December 8, 1938|
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Namkhai Norbu (Tibetan: ཆོས་རྒྱལ་ནམ་མཁའི་ནོར་བུ་ ) is a Dzogchen teacher, who was born in Derge, eastern Tibet on 8 December 1938. When he was two years old, Namkhai Norbu was recognized as the 'mindstream emanation', a tulku, of the great Dzogchen teacher Adzom Drugpa (1842-1924). At five, he was also recognized as a mindstream emanation of an emanation of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (1594–1651). From an early age, Namkhai Norbu undertook an accelerated course of study, attending monastic college, taking retreats, and studying with renowned teachers, including some of the most important Tibetan masters of his time. Under the tutelage of these teachers, he completed the training required by the Buddhist tradition in both Sutrayana and Tantrayana. At the age of sixteen, he met master Rigdzin Changchub Dorje (1826-1961/1978), who became his principal Dzogchen teacher.
In 1960, he came to Italy at the invitation of Professor Giuseppe Tucci, and served as Professor of Tibetan and Mongolian Language and Literature from 1964 to 1992 at the Naples Eastern University. Namkhai Norbu is widely recognized as a leading authority on Tibetan culture, particularly in the fields of history, literature, and Traditional Tibetan medicine and astrological sciences such as the Tibetan calendar. In 1983, he hosted the first International Convention on Tibetan Medicine, held in Venice, Italy.
In 1976, Namkhai Norbu began to give Dzogchen instruction in the West, first in Italy, then in numerous other countries. He quickly became a respected spiritual authority among many practitioners, and has created centers for the study of Dzogchen around the world.
Nomenclature, orthography and etymology
Chögyal is a title most commonly associated with the monarchy of Sikkim, now a state in far-northern India. However, Chögyal (or Chos-rGyal) is also a title conferred upon a special class of temporal and spiritual rulers of the Kingdom of Bhutan, who were recognized mindstream emanations of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the 17th Century Tibetan-born founder of Bhutan. Namkhai Norbu, recognized at the age of five as an emanation of Ngawang Namgyel, holds the title of Chögyal in this context.
Namkhai (Tibetan) holds the semantic field of "sky", "space" and "aether," and has the possessive case ending, thus it may be rendered into English as "...of the sky". Norbu (Tibetan) holds the semantic field of "jewel", "crystal", "gem", "cintamani". Therefore, Namkhai Norbu may be rendered in English as "Jewel of the Sky", "Gem of the Aether" or "Crystal of Space".
Recognition as a Tulku
Namkhai Norbu is a recognized tulku (also trulku), a reincarnate master. At birth two of Namkhai Norbu's uncles, the Dzogchen masters Palyul Karma Yangsid and Shechen Rabjam believed him to be the reincarnation of their master, Adzom Drugpa Rinpoche (1841–1934). When Namkhai Norbu was two years old, this was confirmed by a senior tulku of the Nyingma school.
Then when he was five years old, the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa and the Situ Rinpoche together recognized Namkhai Norbu as the mind emanation of the mindstream of another well known teacher, who was in turn the emanation of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, the 17th Century Tibetan-born founder of Bhutan.
At a very young age, these recognitions conferred upon Namkhai Norbu a great deal of attention and prestige, as he himself remarks: "As I grew up, I was thus given quite a few names and titles, many of which are very long and grand sounding. But I have never used them, because I have always preferred the name my parents gave me at birth."
In his early years 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, Dzongsar Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö and Bo Gongkar Rinpoche. In 1951, he also received Chöd teachings from Ayu Khandro Dorje Paldrön (1838–1953), a woman who spent over fifty years in dark retreat and was a disciple of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo.
Namkhai Norbu 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 he met Kangkar Rinpoche, from whom he received instructions on the Six Yogas of Naropa and other teachings.
