Transmission lineage of Karma Kagyu, one of the four main Tibetan Buddhists schools, is a lineage of yogi transmission. It includes the teachings of the old school (Nyingma) and the new one (Sarma). Especially orientated towards practice, it is also called the school “of oral transmission” or the school “of perfection”. The beginning of Karma Kagyu dates backs to 9th century, the time when tantric Buddhism flourished in India.
The first teacher of this tradition was the great yogi Tilopa. He got transmission directly from Dorje Chang (Diamond Holder Buddha). Tilopa passed the teachings onto his student Naropa, who created out them the first meditation system known as “The Six Yogas of Naropa”, considered today as a root of Kagyu Lineage. Naropa gave transmission to Marpa, the Great Translator, who walked to India in search of the practice instructions and then came back to Tibet to spread dharma in his motherland. Marpa was the first Tibetan who received the Kagyu transmission. His disciple, Milarepa, was one of the biggest yogis of Tibet. Before he started to practice he had to work hard for many years to get rid of bad karma he had accumulated. His life story is very popular among the practitioners all over the world.
Milarepa spent many years meditating alone in caves and reached a deep Enlightenment. His teachings are gathered in the collection of one thousand songs, among others. Milarepa died at the age of 80, after passing teachings to Gampopa, a doctor from Dhagpo. Gampopa was the first monk in Kagyu tradition and created the foundations of school’s monastic system. He also wrote the teachings down. His most renowned text is “The Jewel Ornament of Liberation”, the gradual path leading to Liberation.
Gampopa’s three closest students started the four main and the eight lesser schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The main schools merged into Kagyu, whose head was Karmapa, the first consciously incarnating lama of Tibet. Dusum Khyenpa, the 1st Karmapa, was the most outstanding among Gampopa’s students. Already as a child he manifested great power and purity of spiritual realization and at the age of 16 he received the Black Crown – a sign and source of the omniscience – as a gift from Dakinis. The Crown was passed to the next Karmapa’s incarnations. Every Karmapa was working with diligence spreading Buddha’s teachings. Karmapas are considered as the emanations of Chenrezig (skt.:Awalokitesvara).