Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Choegyal Namkhai Norbu?
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. 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 scholar on Tibetan civilization, particularly in the fields of history, literature, and the medical and astrological sciences.

Since 1976, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu has been giving Dzogchen instruction in the West. 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 free 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, a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of Tibetan heritage and culture.
The Dzogchen teachings are neither a philosophy, nor a religious doctrine, nor a cultural tradition. Understanding the message of the teachings means discovering one’s own true condition, stripped of all the self-deceptions and falsifications that the mind creates. The very meaning of the Tibetan term, Dzogchen, “Great Perfection,” refers to the true primordial state of every individual, and not to any particular doctrine.

This spiritual teaching developed in Tibet within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition since ancient times. The Dzogchen tradition has been passed from master to student in an unbroken lineage over the centuries, right up to the present day. Due to its direct and unelaborated approach, it transcends cultural boundaries making it accessible to all nationalities alike, regardless of the spiritual background.
What is the International Dzogchen Community?

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu is the founder of the International Dzogchen Community, which exists in more than thirty countries and comprises those people interested in following the Dzogchen teachings as taught by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu. There are two main centers (or ‘Gars’) of the Dzogchen Community in North America: Tsegyal Gar East in Conway, Massachusetts and Tsegyal Gar West in Baja, Mexico. Other main ‘Gars’ (literally meaning “dwellings”) exist on five continents, and a large number of smaller centers (or ‘Lings’) exist all over the world, including Kundrolling in New York City and Dondrubling in Berkeley, California. The aim of the Gars and Lings is to serve as a focus for Community activities and to enable practitioners to deepen their knowledge of the teachings. Chögyal Namkhai Norbu has also established two other international organizations that work closely with the Dzogchen Community: A.S.I.A. and the Shang Shung Institute. A.S.I.A. (Association for International Solidarity in Asia) is an NGO that 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 International Shang Shung Institute is a nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of Tibetan heritage and culture. Both organizations have affiliate branches in Conway, Massachusetts.

The name of Tsegyalgar means, “Victorious Peak (of Pure and Total Presence).” It was the second of what are now eleven Dzogchen Community ‘Gars’ or centers worldwide. Tsegyalgar later came to signify the Dzogchen Community of North America; Chögyal Namkhai Norbu established Tsegyalgar West in Baja California, Mexico, and the community in Conway became Tsegyalgar East.

What is Khandroling?
Khandroling, the Dzogchen Community land in Buckland, was purchased in 1989. Comprised of 220 acres of hills, streams, a pond, meadows, fields and forest, Khandroling offers members several personal retreat cabins, a Stupa, and a bathhouse for retreatants and campers. Chögyal Namkhai Norbu has practiced extensively and given numerous teachings on this land.

The development of Khandroling is ongoing. The land hosts the world's first Universal Mandala Hall for the Vajra Dance.
What is the Mandala Hall?
When Tibetan Master Chögyal Namkhai Norbu began teaching in the United States in the 1980’s, his students here became known as The Dzogchen Community in America, and by the name “Tsegyalgar,” which means Victorious Peak.

For many years a group of students held retreats and practiced together in a sprawling old farmhouse in Conway, Massachusetts, but as more and more people became interested in the teachings, they found they needed a place that could better accommodate their growth, as well a place where they could do spiritual practice retreats, so in 1988 they bought 60 acres of picturesque land in Buckland, Massachusetts.

In the Autumn of 1990, while in personal retreat in his newly completed cabin on the Buckland land, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu had a series of dreams where Dakinis (female forms of enlightened energy) indicated the instructions on how to perform sacred dances on a mandala (symbolic geometric representation of the cosmos). These dances have since come to be known as the Vajra Dance. He learned that each space on the mandala corresponds to places in both the inner dimension of our bodies as well as the outer dimensions of the earth, our solar system, and the universe. As each step of the dance is performed, it corresponds to these inner and outer places and can bring about a harmonious flow of energy.

When Rinpoche was in this initial retreat he asked that his attendant bring him paint in the five colors of the five elements: blue for space, green for air, white for water, red for fire, and yellow for earth. The attendant dutifully brought five small jars of paint thinking that he had fulfilled his task. Rinpoche politely laughed and asked for the colors to be brought in gallon cans, so he could begin painting the very first Vajra Dance mandala. Carefully referring to his notes from his dreams he laid out the mandala on a platform, which had been used as a dining area during a group retreat that year. Towards the end of his personal retreat, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu started teaching the steps of the Vajra Dance to his students for the first time.

In 1992, Rinpoche enthusiastically agreed to the building of a larger Mandala on the hill on Khandroling, where he had first received his dreams. For many years Chögyal Namkhai Norbu returned and continued to receive further instructions on the Vajra Dance during his stays on the Buckland land, which he named Khandroling, which means, “Land of the Dakinis.” As more and more people became interested, he designated several other teachers to travel the globe and teach the Vajra Dance.

Because the mandala on the hill was outdoors and exposed to the elements, after some years it began to deteriorate. With Rinpoche’s support, a group of energetic practitioners decided to build in its place the first Universal Mandala, which they completed in 2004. This Mandala was consecrated in 2005 in a ceremony performed by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and attended by practitioners from all over the world.

There are three sizes of mandala that correspond to the dimensions of the Earth, the Solar System, and the Universe. The first mandalas built had all corresponded to dimension of the Earth. The Universal Mandala encompasses more than twice the diameter of the Earth or Solar System mandalas, and until this time the Universal Mandala at Khandroling has been the only Vajra Dance mandala in the world built of this size.

