Chögyal Namkhai Norbu

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, Master who revealed Dzogchen to the Western world, is one of the foremost expoents of the precious Dzogchen teachings in our globe.

The life and example of the teacher Namkhai Norbu are a source of great inspiration for those who have the opportunity to know him and to listen to his teachings.

He is an extraordinary human being, a great teacher, and an eminent scholar of Tibetan culture and history. Chögyal Namkhai Norbu is rightly numbered amongst the greatest living masters. Nevertheless, he loves saying of himself: ‘I am a simple person.’

The message delivered by the Master for fifty years is that it is possible to live harmoniously, even in the midst of chaotic, modern daily life and lead a lifestyle that is relaxed, collaborative and peaceful.

Born and raised in Tibet, Chogyal Namkhai Norbu was invited to Italy in the 1960’s where he worked on a research project and subsequently held an academic post, teaching Tibetan Language and Literature at the Istituto Universitario Orientale in Naples. 

Following his academic activities at University, Chogyal Namkhai Norbu was contacted by a variety of people; students, intellectuals and professionals, not only Italian but also from different Western countries, interested to know about the Dzogchen Teaching.

Chogyal Namkhai Norbu honoured this request for the Teaching in the 1970’s, holding the first courses and lectures on Dzogchen meditation, and the traditional Tibetan discipline of Yantra Yoga.

The figure and the teaching of Chogyal Namkhai Norbu inspired the formation of the International Dzogchen Community.

(Detailed biography: here)

Rinpoche was born in Derge, in the eastern part of Tibet, in 1938. When he was two years old, he was recognized as the reincarnation of Adzom Drugpa (1842-1924), one of the great Dzogchen Masters of the early 20th century. Adzom Drugpa was a disciple of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo (1820-92) and Patrul Rinpoche (1808-81), and also an important terton.

At the age of eight, Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche was also recognised by the Sixteenth Karmapa (1924-1981) and the eleventh Palpung Situ Rinpoche (1886-1952) as the mind-incarnation of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (1594-1651), the first Dharmaraja of Bhutan — himself the reincarnation of the great Drugpa Kagyüd master Pema Karpo (1527-92). The title ’Chögyal’, meaning Dharma King, is given with this recognition.

While still a teenager, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche completed a rigorous program of traditional studies in both Sutra and Tantra, while also receiving teachings from some of the greatest masters of his time.

From 8 to 12 years old, he attended the Sakya college at Derge Gönchen Monastery. During this time he also studied with Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö, at Dzongsar. In 1951, Rinpoche received the initiations of Vajrayogini according to the Sakya lineages of Ngorpa and Tsarpa. He was also advised by his tutor to seek initiation from a remarkable woman teacher, Ayu Khandro Dorje Paldrön (1838-1953), who was considered a living embodiment of Vajrayogini herself. Ayu Khandro was 113 years old at this time and had been in dark retreat for about 56 years. She was an elder contemporary of Adzom Drugpa, as well as a direct disciple of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and the famous Nyala Padma Düdul (1816-61), who attained the Rainbow Body. Chögyal Namkhai Norbu received several transmissions from her, including those that he had initially requested, as well as the Longchen Nyingthig, and her own mind-treasures.

In 1954, as a representative of Tibetan Youth, Rinpoche was invited to visit the People’s Republic of China. Subsequently, in 1954 he was appointed as an instructor in Tibetan language at the South-Western University of Minor Nationalities at Chengdu, Sichuan, China. It was during this time that he acquired proficiency in the Chinese and Mongolian languages.

Following a vision he had received in a dream when he was seventeen years old, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu returned to the place of his birth, Derge. He travelled to a remote valley east of Derge where he met his Root Master, Rigdzin Changchub Dorje (1826-1961/1978), a disciple of both Adzom Drugpa and Nyala Pema Düdul. Changchub Dorje was the master of a totally self-supporting community of lay practitioners called Nyala Gar. Rigdzin Changchub Dorje was a practising physician and Chögyal Namkhai Norbu stayed with him for almost a year, assisting the master with his medical practice. During this period, Namkhai Norbu requested initiation from his master Changchub Dorje, who introduced him directly to the authentic knowledge of Dzogchen.

