Chögyal Namkhai Norbu. From dzogchen.net
The respected Dzogchen master and founder of the Merigar Community, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, has passed away at the age of 79. He breathed his last breath on the evening of 27 September at his residence, Gadeling, at Merigar West Buddhist Center, Italy.
Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche was one of the pioneering Buddhist masters who contributed greatly to the introduction of Buddhism to the West. On 11 September 2018 he was awarded the title of Commander in the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic by Italian President Sergio Mattarella for his commitment to the introduction of Buddhism to Italy, as well as his contributions to the arts and the economy, and his social, philanthropic, and humanitarian work. The title of Commander in the Order of Merit is the Italy’s highest honor and the most senior among Italy’s five orders of knighthood. It is given to artists, activists, philanthropists, and civil and military servants who have contributed greatly to Italian society.
Norbu Rinpoche was born in Tibet in 1938. As a child, he was recognized as an emanation of Dzogchen teacher Adzom Drugpa (1842–1924) and Buddhist lama Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel (1594–1651), the first Dharmaraja of Bhutan. Before leaving Tibet for Italy, he studied under many prominent Buddhist teachers, including his principal Dzogchen teacher Rigdzin Changchub Dorje (1826–1961), whom he met in 1955 at age 16.
On the invitation of the well-known orientalist Prof. Giuseppe Tucci, Rinpoche moved to Italy in 1960, where he took a post at the Institute for the Middle and Extreme Orient (ISMEO) in Rome and later, from 1962, the Istituto Universitario Orientale in Napels, where he continued to teach as a professor of Tibetan language and literature until 1992.
In addition to spreading the Tibetan Buddhist teachings of Dzogchen in the West for more than 50 years, Norbu Rinpoche authored a vast body of works on history, Tibetan medicine, astrology, the Bön religion, and other Tibetan folk traditions. He was committed to preserving the ancient cultural heritage of Tibet and make it accessible to scholars and readers all over the world.
He established the first Dzogchen community, the Merigar Community, in Arcidosso, Tuscany, in 1981, and many more centers followed. There are now branches in various parts of Australia, China, Europe, Latin America, Russia, and and the United States that serve thousands of people who have become part of the Dzongchen community.
Norbu Rinpoche also founded the Association for International Solidarity in Asia (ASIA), a non-governmental organization that seeks to improve the educational and medical needs of the Tibetan population, in 1988, and the Shang Shung Institute, which seeks to preserve and promote Tibetan culture, in 1989.
In a note to the public on 28 September, the Merigar Gakyil requested privacy for Rinpoche’s family and asked the public to not disturb his thugdam (Skt: samadhi) state, which could last 3–7 days.
On 3 October, a brief ceremony will be held at Merigar for Norbu Rinpoche, as his body is laid to rest in the Great Stupa of Merigar. As part of the proceedings, a representative of the Dzogchen community will give a brief farewell. The ceremony can be followed live via the following webcast: webcast.dzogchen.net.