Boulder-born Buddhist-inspired summer camp: Shambhala Sun Camp

Shambhala still sprouting young Buddhists through camp

By Tatyana Sharpton Jan 9 2021

One of area’s oldest Buddhist-inspired communities made specifically for kids ages 10 to 16, the Shambhala Sun Camp, has set the scene for many friendships and local Buddhist or Buddhist-inspired people still living in Boulder about a two-hours’ drive northwest of Boulder in Larimer County near Red Feather Lakes.

Held on the grounds of the 600-acre Shambhala Mountain Center, a meditation retreat center run by Shambhala, the international Buddhist organization founded in Boulder four decades ago, the weeklong camp aims to imbue the Buddhist principles of compassion and wisdom in campers with typical camp activities and sitting meditation. Like many summer camps, the experience is rustic; campers sleep in tents in an open field and have limited access to technology.

Begun in 1984 as part of Shambhala Mountain Center, the outdoor sleepaway summer camp has roots inspired by Trungpa Rinpoche’s Buddhist “military,” the Dorje Kasung, and the organization has integrated many of the forms of military life, such as uniforms, raising flags, hierarchy and discipline to cultivate internal harmony and fearless wakefulness.

Founded in Colorado, the camp has grown to include locations in Limousin, France as well a s Nova Scotia, Canada.

Sun Camp infuses its programs with daily meditations, hikes, and classic camp favorites like campfire songs, marshmallow roasting and a talent night. Image: Shambhala Sun Camp.

Camp life

Many of Boulder’s well-known personalities, like Elephant Journal’s Waylon Lewis and Shambhala Publications’ Sara Bercholz, grew up attending the camp, as well as other Boulderites like Dojo4’s Corey Kohn and Boxcar Coffee Roasters’ co-owner Cara Rich. In fact, much of the camp’s staff and senior leadership now comprises of graduates of the camp, such as Corey.

[Boulder’s Dharma Brats come of age]

Some of Shambhala Sun Camp’s older cadets. Image: Shambhala Sun Camp.

The camp’s three programs include the week-long Shambhala Sun Camp, a leadership-focused, three-day Cadet Command Workshop, an intensive training program for older children age 14 to 16 who have previously attended Sun Camp, and a program called Rites of Warriorship, which guides 16-year olds only into the next part of their lives as new adults. (The Shambhala tradition considers 16 the age at which childhood ends and adulthood begins.)

The camp does not push religion on campers; in programming, it simply encouraging compassion and wisdom from a young age.

Some of Shambhala Sun Camp’s children and its military-based uniforms. Image: Shambhala Sun Camp.

Header Image: Shambhala Sun Camp in Colorado. Image: Shambhala Sun Camp.