So, today, a comment was posted on this blog calling into question whether I was a student at Naropa or not… especially since I am the only author here (though I do post testimonies from others from time to time, as long as they are willing to let me do so). I don’t want to buy into the underlying fallacy that I cannot criticize Naropa because I was not a student (which I would probably retort with “I don’t need to have smoked crack to say that crack is whack”) but I was not only a student at Naropa, I was also a student employee at Naropa and a member of United Naropa, the student government, for the year that I was at Naropa. Here I am at the launch party of the Sycamore, which is a school newspaper that was launched by another member of United Naropa on the second of April 2010:
Here’s another photo of that party with a closer shot of me, this time, I’m on the left in the white hat (still):
And if none of that happened to convince you, perhaps this might:
Also, I still have a student e-mail address at Naropa (fancy that, eh?) and it is firstname.lastname@example.org. So, does anyone still think that I wasn’t a student at Naropa?
The abuse going on with Naropa University and, to a larger extent, Shambhala International is not well documented outside of some arcane references in the annals of Buddhist scholarship and the Beat Poetry traditions. Since Chogyam Trungpa and many of the luminaries that lent their names to Naropa, giving it undeserved credibility, have all but died off (there are a couple still alive) – there is little attention in the here and now about the ongoing abuse at Naropa University. This is the only place (that I know of) where the modern day abuses at Naropa University and Shambhala International is coming to light. I get e-mails regularly from people asking me for help or to share people’s stories. I always make sure that anonymity of those hurt by the abuse is protected unless I am given permission to publish the story and/or the name of the person who contacted me. I believe in exposing Naropa, and I believe Naropa’s fraud and abuse needs to stop, but I am committed to fighting that abuse in a civil manner.
On my twitter feed, I have a follower with someone who claims that they are the target of abuse at Sheridan College in Ontario, Canada. They maintain a website where they document the steps they took to resolve the abuse and what is going on. I do believe wholeheartedly that abusive behaviour in higher education needs to be stopped. Having said that, though, there are some points in her claims where I must question the validity of her assertion. She does not include screenshots of the offending posts on Sheridan College’s message boards and there are links on the bottom of her site are truly… troubling because they lead to sites with very homophobic, hateful and derogatory material. Additionally, some of the content on the anti-Sheridan blogspot website is repeated in the website with the hate speech, leading me to believe that the sites are owned by the same person. I highly doubt that their story is accurate given the derogatory things they publish against gay people and how they blame a Canadian judge for a disgusting act by her ex spouse (who posted naked pictures of her on the Internet) and try to make her seem like a bad person because of it. It is for these reasons why I refuse to link to her site, I feel as though the site is extremely derogatory in nature.
And now we come full-circle to the work I do here at Boulder Buddhist Scam. In the recent months, I have posted content based on e-mails I receive from my readers. I recognize that because of my commitment to presenting an accurate picture of what Naropa is, my site is often a place where people who need to share their experiences can come to. I also recognize that being the only person running a site dedicated to exposing the fraud and abuse of Naropa University opens me up to over-zealous alumni trying to vigorously defend Naropa and it’s programs. I believe in letting both sides have their say and accept feedback from Naropa supporters, as well as it’s detractors (though I don’t post positive Naropa stories simply because Naropa’s admissions office does a pretty good job of spamming those stories). But I have an obligation to those who share their stories with me to be completely ethical. If I am wrong about Naropa, it is my duty to issue a retraction and I do hope that I do my best to offer a fair and reasonable assessment of what Naropa is so that people can make up their own minds. I will not compromise that position by posting hate speech, lies or incorrect information (or sharing links to those who do). I will not succumb to petty attacks or cheap shots because those things get us nowhere.
I hold this standard because this website also gets attention from people applying for admission to Naropa, people we can save from the scam, and current students and staff that have serious concerns about the way Naropa University is run. I need to make sure that they get the information that they need so that they can make their own choice. Since the days I ran The Naropa Biz and up to today, I have always treated this duty with the utmost of respect.
People have opined that the reason I speak against Naropa has more to do with my pursuit of more… practical fields of study than what Naropa has to offer. While it is true that I am pursuing an Associates degree at the Art Institute of Colorado and I plan to pursue a computer science degree at Colorado School of Mines, the fact still remains that some people would see this as my sole reason for talking about Naropa University.
