The Karma Kagyu lineage is one of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
As a lineage of direct oral transmission, it especially treasures meditation and, through interaction with a qualified teacher, can bring about the full and direct experience of the nature of mind. The Karma Kagyu methods were taught by the historical Buddha Shakyamuni to his closest students. These methods were later passed on through the Indian Mahasiddhas, Padmasambhava, Tilopa, Naropa, Maitripa, and the famous Tibetan yogis Marpa and Milarepa.
In the 12th century, the monk Gampopa gave the teachings to the first Gyalwa Karmapa whose successive conscious rebirths have kept the teachings alive and powerful to the present day. Today, great Tibetan teachers (tib. lamas) such as H.H. the 17th Karmapa Trinlay Thaye Dorje and H.H. Kunzig Shamar Rinpoche transmit this unbroken tradition when visiting the many Karma Kagyu Diamond Way Buddhist centers around the world.
The Karma Kagyu school offers practical teachings applicable to everyday life. A wealth of methods are available for lay people and yogis to develop mind’s inherent richness and clarity, both through meditation and in one’s daily activities. The roof of the self-liberating Great Seal (skt. Mahamudra) is supported by three pillars: verifiable non-dogmatic teachings, meditation, and the means to solidify the levels of awareness that are attained.
The Gyalwa Karmapa is the head of the Karma Kagyu lineage. He is unique among the great lamas of Tibet, having reached full enlightenment centuries ago. During a previous incarnation, Karmapa was at the side of the historical Buddha as the great Bodhisattva Loving Eyes (tib. Chenrezig). From the year 1110, he became the first recognized incarnate lama of Tibet and continues to take successive conscious rebirths.