ARCIDOSSO, Italy: One of the foremost Tibetan Buddhist master, Professor Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche, was honoured with Italy’s highest recognition, Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic on Monday.
The President of the Republic of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, has conferred the honour on Prof Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche on the proposal of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers.
The Prefect of Grosseto, Cinzia Torraco, on behalf of the President of the Italian Republic, presented the award at a ceremony which was held in the presence of Mayor of Arcidosso Jacopo Marini and the president of the regional council of Tuscany Eugenio Giani.
The commendatoreate is a recognition for “rewarding merits acquired towards the Nation in the field of letters, the arts, the economy and in the engagement of public offices and activities carried out for social, philanthropic and humanitarian purposes. It is well suited to the teacher who has dedicated his whole life to culture, philanthropic and social activity, spending himself personally to keep the torch of peace always lit.”
Mayor of Arcidosso Jacopo Marini said, “The master has dedicated his entire life to cultural research, to deepening spiritual and philosophical themes. He has always pursued the goal and the dream of peace and his presence in our territory is a great honour. This honour makes him worthy and we are proud that he was awarded this recognition by the President of the Republic “.
At the ceremony, former Prefect, Marco Valentini, the president of Regional council, Mayor of Arcidossa Jacopo Marini, along with mayors of neighbouring municipalities also presented Rinpoche with a symbolic cloth, representing the community’s recognition of the added value of Rinpoche’s presence and activities in the region.
The ceremony was held at the Council Chamber of the City of Acridosso on 10 September.
Founder of the community of Merigar and foremost living Dzogchen masters, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche was born in Derge, Kham (Eastern Tibet) on 8 December 1938. At the age of two he was recognized as the reincarnation of the Dzogchen master Adzom Drukpa by Palyul Karma Yangsi and Shechen Rabjam. At the age of three, the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa recognized him as the mind emanation of Drug Shabdrung Rinpoche also known as Ngawang Namgyal, the first Dharmaraja of Bhutan and an incarnation of Pema Karpo.
In his early years he studied at the Derge Gönchen Monastery and Sakya College where he studied Buddhist philosophy for many years. He also received numerous tantric and Dzogchen transmissions and teachings from many masters, including his paternal uncle Toden Ugyen Tendzin (who achieved the rainbow body), maternal uncle Khyentse Rinpoche Chökyi Wangchuk, Drubwang Rinpoche Kunga Palden, Negyab Rinpoche, Adzom Gyalse Gyurme Dorje, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and Bo Gongkar Rinpoche. In 1951, he also received teachings from Ayu Khandro Dorje Paldrön (1839-1953). Rinpoche continued receiving teachings and transmissions from the most prominent Buddhist masters in Tibet and exile.
In the late 1950s, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu made a pilgrimage to Central Tibet, India, and Nepal. While he his visit in Sikkim in 1959, As the Chinese forces occupied Tibet in 1959, he was unable to return to Tibet and hence, remained in Sikkim working as an author and editor for the Government of Sikkim.
Recognized as extremely knowledgeable in all aspects of Tibetan culture at the age of only twenty-two, he was invited to Italy by the famous Professor Giuseppe Tucci to work at the ISMEO Institute in Rome for two years. In 1962 he took a post in Naples at the Istituto Universitario Orientale where he taught Tibetan language and literature until 1992. From the time of his residence in Italy, Chogyal Namkhai Norbu focused his research mainly on the ancient history of Tibet investigating thoroughly the autochthonous Bön tradition. His books, which include works on history, medicine, astrology, Bön and folk traditions, are evidence of his profound knowledge of Tibetan culture and his commitment to preserve this ancient cultural heritage. They have been highly appreciated by Tibetans as well as scholars throughout the world.
Years later, he started to give Dzogchen teachings to a small group of Italian students with whom he founded the Dzogchen Community-at the time Dzogchen was relatively unknown in the West.
As interest in his teachings grew, Rinpoche dedicated himself to spreading Dzogchen and establishing gars, seats of the Dzogchen community, throughout the world. Today there are gars in Italy, the United States, South America, Australia and Russia. Apart from his spiritual activity, he founded the International Shang-Shung Institute to preserve the cultural traditions of Tibet, and ASIA, a non-profit organization operating in Tibet which is mainly dedicated to serving the educational and medical needs of the Tibetan people.