Our lineage, a lineage of realization, of the union of Mahamudra and the steps on the path can be traced back to the historical Buddha Shakyamuni and the Primordial Buddha Vajradhara.
Historical succession and masters
The so-called distant or indirect lineag was passed down from master to disciple throughout the generations to Tilopa, Indian Mahasiddha, who reached enlightenment through all the methods he had received from his masters of the Four Streams of Masters.
Kagyu is the short form of kabab zhi gyupa. Ka means oral, bab transmission and gyu is the continuation of the lineage. Therefore, Kabab zhi Gyupa is all the teachings of the Kagyu which Tilopa had received from the Four Streams of Lineage:
Subtle Heat from Caryapada,
Illusory body from Nagarjuna
Dream yoga from Lvabapa
Bardo from Sukhasiddhi
The lineage was passed on from master to student by the great forefathers of our lineage – from Tilopa (988 – 1069), to Naropa (1016-1100), Marpa (1012-1097), Milarepa (1040-1123). Until then, it is called Marpa Kagyu. With Gampopa (1084-1161) who had received the monastic lineage from the Kadampas the lineage is also called Dagpo Kagyu. From Gampopa it further developed into many branch lineages.
With the incarnations of The Gyalwang Karmapas, starting with Dusum Khyenpa (1110-1193), the lineage is known as the Golden Rosary of Kagyu. With The Gyalwang Karmapa it developed into the Karma Kagyu, as one of the branch lineages of the Marpa Kagyu.
Kagyu in Tibet
The lineage reached the land of snows in the 11th century. Lord Marpa Lotsawa travelled three times to India to receive Mahamudra teachings from his 108 masters and yogis, particularly Naropa, with whom he spent 21 years altogether practicing his instructions, and from Maitripa. He founded the Marpa Kagyu which initially was a purely yogic lineage.
Lineage of Mahamudra
Core or center of our lineage is the practice of Mahamudra, both in Sutra as well as in Tantra transmissions. In Kagyu, we have three important Mahamudra practice transmissions by the 9th Karmapa Wangchug Dorje, namely Mahamudra Ocean of Certainty, Pointing out the Dharmakaya, Dispelling the Darkness of Ignorance.
Practicing Mahamudra, the disciple is being step ba step guided through their meditation with its many methods, starting with refuge until the unceasing resting in their nature of mind, until finally reaching Mahamudra.