Chögyal Namkhai Norbu

Chogyal Namkhai Norbu

Chögyal the Dharma King, Namkhai Norbu Jewel of All Space, brought from his past lives a great wealth of virtue, wisdom, and merits and transmitted authentic lineage treasures of Tibetan Buddhism, sharing genuine living teachings with very fortunate students in the modern world. He was highly learned in every aspect of Tibetan culture, history, and all academic subjects, as well as the holder of an inestimable heritage of Bön, Buddhist, and Dzogchen teachings. His great unique wisdom and skill was his knowledge in preserving these treasures in harmony and distinctly. He was a wonderful warm-hearted person whose every aspect of life was selflessly dedicated for the highest benefit of others, bestowing from his heart the precious riches of his wisdom and care.

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu’s Birth and Life in Tibet

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, one of the foremost masters of Dzogchen, belonged to the last generation of Tibetans to have been fully educated in Tibet. He was born on December 8th, 1938, the first boy after three sisters, in Geug, a small village inhabited by only seven families. Geug was part of the kingdom of Derge, in Kham, Eastern Tibet. His father, Tsewang Namgyal, of the Trokhe family, was a high government official. His mother, Yeshe Chodron, was the sister of the Dzogchen Master Khyentse Chökyi Wangchug Rinpoche (1910–1960).
From the day of his birth, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu was believed by the local people to be the reincarnation of Adzom Drugpa Drodul Pawo Dorje (1842–1924). This was due, among other things, to the fact that shortly before his passing away, Adzom Drugpa had donated to Chögyal Namkhai Norbu’s family some sacred objects symbolizing Body, Speech and Mind and many other personal belongings. The first one to recognize him as the reincarnation of Adzom Drugpa was his paternal uncle Ugyen Tendzin. In 1940, the reincarnation was officially confirmed by the VI Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche and Palyul Karma Yangsid Rinpoche.

The Life and Works of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu
Chögyal Namkhai Norbu was one of the last great masters of Dzogchen to have been born and fully educated in Tibet, before the 1950s. He was soon recognized as a great, reincarnated lama. This short biography is divided in two parts: the first retraces his steps from his birth in the Tibetan autonomous region of Kham until his flight from Tibet to Sikkim, reporting also teachings and initiations he received from his Masters. The second part starts when he arrived in Italy in 1960, invited by Professor Giuseppe Tucci, the greatest Italian Orientalist of his time, to work at the IsMEO, now the Italian Institute for Africa and the Orient (IsIAO).
In the 1970s Chögyal Namkhai Norbu began to give explanations of Dzogchen teachings to his first students. Interest soon became widespread and having received invitations from all continents, he began to travel and give more explanations throughout the world, founding the worldwide Dzogchen Community, whose main objective is to let the public know and develop an understanding of Dzogchen, as well as preserving Tibet’s extraordinary cultural patrimony.
In 1983, Norbu organized the First International Congress on Tibetan Medicine, which was held at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice and the Cini Foundation, Arcidosso. Norbu also convened the first three International Conferences on Tibetan Language, held at various major universities.
Apart from his spiritual activity, he founded the International Shang-Shung Institute for Tibetan Studies in 1990 to preserve the cultural traditions of Tibet (including Tibetan medicine and language). The institute has a large collection of Tibetan books and manuscripts, and it also publishes the works of Namkhai Norbu. The institute was inaugurated by the XIV Dalai Lama in 1990. In 2005, the Shang Shung Medical Institute began to offer a four-year course in traditional Tibetan medicine.
Norbu also founded the NGO A.S.I.A (Association for International Solidarity in Asia), which works in Tibet, India, Nepal, Myanmar, Mongolia, and Sri Lanka. A.S.I.A. has worked on more than 200 projects, including building twenty schools, where 3,000 Tibetan children learn Tibetan language and culture.

In 2000, Norbu was invited to the UN’s Millennium World Peace Conference of Religious and Spiritual Leaders in New York.

On 10 September 2018, the Italian government conferred upon him its highest award, Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic; this was presented by President Sergio Mattarella.

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche passed away at the age of 79. He breathed his last breath on the evening of 27 September, 2018 at his residence, Gadeling, at Merigar West Buddhist Center, Italy.


Chögyal Namkhai Norbu (center) with his family, Lhasa, probably 1957. Standing from the left Rinpoche’s sisters Trashi Yangdzom and Sonal Palmo, and his mother Yeshi Chodron. Sitting from the left Rinpoche’s brother Pema Kungtsen, Rinpoche, and his father Tsewang Namgyal.