Chögyal Namkhai Norbu

Feb 24, 2011 by

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu
Spiritual master of the Dzogchen Community

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, one of the foremost living Dzogchen masters, was born in Derge, eastern Tibet in 1938. At the age of two he was recognized as the reincarnation of the Dzogchen Master Adzom Drugpa by Palyul Karma Yangsid and Shechen Rabjam. When he was three years old, the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa recognized him as the mind reincarnation of the first Dharmaraja of Bhutan, Ngawang Namgyal.

In his early years Chögyal Namkhai Norbu  studied at the Derge Gonchen  monastery. At the age of nine he entered a Sakya College, where he studied Buddhist philosophy for many years with Khyenrab Chökyi Odzer. He also received numerous tantric and Dzogchen transmissions and teachings from many masters, including his paternal uncle Togden Ugyen Tendzin (who achieved the rainbow body), maternal uncle Khyentse Rinpoche Chökyi Wangchug, Drubwang Rinpoche Kunga Palden, Negyab Rinpoche, Drugse Gyurmed Dorje, and Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. In 1951, he also received teachings from Ayu Khandro Dorje Paldrön, a remarkable female master who spent over fifty years in dark retreat and was a disciple of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo.

Rinpoche was invited to China in 1953 as a representative of the Tibetan monasteries. After visiting Chengdu and Chungching, he accepted the invitation to teach Tibetan language in Menyag. During this time Rinpoche met Kangkar Rinpoche, from whom he received instructions on the Six Yogas of Naropa and other teachings.

Rinpoche met his root teacher, Rigdzin Changchub Dorje, in 1955 and stayed at his residence in  Khamdogar for six months. From Changchub Dorje he received the authentic transmission of Dzogchen and realized the essence of the teaching as the state of knowledge beyond all limitations. This realization has remained a characteristic feature of his way of teaching throughout his life.

In the late 1950s, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu made a pilgrimage to Tibet, India, and Nepal. While he was residing in Sikkim in 1959, the Chinese occupied Tibet and as he was unable to return to his homeland to join his family, he remained in Sikkim working as an author and editor for the government of Sikkim.

Recognized as extremely knowledgeable in all aspects of Tibetan culture at only the age of twenty-two, he was invited to Italy by the famous Professor Giuseppe Tucci to work at the ISMEO Institute in Rome for two years.

In 1962 he took a post in Naples at the Istituto Universitario Orientale, where he taught Tibetan language and literature until 1992.

From the time of his residence in Italy, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu focused his research mainly on the ancient history of Tibet, investigating thoroughly the autochthonous Bön tradition. His books, which include works on history, medicine, astrology, Bön and folk traditions, are evidence of his profound knowledge of Tibetan culture and his commitment to preserve this ancient cultural heritage. They have been highly appreciated by Tibetans as well as scholars throughout the world.

In 1971 Chögyal Namkhai Norbu began to teach Yantra Yoga, an ancient form of Tibetan Yoga combining movement, breathing and visualization. A few years later he started to give Dzogchen teachings to a small group of Italian students with whom he founded the Dzogchen Community.  At that time Dzogchen was hardly known in the West and he was the first to transmit this teaching in a way that made it accessible to Western students according to the conditions of modern society.

As interest in his teachings grew, Rinpoche dedicated himself to spreading Dzogchen and establishing gars, seats of the Dzogchen community, throughout the world. Today there are gars in Europe, North and South America, Australia and Russia.

Apart from his spiritual activity, he founded the International Shang Shung Institute to preserve the cultural traditions of Tibet, and ASIA, a non-profit organization operating in Tibet which is mainly dedicated to serving the educational and medical needs of the Tibetan people.

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