Chögyal Namkhai Norbu was born in Derge, Eastern Tibet, in 1938. He studied and practiced with some of the most important Dzogchen masters of his time and completed the training required by Buddhist tradition in both Sutra and Tantra. At the age of sixteen he met master Rigdzin Changchub Dorje, who introduced him to the authentic knowledge of Dzogchen.
In 1960 he came to Italy at the invitation of Professor Giuseppe Tucci as a staff member of the Institute for Middle and Far Eastern Studies of Rome (today ISIAO). Between 1964 and 1992 he was full Professor of Tibetan and Mongolian Language and Literature at the Oriental Institute of the University of Naples. Chögyal Namkhai Norbu is recognized as a leading authority on Tibetan civilization, particularly in the fields of history, literature, and the medical and astrological sciences.
In 1976, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu began to give Dzogchen instruction in the West, first in Italy, then in numerous other countries. He rapidly acquired spiritual authority among many practitioners, and created centers for the study of Dzogchen around the world. Many of the teachings he offers at these centers are now available through the internet in the form of live video webcasts.
Chögyal Namkhai Norbu is also widely known for his activities on behalf of the culture and people of Tibet. In 1988, he founded an NGO called A.S.I.A. (Association for International Solidarity in Asia), which operates in Tibet and is dedicated to serving the Tibetan people in the sectors of education, health, training, disaster relief, and sustainable economic development. The following year he additionally founded the International Shang Shung Institute, dedicated to the preservation of Tibetan heritage and culture.