Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, was born in December 1938 in Derge in Eastern Tibet, and at the age of three was recognized as a Buddhist reincarnate or tulku. For fifty years in the Tibetan diaspora, he has become renowned both as a master of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection, a body of ancient spiritual knowledge recognized as the supreme vehicle of Tibetan Buddhism, and as an important scholar of the culture of Tibet, with particular emphasis on the early history of his land. The origin of Tibetan culture, he discovered, was to be found in the Bon, pre-Buddhist, religion; in its seat, the kingdom of Zhang Zhung; and in the Bon spiritual traditions which flourished within and spread from that kingdom.
As a brilliant young scholar, he was invited to Rome in 1960 by Professor Giuseppe Tucci, an eminent figure in Italian Tibetological studies in the second third of the last century, to be his collaborator at the ISMEO (The Institute for Studies of the Middle and Extreme Orient). In 1962, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu became professor of Tibetan and Mongolian language and literature at the Institute of Oriental Studies at the University of Naples, a position that he held thirty years, until 1992.
In this arc of years, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu had access to precious ancient Bon texts in Professor Tucci’s private collection and in the libraries of the Institutes, where his continual process of analysis and assimilation led him to the revolutionary discovery, mentioned above, that the birthplace of Tibetan culture and identity did not occur, as was commonly believed among the Tibetan people and Western scholars influenced by them, during the seventh century reign of the Buddhist Dharma King Songtsen Gampo, but was to be traced back to the ancient realm of Zhang Zhung.
We can share in the fruits of his research by reading his numerous books which impart a rich understanding of the precious and endangered heritage of his native land. The summa of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu’s historical enquiries is The Light of Kailash, A History of Zhang Zhung and Tibet, volume one of which, entitled The Early Period, was published in September 2009 (Shang Shung Publications, Arcidosso, Italy; volumes two and three, forthcoming).
In the 1970s Chögyal Namkhai Norbu began teaching the Dzogchen point of view, meditation, and behavior, leading retreats and giving lectures on six continents,to an ever growing body of students. In 1981 he founded the International Dzogchen Community, a worldwide association composed of those interested in the knowledge and practice of this primordial spiritual path. In 1988 he founded A.S.I.A. (Association for Solidarity in Asia), a nongovernmental organization which implements projects of cooperation and solidarity in Tibet as well as in other afflicted regions of the earth.
Translated into all major languages, a multitude of his books, transcripts, recordings, and films centered on many aspects of the teaching and other fields of endeavor, such as traditional Tibetan medicine, astrology and yantra yoga, all the direct result of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu’s dedicated activity, are available through the International Shang Shung Institute of Tibetan Studies, founded in 1991 in the presence of H.H. the XIV Dalai Lama at Merigar, Arcidosso, the seat of the Dzogchen Community in Italy.