From the Archive – Our Master’s Masters

From time to time we delve into The Mirror archive to find and republish material that we consider to be meaningful and important to our whole Community. This Focus section, originally published in The Mirror issue 107 in December 2010, presents brief biographies of some of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu’s principal teachers. In the original article some of the biographies were taken from Snow Lion Publications but since that time The Temple of the Great Contemplation, with images and biographies from the Merigar Gönpa, has been published by Shang Shung Publications and we are happy to have permission to use material from this remarkable book instead.
Over the next few days we will be publishing the biographies online one at a time.

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu (center) and his family.

Focus on Our Master’s Masters

In this issue of The Mirror [issue 107, December 2010], our Focus is on the lives of some of the most important Masters from whom Chögyal Namkhai Norbu received teachings. We offer sketches of these Masters, some reproduced from existing publications, others based on unpublished accounts and one (the sketch of Rigdzin Changchub Dorje) drawn almost entirely from transcriptions of Rinpoche’s teachings.

To place them in a meaningful time-frame, we touch on a very brief biography of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu mentioning just some of the Masters he received teachings from. The sketches that follow are in chronological order.

Our Master was born in the district of Derge in East Tibet in the Earth Tiger year (1938) and recognized at the age of two as the reincarnation of Adzom Drugpa. While he was still a child he received teachings from his maternal uncle, Khyentse Chökyi Wanchug and his paternal uncle, Togden Ugyen Tendzin, as well as receiving many initiations and listening to many explanations from non-sectarian masters of east Tibet.

Between the ages of eight and twelve he attended the college at Derge Gönchen monastery where he studied with and received initiations and transmissions from Khyenrab Öser. In the same period he also received teachings from other masters including the illustrious Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche Chökyi Lodrö.

Then in a meditation cave at Sengchen Namdrag, “Great Lion Sky Cliff ” residence of Togden Ugyen Tendzin, he made a retreat with his uncle for the practices of Vajrapani, Simhamukha and White Tara. At that time the son of Adzom Drugpa, Gyurme Dorje, on his way back from central Tibet, stayed with them and gave teachings.

When he was fourteen years old after receiving the initiations for Vajrayogini, his tutor advised him to seek out a woman master called A-yu Khadro in order to receive transmission from her. At the time she was 113 and had been in dark retreat for 56 years.

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and Gangkar Chökyi Senge.

In 1954 Chögyal Namkhai Norbu was invited to visit the People’s Republic of China as a representative of Tibetan youth and became an instructor in Tibetan language at the University in Chengdu, Sichuan. While he was living in China, he met the famous Gangkar Rinpoche and received many teachings from him.

When he was seventeen years old, he returned to Tibet and following a vision received in a dream, he met his Root Master, Rigdzin Changchub Dorje, who was living in a remote valley to the east of Derge. Changchub Dorje, who was a physician, headed a community called Nyagla Gar, also known as Khamdo Gar, and from him Norbu Rinpoche was introduced directly to the experience of Dzogchen. He remained there for almost a year. He also received transmissions from the master’s son.

Geshe Jampel Senge and Chögyal Namkhai Norbu in Sikkim, 1959.

As the political situation gradually deteriorated in Tibet, Norbu Rinpoche fled first towards Central Tibet and finally arrived in Sikkim where he worked for two years as an author and editor of Tibetan textbooks for the Government of Sikkim. In 1960, he went to Italy at the invitation of Prof. Giuseppe Tucci.

Coming next the biography of Rinpoche’s paternal uncle, Drubje Ugyen Tendzin

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