Yoga and Lineage: Reflections after Agniyogana


 

Firstly, some background...

 

Late last year I felt inspired to bring the the Agniyogana film to Nelson. Although I wasn't aware of it at the time, it turned out one of the key lineages that featured was the Drikung Kagyu, which happens to be my main lineage (funny how these things work!).

If you have seen the film, you may recall Dordzin Dondrop Palden Rinpoche (pictured above) and Nubpa Konchok Tenzin Rinpoche were representing Drikung Kagyu. Also featured in the film were Ani Chonyi Zangmo and Dr Sherab Tenzin, representing Nyingma lineage.

These two lineages are very closely connected - both Tibetan Buddhist Yogic traditions. The Drikung Dzogchen transmission (aka Yangzab), which is the main teaching Lama Mark Webber will be passing on in the upcoming Wangapeka retreat, is essentially a Nyingma lineage, within the Drikung Kagyu.

 

Why is lineage important in Yoga & Dharma?

 

Lineage is the means by which the authenticity of teachings is preserved, across generations, centuries, and even millennia. It is the unbroken line of direct heart-to-heart transmission, from master to student, of the essential purpose of a teaching, aka parampara (skt.). In the case of Yoga and Dharma, lineage carries the potency of spiritual realisation of the founding Yogi, as well as subsequent lineage masters. In the case of Drikung Kagyu, the founder was a Buddhist Master called Jigten Sumgön who lived around the 13th century AD in Tibet. Although the transmission didn't exactly originate with him - it traces back through Gampopa all the way to Tilopa.

Without genuine, unbroken lineage, the real depth of yogic practices can become easily diluted. This happens through a process of cultural assimilation. The outer form of a practice may spread far and wide, but this will tend to be for the purpose of satisfying mainstream cultural ideals. The potency of inner aspects - in particular their ability to unlock transcendent wisdom - will tend to dissipate in a cloud of conceptual confusion and may eventually be lost entirely to blind dogma.

Practitioners and teachers may still give lip service to the spiritual origins of their traditions, but without genuine lineage, the practices will begin to feel hollow - at some point we may discover that they have lost their power to truly liberate. They will tend to bind us to, rather than free us from, our culturally-sanctified world-view.

We live in a time when the fabric - the validity - of our western / 'global' culture is being challenged on so many levels. This isn't necessarily a bad thing - our culture is young and naive. It still has a lot of room for growth - a long way to go before it will be capable of truly and unconditionally nurturing human beings, our planet, all of life, in a sustainable and compassionate way.

At times like these, the potency of genuine spiritual lineage becomes an essential guiding force. How else are we to maintain a sense of clarity and perspective, when all our reference points for a happy life are being turned on their head? How else are we to kn