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The Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism.
The name Kagyu means “Oral Lineage" or "Whispered Transmission"school. The lineage emphasizes the continuity of oral instructions passed on from master to student.
The lineage origin is Buddha Vajradhara, the primordial Buddha, the Dharmakaya Buddha, expressing buddhahood itself and representing the essence of the historical Buddha's realization of enlightenment.
During a meditation, Tilopa (988-1069), a renowned Indian mahasiddha and master of mahamudra and tantra, had a vision of Buddha Vajradhara and, according to the legend, the entire Mahamudra teachings were handed down to him by direct transmission. He received various tantric teachings and he unified them and transmitted to his disciple, Naropa, his Golden Rosary lineage heir, and following, he transmitted them to his disciple, Marpa Lotsawa (1012-1097), the Great Translator of Tibet. Marpa translated the authentic teachings and lineages of vajrayana and mahamudra in Tibetan and introduced with it Buddhism into Tibet. Marpa’s most famous student Jetsun Milarepa was the greatest yogi in all of Tibet, and he passed the teachings on to Gampopa, who in turn transmitted the teachings to the First Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa. During his lifetime, Shakyamuni Buddha predicted there would come into being a fully realized teacher who would reappear over and over again as the ‘Karmapa’. The name Karmapa refers literally to 'the one who performs the activity of a Buddha.' Since then, the Kagyu Lineage has been headed by a succession of reincarnations of the Gyalwang Karmapa.The line of the Karmapas is said to be self-announced, because each incarnation leaves a letter predicting his next rebirth.
On the following pages are portraits of the Golden Rosary Lineage teachers, from Tilopa till the current 17th Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje.