Chögyal Namkha’i Norbu Rinpoche has been teaching in the West since 1964. He is the founder and spiritual director of the Dzogchen Community, a worldwide association of non-monastic practitioners who practise the three series of Dzogchen: Sem-dé, Long-dé and Men-ngak-dé. He was born in Gé-ug Chongra (dGe’ug lCong ra) in the province of Dérgé (sDe dGe), Kham, Eastern Tibet, in 1938 (8th day, 10th month, year of the male earth tiger). He was recognised at the age of two (by Palyul Yang-srid Rinpoche and Zhéshen Rabjam Rinpoche) as an incarnation of the Nyingma gTértön A’dzom Drukpa (gTer ston ’Gro’dul dPa bo rDo rJe A ’dzom ’brug pa, 1842-1924). ’
At the age of eight he was recognised (by HH the 16th Karmapa and the previous Situ Rinpoche) as the incarnation Lhodruk Zhabdrung Rinpoche (1594-1651 – an incarnation of Pema Karpo, 1527-1592). He received a monastic education in the Sakya tradition in his home region (at Dérgé Gonchen monastery) and then proceeded to study with many great Lamas including the female Lama A-yo Khandro Dorje Paldrön (A yo mKa’ ’gro rDo rJe dPal sGron, 1838-1953). A-yo Khandro was a disciple of Jamyang Khyentsé Wangpo and Nyala Pema Düd’dül. She was a gTértön and a remarkable Dakini, who lived in dark retreat for over fifty years.
Namkha’i Norbu Rinpoche’s heart master or main Tsa-wa’i Lama was the Dzogchen master Lama Changchub Dorje Rinpoche (Nyag lanine_bardos_ar_eng.php Rig ’dzin Byang chub rDo rJe, 1826-1978). He also received transmissions and teachings from Changchub Dorje Rinpoche’s son Nyag-sé Gyür’mèd Dorje Rinpoche (Nyag sras ’Gyur med rDo rJe rin po che).
Changchub Dorje Rinpoche was a disciple of several prominent Dzogchen masters, including the illustrious Lama Shardza Rinpoche (Shar rDza bKra shis rGyal mTshan, 1859-1934). Shardza Rinpoche composed an extensive text in two volumes called the ‘Ying Rig-dzö’ (dByings rig mDzod). This text was completed in 1909 at his hermitage of Yangdrung Lhunpo Ri (gYung drung lhun po ri) in Dza-khog (rDza khog) in Kham. The text presents a comprehensive and structural view of the three series of Dzogchen (Dzogchen Sem-dé, Dzogchen Long-dé, and Dzogchen Men-ngak-dé.) Shardza Rinpoche attained rainbow body at his death – a fact attested to by both Buddhist and Bön Lamas. Changchub Dorje Rinpoche’s other main teachers were the Lamas Nyala Pema Düd’dül (Nya bLa Pad ma bDud ’dul) and A’dzom Drukpa.
Chögyal Namkha’i Norbu Rinpoche’s most widely known books, The Crystal and the Way of Light and Dzogchen – The Self-Perfected State, have introduced many people to Dzogchen, and he is highly appreciated throughout the West as the major contributor to Western knowledge on this profound subject. Namkha’i Norbu Rinpoche is an extraordinarily prolific and accomplished scholar in the fields of both Bön and Buddhist traditions of Dzogchen. His other works include the fascinating Necklace of gZi – a cultural history of Tibet and Drung, Deu and Bön – narrations, symbolic languages and the Bön traditions in ancient Tibet. Namkha’i Norbu Rinpoche is also a poet whose Little Song of ‘Do As You Please’ presents a marvellous insight into the practical application of poetry as a means of teaching in terms of life events. The following two verses taken from this poem are characteristic of his humour and acute insight into institutionalised attitudes:
In the natural condition, the supreme space
which does not fall into the limits
of measurement or even the concept of direction,
Whatever presents itself there,
I enjoy as an ornament.
I don’t make any effort
to create or reject anything.
You who take up preferences,
Do as you please.
Directly in the space of the dimension
Of original purity,
I meet all meditative experiences,
manifestations of energy, and visions
in a state of equanimity.
With no need to desire
artificial religious practice, I am happy.
You who dwell on mental constructions,
Do as you please.
– Namkha’i Norbu Rinpoche, 20th of January 1984
This photograph of Namkha’i Norbu Rinpoche was taken by Ngak’chang Rinpoche in 1982 in Devon, Britain whilst they were walking on Exmoor. During the late 1970s and early 1980s Namkha’i Norbu Rinpoche used to use Ngak’chang Rinpoche’s rolmo when in Britain.