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Tibetan Buddhism comprises the four lineages of Nyingmapa, Kagyupa, Sakyapa, and Gelukpa, can trace their unbroken lineage of transmission and enlightened masters right back to the time of Buddha Shakyamuni 2500 years ago, in the 5th century BC.
The 19th century Nyingma Master Jamgön Ju Mipham Gyatso (1846–1912) made the following observation of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism:
“These four schools are the bodhisattva heirs of the victorious Buddhas and represent four exquisite transmissions: the view that transcends all fixations of extremes are the adepts of Nyingmapa, who have mastered the esoteric power of the secret mantra and are the life-force of the teachings that preserve the pith instruction of the tantras and the sādhanas; purposeful in meditative practice are the adepts of Kagyupa, who have mastered the nicety of realisation and are the heart of the teachings that promote devotion to the lineage of their practices; diligent in the elucidation of commentary, the practices of the generation stage and the completion stage are the adepts of the Sakyapa, who are the eyes of the teachings that unify the essence of sutrayana and mantrayana; immaculate monastic conduct are the adepts of the Gelukpa, who have mastered the discourse of sutras and are the body of the teachings that encompass the complete path of learning the scriptures. All four schools come from the same source like children who share the same parents but take birth individually. Whichever lineage you follow, cultivate proper decorum in your interaction with others and apply yourself with devotion and pure view to bring forth the qualities of learning and the accomplishment of practice.”
- Extract of an article from the Pathgate feature Gateway to Tibetan Buddhism. Click here to read