Namkhai Norbu 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 dharma (subsuming both Wylie: 'chos' & 'bon') as one 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, Namkhai Norbu made a pilgrimage to Tibet, India, and Nepal. Because of the turmoil and aftermath of the 1959 Tibetan Rebellion, he could not return to Tibet from Sikkim, so he stayed in the erstwhile kingdom while working as an author and editor for the Chogyal government.
Already recognized as extremely knowledgeable in all aspects of Tibetan culture at the age of 22, he was invited to Italy by Professor Giuseppe Tucci to work at the ISMEO Institute in Rome for two years. In 1962, he took up 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, Namkhai Norbu focused his research mainly on the ancient history of Tibet, investigating thoroughly the native Bön tradition. His books include works on history, Tibetan medicine, astrology, Bön and folk traditions such as namkha. They have been highly appreciated by Tibetans as well as scholars throughout the world.
Teaching Dzogchen in the West
Trul Khor: Yantra Yoga
In 1971, 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' (Wylie: rdzogs chen 'dus sde). At that time, Dzogchen was relatively unknown in the West.
International Dzogchen Community
As interest in his teachings grew, Rinpoche dedicated himself to spreading Dzogchen and establishing 'gars' (Tibetan), seats of the International Dzogchen Community, throughout the world. Today there are gars in Italy, the United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Australia, Romania, Russia, Spain, Ukraine and China. Apart from his spiritual activity, he founded the International Shang-Shung Institute to preserve the cultural traditions of Tibet, and ASIA, a nonprofit organization in Tibet mainly dedicated to serving the educational and medical needs of the Tibetan people.
- A Dream from the Display of the Moon in the Water (2006) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- A History of Zhang Zhung and Tibet, Volume One - the Early Period (2013) (North Atlantic Books) ISBN 9781583946107
- A short Purification Ritual for the Dead as a Supplement to the Shitro of the Space Teachings (2007) (Shang Shung)
- A Wondrous Sight (togeTher with Elio Guarisco) (2003) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- An introduction to the practice of Contemplation (2002) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- Answer to Sixteen Questions (1987) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- A request to all those who are part of the Dzogchen Community and are linked with Merigar (1987) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- Comcise Experiental instructions on the short thun as a daily practise for the Dzogchen Community (2001) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- Direct introduction to the state of AtiYoga (1999) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light (1992) (Snow Lion) ISBN 9781559390071
- Drung, Deu and Bön (1995) (Paljor) ISBN 81-85102-93-7
- Dzogchen - the Self-Perfected State (1996) (Snow Lion) ISBN 1-55939-057-3, ISBN 978-1-55939-057-6
- Dzogchen and Zen (1984) (Blue Dolphin) ISBN 0-931892-08-2
- Dzogchen Teachings (2006) ISBN 9789056702243
- Dzogchen Teachings at Sinabelkirchen, Austria (2008) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- Dzogchen Teachings in Gutenstein Austria (2001) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- Dzogchen Teachings: Merigar, 6–11 July 2001 (2001) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- Dzogchen Teachings: Oral Commentary on the Longsal Terma The Opening of the Gate to the State of Ati (2006) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- Dzogchen: The Self-Perfected State (1989) (Shang Shung Edizioni) ISBN 1-55939-057-3
- Examination Questions for the base of Santi Maha Sangha (1993) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- Explanation of the Longsal Tregchod (to be translated by Adriano Clement)
- From the Depth of my Heart to my Mother (1995) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- From the Light of Kailash: on Shang Shung (1993) (unpublished)
- Guru Arya Tara and Her Twenty-One Praises (met CD) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- Healing with Fire: A Practical Manual of Tibetan Moxibustion (2011) (Shang Shung Edizioni) ISBN 978-8878341135
