Transmission of the Inner Tantras and Dzogchen
According to Nyingma history, the three inner classes of Tantra - Mahayoga, Anuyoga and Atiyoga - all derive ultimately from Samantabhadra, the Primordial Buddha who is none other than the reality of buddha mind itself. From the perspective of the Inner Tantras, the three kayas - dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, and nirmanakaya - are identical in essence. One cannot have sambhogakaya or nirmanakaya without their source, which is dharmakaya. This means that the nirmanakaya Buddha Shakyamuni and the dharmakaya Buddha Samantabhadra are not two separate buddhas but manifestations of a single state of buddhahood. Differences lie in the perceptions, capacities and needs of different disciples.
Bodhisattvas of the first bhumi, while they are not able to directly encounter the dharmakaya Buddha Samantabhadra, are able to encounter it through the sambhogakaya. And so it is that they receive the Vajrayana teachings through the appearance of sambhogakaya buddhas. For those who are unable to directly perceive the sambhogakaya, then the awakened state appears and teaches according to their level of understanding and perception in the nirmanakaya form, as in the case of Buddha Shakyamuni. Nevertheless, Samantabhadra and Shakyamuni are both aspects of a single state of buddhahood.
The Inner Tantras have been transmitted from the dharmakaya Buddha Samantabhadra, down to the present day in three distinctive phases: The Enlightened Intention (or Mind) Lineage of the Buddhas, The Symbolic Gesture Lineage of the Awareness Holders or Vidyadharas, and The Oral Lineage of Exalted Human Individuals. It is through these three transmissions that the Inner Tantras entered our world, and found their first human (in appearance at least) recipient in Prahevajra, or Garab Dorje.
The Inner Tantras were then transmitted by Prahevajra to Manjushrimitra and from him to Shri Simha. These lineage holders bequeathed the teachings to Padmasambhava, Jnanasutra, and Vimalamitra who, together with the Tibetan-born teacher Vairotsana, brought the lineage and teachings to Tibet. The lineages of the Inner Tantras and Dzogchen continue down to the present day through the unbroken succession of the Kama and Terma, and have produced a great number of realised meditators, scholars and teachers who have held the lineage and brought the teachings to fruition. As well as the aforementioned early lineage founders, such masters include Padmasambhava’s twenty-five disciples, the tertöns, Longchen Rabjam (Longchenpa 1308–1364), Patrül Rinpoche (1808–1887), the Dodrubchen Rinpoches and Ju Mipham (1846-1912).
Longchenpa is of particular significance to the Nyingmapas, especially within the Dzogchen tradition. He united and compiled teachings concerning the two main Dzogchen Nyingthig (Heart Essence) lineages, adding three commentaries of his own to the teachings of Guru Rinpoche and Vimalamitra. He also wrote the famed Dzödün (Seven Treasures), texts that present various aspects of the view, meditation, and conduct of the Nyingma nine vehicles. He left over two hundred and fifty treatises behind, many of which are still regarded as the most comprehensive and authoritative works yet written concerning the view and practice of Dzogchen. It was after his visions of Longchenpa and Padmasambhava that the tertön Rigdzin Jigme Lingpa began to transmit his terma, the Longchen Nyingthig (Heart Essence of the Vast Expanse, or Heart Drop of Longchenpa) cycle of teachings. Since it was revealed to Jigme Lingpa as a mind terma, the Longchen Nyingthig has become one of the most widely practised of all Dzogchen traditions. It is seen as being the synthesis of the two Dzogchen traditions that came through Padmasambhava (Khandro Nyingthig) and Vimalamitra (Vima Nyingthig), and that flowed together in Longchenpa. As it is the Longchen Nyingthig lineage of teachings that Drupon Rinpoche Karma Lhabu received from his Lamas, it is masters of this lineage that are featured in this section.