine print.)
(17) I proposed that another page, Contemplative education, be merged with this one on the grounds that that other article seems mainly to be about persons affiliated with Naropa, and contains little new material. The editors there are presently contemplating what scope they envision for the article. On the other hand, I see that a new article exists for the Jack Kerouac school, which I think is reasonable.
As a future goal, I suggest a list of noteworthy Naropa faculty, along with the dates and nature of their affiliation.
You may wish to have a look at CIIS for comparison's sake. --Dawud
Current (latest) edits are generally fine. The first thing I saw in the series of edits you'd made in the last couple of days was that you had removed the content about the Merwin incident. The next thing I noted was that you were the same one who had made substantial edits (which had to be reverted) without explanation (most editors who've been around a while, use the edit summary - it saves everyone a lot of work) some time back. This time, the Merwin incident is intact, which is good. I don't care if it's in a separate section or not, but it must be included in the article. Other than that, you've brought in a couple minor errors, which I'll correct. Bertport (talk) 14:09, 3 November 2008 (UTC)

Dec 2008[edit]

Egad, I still have to wonder about Dawud's motives. The language was obviously hostile and implying that Naropa lies about its non-sectarian status. (Indicating that "contemplative education" is simply code for "Buddhist indoctrination" being a prime example.) Is the term "Buddhist-inspired" really that difficult to comprehend? Essentially, the school appreciates the psychological and ethical benefits of meditative practices but in no way proseletyzes or promotes the supernatural. It is evident from both the original revisions and the current ones that Dawud dislikes Trungpa. Great; but leave the university out of it. Trungpa is dead and gone.

I believe my edits have restored a more neutral tone. My apologies if I accidently deleted the Merwin incident. I am not against it being mentioned. And, on a positive note, the re-structuring of the degree programs looks good and, mostly, accurate. (talk) 16:58, 1 December 2008 (UTC)

My apologies if I accidentally undid some reasonable edits in order to restore the valid, relevant, and sourced information that you removed in your series of edits. Bertport (talk) 03:59, 2 December 2008 (UTC)

So you consider it valid and relevant to have Naropa linked to a suicidal massacre by a cult (Jonestown) in Guyana? I don't think you can justify that. And if you think any of my edits were unreasonable, by all means specify which ones. My edits weren't NEARLY as heavy handed as Dawud's complete reworking of a page that we ALREADY considered a compromise (as illustrated above) so why are you, again, letting him dictate its content? Isn't a continual back and forth with the hopeful arrival at a semi-objective middle ground the whole premise of Wikipedia? The page, as it stood before Dawud's most recent onslaught, was one such middle ground. All you have now is one single individual's biased account. For example, Dawud presumes to know that when using the word "non-sectarian," Naropa really means "ecumenical." Is that so? Since Naropa considers "ecumenical" to be a word used almost exclusively by Christian denominations, it avoids such terminology due to its interaction with ALL world religions. Another example: Naropa no longer offers a degree in Lecoq-based acting (first paragraph, But, since Dawud's text states that it does, I suppose you will continue calling this "valid" information without doing your own research, right? I am curious how other universities defend against misrepresentation by disgruntled students or ex-employees. Do they produce an official document for Wikipedia so that it will be "sourced" by an "authority"? Nobody can stop someone from debating a school (or it's founder's) history, but when it comes to policies and definitions of its offerings, nobody knows more about those things than the staff and faculty themselves. I don't know who Dawud is, but he certainly has no business telling Naropa what it means when it says "contemplative education" and such. Only Naropa knows what it is thinking and, unless he is their official spokesperson, he oversteps. (talk) 22:37, 2 December 2008 (UTC)

Look, above you said, "sorry if I accidentally deleted the Merwin material", which was tantamount to, "I can't be bothered to edit carefully." Why should anyone else have to clean up your careless work? It's easier to just revert it. If you want to make constructive contributions to this article, then move more slowly, take little bits at a time, and put relevant summaries on each edit, explaining the rationale for each decision. Bertport (talk) 03:48, 3 December 2008 (UTC)
As I recall the Merwin details were significantly toned down, from being overweighted, some time ago. And that after some discussion. Looks like they were added back by Dawud (using an IP edit from Taiwan) again on November 2nd. I think we should return to the weight from before then, which is to say they should be just a side mention here. - Owlmonkey (talk) 05:47, 3 December 2008 (UTC)
Just to be more clear, after ruminating this summer it seemed we settled on a mention of merwin and controversy as a final paragraph, below the substantial elements about the university today and what the university offers. The history section now reads like people magazine. Is that really appropriate, even if sourced? That reads like axe grinding to me. - Owlmonkey (talk) 05:55, 3 December 2008 (UTC)
I was satisfied with that level of detail, too, though I don't have a problem with most of the current content. The Jonestown massacre was indeed part of the context, and part of the public conversation about the Merwin incident at the time, so I don't think it's wrong to mention that, but it isn't necessary either, for an article of this length. Some of Dawud's prose in "Spiritual Principles" is argumentative. I agree with that the article cannot assume that by "non-sectarian", Naropa means for people to think "ecumenical" or that Naropa is trying to conceal something. However, it seems useful to point out the distinction between "non-sectarian" and "ecumenical", because people who aren't well versed in Tibetan Buddhism will be likely to assume they are synonyms. What I do have a problem with, is the style of the recent series of edits by, which has the problems I described above, and the attitude that someone else can be tas janitor. Bertport (talk) 14:34, 3 December 2008 (UTC)