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu then undertook a long pilgrimage to Central Tibet, Nepal, India and Bhutan. When he returned to his home country of Derge, East Tibet, he found that the political situation had deteriorated with the eruption of violence. He fled towards Central Tibet and finally emerged as a refugee in Sikkim, living in the capital Gangtok from 1958 to 1960. During this period, he was employed as an author and editor of Tibetan textbooks by the government of Sikkim. There he met Professor Giuseppe Tucci, a renowned Tibetologist, who invited him to work in Rome. At the age of twenty-two, in 1960, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche took up the position of Research Associate at IsMEO, the Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente. In 1964, the position of Professor of Oriental Language and Literature at the University of Naples was offered to him. For twenty-eight years Chögyal Namkhai Norbu taught Tibetan and Mongolian languages, literature, and Tibetan Cultural History, retiring as Professor Emeritus in 1992. His academic works reveal a profound knowledge of Tibetan culture and a steadfast determination to keep the extraordinary cultural heritage of Tibet alive and fully accessible.

After teaching Yantra Yoga in Naples for several years, in 1976 Chögyal Namkhai Norbu started to give Dzogchen teachings to a few Italian students. The growing interest in his teachings, first in Italy and then throughout the West, convinced him to dedicate himself increasingly to such activities.

Together with a number of disciples, in 1981 he founded the first centre of the Dzogchen Community in Arcidosso, Tuscany, and then later many other centres in various parts of Europe, Russia, the United States, South America and Australia.

In 1988 Chögyal Namkhai Norbu founded ASIA (Association for International Solidarity in ASIA), a non-governmental organization which operates in Tibet and is dedicated to serving the Tibetan people in the sectors of education, health, training, disaster relief, and sustainable economic development. In 1989 Chögyal Namkhai Norbu founded the Shang Shung Institute, which has the task of safeguarding Tibetan culture and heritage, including the preservation and translation of important texts, such as original Tantras, treatises and termas of remarkable teachers; the diffusion of Tibetan medicine, astrology, language and several other aspects of Tibetan culture.

During the last 38 years, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche has led a very intense schedule of teachings and Dzogchen retreats all over the world. He has given several hundreds of retreats covering the whole corpus of the Dzogchen teachings, including the three series of Semde, Longde and Menngade; the kama teachings of the long lineage; the terma teachings of important Dzogchen Masters, such as Changchub Dorje, Adzom Drugpa, Nyala Pema Düdul, Jigme Lingpa and many others, as well has his own precious and unique cycle of terma, the Longsal. He has introduced the Dzogchen teachings to thousands of students worldwide, and did a pioneering work to reestablish and teach once again upon the ancient original Tantras of Dzogchen, such as the Kunjed Gyalpo and the Dra Thalgyur.

Even today Chögyal Namkhai Norbu continues to travel constantly all over the world, giving talks and holding retreats attended by thousands of people. Many of these retreats and teachings are transmitted live by video webcast, and can be followed by interested people who are not able to travel to meet the Master in person.

In recent years, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche has identified the island of Tenerife as a very suitable place for establishing, teaching, preserving and practicing the precious Dzogchen teachings, as well as for diffusing many aspects of Tibetan culture. The vision of Rinpoche is to establish a Global Gar of the Dzogchen Community in Tenerife — a place where all Dzogchen practitioners can meet and collaborate with each other, and where the teachings can flourish and be transmitted to the future generations.

(The first detail biography of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu was published in international scientific magazine Religions, in special edition ‘Spiritual examples’, with title “Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche: Dzogchen and Tibetan Tradition. From Shang Shung to the West“, by Paolo Roberti di Sarsina, Bologna, Italy.   (All article you can see  here )