- Instructions for the second level Practices of Santi Maha Sangha (1996) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- Journey Among the Tibetan Nomads (2002) ( Paljor) ISBN 81-86470-10-7
- Journey into the Culture of Tibetan Nomads (1983) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- Key for consulting the Tibetan calendar (2003) (Shang Shung Edizioni) ISBN 9788878341234
- Lhalung Sangdag Teachings on Vajrapani (to be translated by Adriano Clement)
- Longde Teachings: Based on the Original Texts by Vairochana and Dzin Dharmabodhi (2001) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- Mantras and Invocations for the Practices of the Dzogchen Community
- Mi-Lam: The Dream Practice (1989) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- Natural Perfection: Longchenpa's Radical Dzogchen (2010) ISBN 9780861716401
- On Birth, Life and Death: A Treatise on Tibetan Medicine (1983)
- On the Tibetan Language, the basis of Tibetan Culture (1992) (unpublished)
- Oral instruction on The Yoga of Prana for Clarity and emptiness
- Primordial Experience: An Introduction to Rdzogs-Chen Meditation (1987) ( Shambhala) ISBN 0-87773-372-4
- Primordial Experience: Manjusrfmitra's Treatise on the Meaning of Bodhicitta in rDzogs chen
- Rainbow Body: the Life and Realization of a Tibetan Yogin, Togden Ugyen Tendzin (2012) (North Atlantic Books) ISBN 9781583944912
- Rigbai kujnug. the Six Vajra verses. An oral commentary (1985) (Rinchen Editions: Singapore) ISBN
- Santi Maha Sangha Kumar Kumari Base level: the opening of the eye of wisdom (1995) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- Santi Maha Sangha Second level, New Edition (to be translated by Adriano Clement)
- Santi Maha Sangha Third level, New Edition (to be translated by Adriano Clement)
- Shang Shung (1993) (unpublished)
- Shine and Lhagthong in the Dzogchen Tradition
- Songs From the Hospital and other Poems (1999) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- Teachers' Training (2006) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Ati Treasure of Dharmadhatu: Third level of Santi Maha Sangha (1998) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Ati Treasury of Contemplation (2008) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Authentic Principle of the Ati Dzogchen Community (1992) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Autobiography of Chogyal Nankhai Norbu (to be translated by Adriano Clement)
- The Complete Book on the Vajra Dance, Including the History of its Discovery (to be translated by Adriano Clement)
- The Crystal and the Way of Light: Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen (1986) (Penguin Books) ISBN 1-55939-135-9
- The Cycle of Day and Night and the Upadesha of Vajrasattva (2003) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Cycle of Day and Night: An Essential Tibetan Text on the Practice of Contemplation (1987) (Station Hill Press) ISBN 0-88268-040-4
- The Cycle of Day and Night: Where one proceeds along the path of the Primordial Yoga (1984) (Blue Dolphin) ISBN 0-89581-080-8
- The Dance of the Three Vajras (1997) (unpublished)
- The Dzogchen Community (2001) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Dzogchen Ritual Practices (1991) (Kailash Editions)
- The Eight Movements of Yantra Yoga (1999) (Snow Lion)
- The Foundation of the Path (2005) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Four Contemplations of the Semde (1986) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Garuda Practice (2000) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Lamp That Enlightens Narrow Minds - the Life and Times of a Realized Tibetan Master (North Atlantic Books) ISBN 978-1-58394-492-9
- The Mirror of a Clear Mind: second level of Santi Maha Sangha Kumar Kumari (1997) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Mirror: Advice on the Presence of Awareness (1983) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Mirror: Advice on the Presence of Awareness (1996) (Station Hill Press) ISBN 1-886449-10-4
- The Necklace of the Jewels (unpublished)
