The Karma Kagyu Lineage of Tibetan Buddhism

The Karma Kagyu Lineage of "oral instructions" is known for its exceptional methods used to realize the true nature of the reality. Notable among these methods are "The Six Yogas of Naropa" : The Yogas of the inner heat, of illusory body, of the dream state, the clear light, the bardo (the intermediate state between death and rebirth) and the phowa (the transference of conciousness at the moment of death).
The culmination of these teachings is "Mahamudra" or "Great Seal".

The Kagyu lineage originated with the great yogi Tilopa (988 - 1069), who lived in Northern India around the 10th century A.D. Tilopa received the four special transmissions (Tib.: bka-babs-bzhi) and mastered them. These teachings were passed on from Tilopa to Naropa (1016 - 1100), and were systematized as The Six Yogas of Naropa, considered a central theme in the Kagyu Lineage. Naropa transmitted his knowledge to Marpa (1012 – 1097), the great translator who journeyed from Tibet to India in order to receive instructions and who subsequently returned to Tibet and spread the teachings of the Dharma.

His student, Milarepa (1052 - 1135), became one of Tibet’s great yogis. Through perseverance in the practice of Mahamudra and The Six Yogas of Naropa, he achieved profound realization of the ultimate nature of reality.

Milarepa’s transmission was carried on by Gampopa (1079 – 1153), the physician from Dagpo. He studied the Kadampa tradition, which is a gradual path that includes what are called the Lam Rim teachings. Four of his disciples founded the four major Kagyu schools: Babrom Kagyu, Pagdru Kagyu, Shang Tsalpa Kagyu, and Kamtsang Kagyu, also known as the Karma Kagyu School.

It was the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa (1110 – 1193) , who received the complete Mahamudra transmission from Gampopa.

Subsequently, the eight minor Kagyu lineages were founded. These eight lineages are the Taglung Kagyu, Trophu Kagyu, Drukpa Kagyu, Martsang Kagyu, Yerpa Kagyu, Yazang Kagyu, Shugseb Kagyu and Drikung Kagyu.

Nowadays, among the four major Kagyu lineages only the Karma Kagyu remains prevalent. Among the eight minor Kagyu lineage’s only the Taglung, Drukpa and Drikung Kagyu still exist lineages independently.

"The Golden Kagyu Garland" refers to the masters who are holders of the lineage in which Mahamudra is a main theme. The lineage holders are selected by the Karmapa himself which ensures that the teachings remain intact and pure.


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