It does seem customary to start articles about universities, after the lead, with a history section. And most of that section is about how the organization was formed, sought accreditation, who lead it, etc. The Merton incident we've discussed before. But the Jonestown comparison is not something that Tom Clark specifically brings up in his publication, which was twelve months after Jonestown, right? The comparison to Jim Jones was however raised by Eliot Weinberger [3] specifically when reviewing Clark's publication, but he seems to be making a different point. Not that Trungpa or Vajradhatu was dangerous because he, like Jones, would lead people as a brainwashing guru demanding "revolutionary suicide", but more because Trungpa was leading a pantheon of the world's best poets and intellectuals and was infusing a kind of fascism into literature in Weinberger's mind. He seems to me to characterize that as more dangerous. He takes the Jones comparison in a different direction, that Trungpa represents a new fascism instead of true rebellion, more compared to Mussolini's Italy, and therein was the problem. Anyway, I don't doubt that Jonestown increased the sensitivity in the west to new religious movements. But that Jonestown impacted the reception of Clark's work about Trungpa pre-supposes that the controversy was perceived then more in reference to a mind control cult than to Trungpa's impact on literary movements, and even Weinberger's comparison to Jones seems to say that the controversy was more interesting for its implications to the direction in the literary world then. I tend to agree with Weinberger that treating Tibetan Buddhist ideas as some kind of "secret" that one has to be part of an "in crowd" to have access to, thereby creating a form of elitism, fascist or otherwise, is problematic and I'd go further to say that it is not really the point at all. Though that might have been and may still be a problem, that is maybe a run-of-the-mill human problem as far as I can tell, and just egoic us-versus-them drama playing out again and again. It's spiritual materialism as Trungpa would characterize it, not particular to cults or charismatic leaders. And to that point I agree with Weinberger and I think Trungpa would as well, independent of the appearance of all kinds of structure and weird hierarchy in Vajradhatu (or in Tibet for that matter).

Then to the other additions: did Ösel Tendzin really cause noteworthy negative publicity for Naropa, to the extent that it deserves a mention in the history of the organization? could be, but is that backed up somehow? And was Trungpa's relationship really questioned with regard to Naropa and if so when and in what context? Naropa is certainly tied intimately with the evolution of the Vajradhatu organization but it changes over time. Maybe we could create a section specifically about the evolving relationship over time between the organizations. The new book "Warrior-King of Shambhala" by Jeremy Hayward describes much of the early history as a first hand account.

So then what of the Bhagavan Das characterization? It's hyperbole for sure. But was Naropa really a party school in the 1970's? How then to really relate to the "party school" characterization in a neutral way? For comparison, the University of Florida is ranked as the #1 party school by The Princeton Review. That seems like a credible measure. But the same publication doesn't even include Naropa in its party school rankings. So maybe it's just fallen from the ranks? OK, I'm being facetious, but my point is that we shouldn't make the blanket accusation as an implication, unless it's backed up generally. For example, I can easily find people describing neighboring CU as a "party school" (eg. "Boulder Rattled by Charges Against Football Team" in NY Times 20 Feb 2004), but nothing of the sort for Naropa. Any second sources for Naropa, that support or discredit the claim that it was a non-stop party there in the 70's? It sounds dubious to me, or more just Das' experience. Hayward talks about Naropa a lot in his new book, because he was a director there, but perhaps he wouldn't make the characterization for that reason. Any other related sources that anyone has seen?