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu suggested that we make a protective hall to cover the Universal Mandala so that it would not be exposed to the New England elements. This would be an engineering feat. The hall had to be a clear covered space that protected the Universal Mandala at a diameter of over 67’ with a walkway around the perimeter. The experienced builders, engineers, and Vajra Dancers of the Community met multiple times in order to create a design that would be worthy of protecting such a unique and important site. Construction began on an auspicious astrological day in the Tibetan calendar: August 5, 2008.

The Mandala Hall stands 35 feet tall and is topped with the Longsal symbol, a symbol significant to the teachings that Chögyal Namkhai Norbu has received in his dreams. The Universal Mandala itself has a diameter of almost 68 feet, while the total diameter of the building, including a roof over the promenade around the hall, is 117 feet.
What is the Vajra Dance?
The Vajra Dance is a meditation practice integrating movement and sound. This practice is a method for integrating one’s body, energy, and mind into the knowledge of our own authentic nature.

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu received the details of the Vajra dance practice in a series of dreams while on retreat at Khandroling in Buckland, MA in 1990. He subsequently taught the dance to a group of Dzogchen practitioners in Buckland, and around the world.

The Vajra Dance is practiced on a large, five-colored Mandala that represents the correspondence between the internal dimension of the individual and the outer dimension of the world. Its form is characterized by a concentric configuration of geometric shapes. During a Vajra Dance session 6 women and 6 men practice together.

In 2011, at the International Dance Olympiad in Moscow, the Vajra Dance was officially recognized by CID (Conseil International de la Danse in Paris), the official organization recognized by UNESCO for all forms of dance in all countries of the world. Chögyal Namkhai Norbu also became a member of this International Dance Council.
What are Khaita Joyful Dances?

In the last few years, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu has dedicated a long time collecting and transcribing modern Tibetan songs, and encouraged us to learn modern Tibetan dance choreographies as well as creating new ones. Written by young Tibetan songwriters, with love for their own country, these songs and dances are a joyful way to celebrate the Tibetan cultural heritage, which is today under risk of extinction. In addition to supporting Tibetan culture, through these activities the people of the Dzogchen Community have discovered a pleasant way of spending time together, dissolving tensions and calming the mind.

Yantra Yoga, the Tibetan Yoga of Movement, is one of the oldest recorded systems of yoga in the world. Its unique series of positions and movements, combined with conscious breathing, can help coordinate and harmonize one’s energy so that the mind can relax and find its authentic balance. Yantra Yoga uses a sequence that consists of seven phases of movement connected with seven phases of breathing. Many positions used in Yantra Yoga are similar to those of Hatha Yoga, but the way to assume and apply them differs.

While today’s Yantra Yoga practitioner does not necessarily need to follow a particular spiritual path, anyone can practice without limitation. This rich method is connected with the essence of the Dzogchen Teachings, and for millennia it has been taught for the purpose of finding the true natural state.

Dr.  Phuntsog Wangmo, School of Tibetan Medicine<br>
Dr. Phuntsog Wangmo, School of Tibetan Medicine


Located in Conway, Massachusetts, the Shang Shung Institute of America was founded in 1994 by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu. Its achievements include: an extensive library of educational resources on Tibetan culture, an onsite and online bookstore including materials on Tibetan culture and the Dzogchen Teachings of Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, and many public programs and courses on Tibetan Culture & Art. The most extensive project of the American branch to date is a Tibetan Medicine School that is the first in the West to offer a four-year curriculum equivalent to traditional Tibetan medical schools in Tibet and India. http://www.shangshung.org

What is the International Shang Shung Institute?

The International Shang Shung Institute is a non-profit, non-political heritage organization dedicated to the preservation and study of Tibetan culture with branches in Italy, Russia, United States, United Kingdom, Argentina, Australia, Austria, and The Netherlands. The Institute was founded in 1989 by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu and inaugurated in 1990 by His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. It is active in the fields of Arts and Culture, Translation and Language Programs, Publications, Archiving, Tibetan Medicine, Buddhist Studies and Academic Research. www.shangshunginstitute.org

What is the A.S.I.A.?

Founded in Italy in 1988 by Chögyal Namkhai Norbu, A.S.I.A. (Association for International Solidarity in Asia), operates in Tibet and is dedicated to serving the Tibetan people in the sectors of education, health, training, disaster relief, and sustainable economic development. ASIA is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) officially recognized by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It signed a partnership agreement with the Humanitarian Aid Department of the European Commission (ECHO), and formally became a Non-profit Social Organization in 1998. A.S.IA. operates in support of the preservation of the identity and historical heritage of the peoples of Asia, with particular attention to Tibet and the Himalayan region, and promotes sustainable development processes centered on local communities with their own human, cultural, and environmental resources. www.asia-ngo.org

What is the Khandroling Paper Cooperative?
Conway Rags to Paper Project:
Making paper from Conway rags

The Khandroling Paper Cooperative is a Dzogchen Community based project approved by our Master, Choegyal Namkahi Norbu that seeks to create handmade paper from native fibers and recycled sacred texts including The Mirror, International Newspaper of the Dzogchen Community. The purpose of the cooperative is to provide revenue to community projects such as The Mirror, Khandroling Development and low-income member practitioners who sell their handmade paper products. The cooperative also seeks to create a bridge for local people to connect to the Dzogchen teachings and Tibetan arts through public educational workshops and information about Khandroling's sustainable practices as they develop in the future.


Learn More: http://khandrolingpapers.blogspot.com/