- The Necklace of Zi (1981) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Opening of the Door of Intelligence: First level of Santi Maha Sangha Kumar Kumari (1996) (Shang Shung Edizioni) *The Practice and Action Mantras of Dark Garuda
- The Practice for the Naga (1993) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Practice in Daily Life (2004) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Practice of Guru Medicine Buddha
- The Practice of Narag Tongtrug (1998) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Practice of Self-Liberation of the Causes of the six Lokas (2004) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Practice of Sinhamuka (1991) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Precious Vase: Instructions on the Base of Santi Maha Sangha (1999) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Real meaning of integration. Educating children. Newcomers. the Dzogchen Community. (1994) (Shang Shung Edizione)
- The Small Collection of Buddhagupta (1984) (unpublished)
- The Small Collection of Hidden Precepts: A Study of An Ancient Manuscript on Dzogchen from Tun-huang (1984)
- The Song of the Vajra (1992) (Station Hill Press)
- The Supreme Source: the Fundamental Tantra of the Dzogchen Semde (1999) (Snow Lion) ISBN 1-55939-120-0
- The Temple of the Great Contemplation: The Gonpa of Merigar (2014) ISBN 8878341444
- The Total Space of Vajrasattva with three Commentaries (to be translated by Adriano Clement)
- The Transference to purify the Dimensions of the Three Kayas (2000) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Treasure of Primordial Bodhichitta: second level of Santi Maha Sangha (1996) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Treasure that Introduces Knowledge of Ati Contemplation: First level of Santi Maha Sangha (1994) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Twenty-Seven Commitments (2004) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Voice of the Bee (1989) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Way to enter the Teaching (2000) (unpublished)
- The Wish-Fulflling Vase: Instructions on the Base of Santi Maha Sangha (1993) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- The Yoga of Arya Tara (2001) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- Three Songs for Disciples of Changchub Dorje (1992) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- Yantra Yoga. the Tibetan Yoga of Movement (1982) (Snow Lion) ISBN 1-55939-308-4
- Zernga The Five Principal Points (1985) (Shang Shung Edizioni)
- Introduction: Beyond Words: Dzogchen Made Easy (2003) (Element Books) ISBN 9780007116775
- Introduction: Self-Liberation: Through Seeing with Naked Awareness (2000) (Station Hill Press) ISBN 0-88268-058-7
- Introduction: The Tibetan Book of the Dead: Awakening Upon Dying (2013) ISBN 9781583945551
- Introduction: The Golden Letters (1996) (Snow Lion) ISBN 1-55939-050-6
- Introduction: Togden Shakya Shri. The Life and Liberation of a Tibetan Yogin (2009) (Shang Shung Edizioni) ISBN 978-88-7834-103-6
- Introduction: You Are the Eyes of the World (2011) (Shambhala ) ISBN 9781559393676
CDs and DVDs
- Chöd: Cutting through dualism (1995) CD (Amiata Records) ARNR-0193
- General Introduction to Dzogchen (2009) DVD
- Music for the Dance of the Vajra (2009) CD (Amiata Records) ARNR-0200
- My Reincarnation (2012) DVD (New York) ISBN 9781422918746
- Purification of the Six Lokas (2001) CD (Shang Shung) 10020
- All sources give 1826 as year of birth; some sources give 1961 and others 1978 as year of death
- Norbu, Namkhai (1980, 1982) The Necklace of Gzi, A Cultural History of Tibet (Information Office of HH the Dalai Lama, Dharamsala).
- Dzogchen Romania. A brief biography of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Online: (accessed: May 14, 2008)
- Tsegyalgar East. Chögyal Namkhai Norbu (Biographical Sketch). Online: (accessed: May 14, 2008)
- Capriles, Elías (2003). Buddhism and Dzogchen: The Doctrine of the Buddha and the Supreme Vehicle of Tibetan Buddhism - Part One Buddhism: A Dzogchen Outlook. University of the Andes: Mérida, Venezuela. Source: (accessed: January 14, 2008) p.5
- Norbu, Namkhai (2000). The Crystal and the Way of Light: Sutra, Tantra, Dzogchen. (Snow Lion Publications) pg.19-20 & Notes.
- Mindstream emanations may be either body, voice, mind, qualities or activities emanations; refer: Three vajra.