This is not the case. I have a great deal of love, respect and admiration for the vast majority of the liberal arts. I love Women’s Studies, Philosophy, Anthropology, Communication Studies and Sociology – to start with. I love Yoga, Tai Chi, Aikido and Ikebana. I love contemplative thinking (which explains why I am a member of a new age secret society) and I believe that the liberal arts adds of a lot of life and love to the heart of an engineering student.
What I do not like, or abide, is abuse of any kind. I couldn’t begin to tell you how my heart breaks when I receive an e-mail from someone telling me about their experiences and thanking me for having the courage to speak out. These kind of e-mails also help me to keep fighting the good fight against this so-called “University”.
In fact, I have every reason not to be doing this and it adversely affects my personal life. There are people who believe that I am in the wrong for speaking out against Naropa and I felt bad about exposing Naropa… which is hard when people e-mail you telling you their stories and reminding you of the reason why you started in the first place. I will make it clear now, I will continue to write and speak about Naropa until either they stop the abuse or they lose their licensure.
I recently learned that Naropa University is going to be holding an event on Friday called “The Art of Empathy” and the presenter is Karla McLaren. I don’t know if she knows abut Naropa or not, but here is the message I sent to her all the same:
My name is Jessica Sideways and I recently learned that you have been scheduled for an event at Naropa University on Friday, the 25th of October. I hope that you will reconsider and cancel your appearance at Naropa University because it’s leadership is not empathetic but sociopathic.
Recently, I was contacted by a woman whose child was a student at Naropa a few weeks ago. Her daughter was having seizures in class and the instructor gathered the class in a circle and held a discussion on how the other students were feeling about this, while this student was having the seizure! The instructor told her that he was at peace with the student having seizures. I posted the letter I received on my website, where I expose the fraud and abuses of Naropa University here:
I do hope that you will reconsider speaking at Naropa University. Most sincerely,
- JKS Weekly Soundcast #3! (jackkerouacschool.org)
- Mango Reintegration Project (johnnyxcicada.wordpress.com)
Anyone who knows me knows that I am writing a book about Naropa University and the fraud that it perpetuates. It will have all of the content that this website will have once it’s pages are finished, along with exclusive content that will help to provide perspective about Naropa University. The title is currently in the works but the fact of the matter is that Naropa University is a very difficult topic to research when it comes down to it. There are several reasons that contribute to the reason why Naropa University is an extremely difficult topic to research and here are a few of them:
- Chogyam Trungpa is Dead – The thing is that since Trungpa is dead, he isn’t doing any more shifty activities anymore. The shifty activities that go on in the Shambhala community are simply holdovers from the way Trungpa did business. The Shambhala trainings which should be free are still charged at an astronomical rate and Trungpa’s son, the Sakyong, changed the name of the organization to Shambhala so that it can be more immune to legal vulnerabilities due to the actions of Trungpa and Osel Tendzin.
- Unwillingness of People to Testify – Keep in mind that many people that have been wronged by Trungpa are somehow unwilling to share their stories about Naropa University. Many of these stories are passed around by oral transmission to many people and somehow, these stories make it to news outlets in some distorted manner.
- Inability to Find People to Testify – Those that have been willing to testify throughout history are scattered around and since they do not maintain a digital presence, it is very difficult to find them. Also, some of the people hurt by Naropa and the related entities are scattered across the world. Hell, last I checked, W.S. Merwin is in Hawaii and an aikido teacher that Naropa screwed over teaches in Japan.
- Extreme Obscurity of Topic – Naropa University, Vajradhatu/Shambhala Buddhism, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche and all of the fraud perpetuated by these entities are extremely difficult topics to research. Needless to say, much of the original materials are in private collections or scattered across the country.
- Sources Out of Print – Tom Clark, one of the writers that exposed a lot of the fraud concerning Naropa University, is unwilling to allow anyone to republish his works or even to sell or license the rights to do so. It means that when my book about Naropa University goes out of print, I will need to apply a copy-left license to the book so that the research and content in the book can be used by others. I want to make sure that when someone reads my book, they can still make derivative works and republish it when it goes out of print.
Either way, I intend to do some serious research trips to archive some of the original materials digitally. I would also like to make the research materials available but the fact of the matter is that there are rights issues that I might run up against when providing this content online. I think that people should really should read these sources and I do intend to provide as many sources of content from Naropa University’s history of fraud and abuse as humanly possible. If anyone has any ideas on how I can facilitate this, please let me know: keep in mind that this website is subject to the laws of the State of Colorado and Counties of Denver and Boulder.