In 1976, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche began teaching Dzogchen at the request of a small group of interested students in Italy . Soon the number of students increased and, by now, his numerous students are spread all over the world. All of them together are constituting the body of the Dzogchen Community world wide and the international or global nature of our Sangha is often emphasised by our Rinpoche.
With the help of these students, several of whom also study Tibetan language and culture within the Western academic system, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche has established eight main centres of teaching and spiritual practice (called Gars), as well as many other smaller ones (called Lings) throughout the world.
The Gars of Dzogchen Community are: Merigar West in Italy, Tsegyalgar East in the USA, Tashigar South in Argentina, Tashigar North in Venezuela and Namgyalgar in Australia. Also, Tsegyalgar West in Mexico, and a new one named Merigar East in Romania.
These Gars (lit.: "encampments" or "settlements") and Lings ("places") are focal points for practitioners, where teaching and practice retreats are taking place.
Here are some characteristic excerpts from Rinpoche's own words describing the Dzogchen Community:
"The Dzogchen Community is a broad association of people brought together by a common interest in the teaching of Dzogchen Ati; who follow it under the guidance of a master possessing the authentic knowledge of this state of Dzogchen; who study and practice, each according to his (or her) own capacity, the Tantras, the Lungs and the Upadeshas; and who further the circumstances necessary for these activities.
As clarified in the statutes of the Community, one can only become an effective member (of the Community) after following the teaching for three years, but obviously, all who are interested in the teaching and who wish to or actually collaborate with those who maintain them, automatically belong to the Dzogchen Community.
On the other hand, those who are in the Community only in a spirit of friendship; or to pass their time in distraction; or who in reality have no interest at all in the teachings or in those who maintain them, cannot be considered to be practitioners of Dzogchen, even if they have completed the established length of time for belonging to the Community, or have already done so long ago."...
... "If someone considers the Dzogchen Community to be like any other usual association and leaves it because of some conflicts he has had (with some other members), and goes off to join another association, there is no guarantee that until he has relaxed his own tensions, he will not sooner or later want to leave this other association (too). It is very likely that these kinds of situations arise.
In reality the Dzogchen Community is represented firstly by the teachings of an authentic Master who maintains them and secondly by the people who are interested in them; who according to their different individual capacities, study the Tantras, the Lungs and the Upadeshas of Dzogchen and secondarily all branches of knowledge linked with the teachings; who try to practice their understanding as much as they can; who collaborate in resolving the most important necessities related to the aims and do their best to help in any kind of work, motivated by the fact, not of having given the job by someone else, but by their own spontaneous willingness.
This should be the real nature of the Dzogchen Community".
(Excerpts from the book "The Dzogchen Community", Shang Shung Edisioni, 2001.)