How about this to start, we move the single, interesting Merwin incident back to where it was — at the end. We start a new section about Naropa and Vajradhatu over time, using Hayward, and flip the Jonestown comparison to be about how Weinberger specifically thought unlike Jim Jones the influence of Trungpa via Ginsberg on the poetry and literature circles was creating a kind of elitism counter to his view of poetry holding a revolutionary role, the Merwin incident being a demonstration of that. I'm not sure what to do with the Das comment though, or where something like that fits in, without some discussion of the seriousness of academics at the university or it's evolution to accreditation or something else in contrast to a party mentality. But as a single point it seems quite odd to me, even without really knowing what it was like there in the 70's (or now). - Owlmonkey (talk) 23:09, 3 December 2008 (UTC)

I don't have a strong opinion about your suggested restructuring. The narrative flow in the current version looks good to me, but if you want to change it, go ahead. I'd say Bhagavan Das can be removed from the article. As for Osel Tendzin, did he have any formal role in Naropa? If not, maybe he should be removed from the article, too. I would bet he probably had personal authority over the board, and thus over the school, just because he inherited Trungpa's role in general, but my personal impression is no basis for including it, without some more substantial, verifiable link. A short bit on Weinberger's article would be good. Bertport (talk) 15:15, 4 December 2008 (UTC)
Thanks much. Dawud? It's mostly your additions that I'm talking about, any comments? - Owlmonkey (talk) 19:55, 4 December 2008 (UTC)
I don't have a problem with the recent edits either, except perhaps for style. Additional sources and notes would be enthusiastically welcomed.
On Naropa's Buddhist identity, perhaps we could agree to simply rely on the article quotes which I included, since these are neutral yet substantial. I do feel that Naropa's literature tends to be misleading (since "non-sectarian" does not mean to them what most readers might assume) but regard this as only a venial sin, not a mortal sin. In terms of mortal sins, I wish someone could dig up academic rankings for them. By the Jim Jones reference, I only meant that after the massacre, small / unusual religious groups everywhere got looked at with some suspicion. Dawud (talk) 00:32, 30 December 2008 (UTC)
Hello? Anyone else? Lots of opportunity to discuss this... - Owlmonkey (talk) 20:03, 9 December 2008 (UTC)

Heavy-Handed Editing[edit]

Want to point out, for future reference, that user DAWUD has a history of drastically altering pages on various religions with little regard for any content but his own. Note the sections on his Talk page [4] titled "Criticisms" (regarding Bahai,) "Jesus," "Taoism," "nomination of Godic religion" (perhaps a religion of his own creation,) and "Bohammed" (a swipe at Islam?) This is not an honorable legacy ... and one the senior editors of this page should keep in mind when he takes similar actions here. (talk) 21:52, 10 December 2008 (UTC)

I added "Bohamed" after it appeared in a gossip column (criticizing Barack Obama, not the Prophet Muhammad). I have no objection to its removal as non-notable. My additions to "Taoism" (largely of a historical nature) seem to have been well-received. "Jesus" has a major problem in that all kinds of people with an opinion about Jesus are engaged in actively editing it, while "Baha'i" is dominated by members of that sect who resist mention of anything that would make them look bad. Anyway, I don't have time to get involved with these.
You are right in suspecting something fishy about "Godic religion." It actually started with "Taoic religion" (an unheard-of name for East Asian religions, on analogy with "Dharmic" and "Abrahamic" religions), which I put up to see how long it would last. To my surprise, it attracted enthusiastic edits and lasted maybe a year, I think. So I added "Godic religion" and if I got away with that (I didn't), we might have also seen an "Afro-Voodic" category. Anyway, I won't be doing this anymore, and assure you that my edits to this page have been in good faith. Dawud (talk) 00:23, 30 December 2008 (UTC)


The controversies section describe activities sponsored by Vajradatu and took place off campus, not sponsored by Naropa University. Vajradatu had separated from Naropa University. Cite this in an article about Trungpa or Vajradatu, but not here. This would be a good spot for controversy on campus, but not 100 miles away. Donalds (talk)! —Preceding undated comment added 07:39, 1 April 2010 (UTC).

The Merwin incident was closely bound up in the fate and reputation of Naropa even though, as you say, it took place elsewhere and the seminary was not officially a Naropa activity. Naropa faculty, particularly Ginsberg, scrambled to do damage control because a large grant for the poetics group was thought to be at risk. In the public eye and in the reporting on the event, Naropa was considered to be intimately invested, as in fact, the leadership of Naropa was. The best document for closest-to-fact information on it continues to be the book produced by Sanders' class at Naropa. Even Weinberger's article on it is titled "The News from Naropa". There can be no question that this incident is significant in Naropa's history. Bertport (talk) 13:14, 1 April 2010 (UTC)
Also, there was a poetry group from Naropa that reported on the incident and gathered interviews from people about the incident. This was published in a former magazine in Boulder (Boulder Monthly) and the full version is available at the Norlin Library at the Art Institute of Colorado. JessicaSideways (talk) 19:47, 1 December 2013 (UTC)