Chögyal Namkhai Norbu was born in Derghe, eastern Tibet, in 1938. As a child he was recognized as the reincarnation of the great Dzogchen Master Adzom Drugpa (1842-1924) and later by the sixteenth Karmapa as a reincarnation of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal (1594-1651), the first Dharmaraja of Bhutan.
While he was still a teenager he completed the rigorous program of traditional studies, receiving teachings from some of the greatest masters of the time. In 1955 he met Changchub Dorje (1826-1961), his main Dzogchen teacher, whose lifestyle and way of teaching deeply inspired him.
In 1960, following the deterioration of the social and political situation in Tibet, he moved to Italy on the invitation of the well-known orientalist Prof. Giuseppe Tucci. There, he contributed to giving a concrete stimulus to the spread of Tibetan culture in the West. In the early 1960s he worked at the Ismeo (Institute for the Middle and Extreme Orient) in Rome and later on, from 1962 to 1992, he taught Tibetan and Mongolian language and literature at the Istituto Universitario Orientale in Naples. His academic works reveal a profound knowledge of Tibetan culture and a steadfast determination to keep the extraordinary cultural heritage of Tibet alive and fully accessible.