The Shambhala Mountain Center was founded by Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche in 1971 at Red Feather Lakes, Colorado. Trungpa arrived in Boulder, Colorado in 1970 with a number of students from Tail of the Tiger in Barnet, Vermont, now known as Karmê Chöling. Immedediately students appeared from the neighboring towns and came from all parts of the country to become part of the Karma Dzong Meditation Center in Boulder. Among these were the members of a commune called the Pigmy Farm, located on the eastern edge of the city.
The first Tibetan Buddhist lama to have American students was Geshe Ngawang Wangyal, a Kalmyk-Mongolian of the Gelug lineage, who came to the United States in 1955 and founded the "Lamaist Buddhist Monastery of America" in New Jersey in 1958.
Among his students were the future western scholars Robert Thurman, Jeffrey Hopkins, Alexander Berzin and Anne C. Klein.
Other early arrivals included Dezhung Rinpoche, a Sakya lama who settled in Seattle, in 1960, and Tarthang .