In the centuries after his lifetime, the teachings of the Buddha spread from India to many different countries in Asia, eventually extending as far as present-day Siberia, Java and Afghanistan. In each culture it encountered, Buddhist practice retained its core integrity but took on many different cultural expressions. For various historical reasons, Buddhism almost died out in India later on, but Indian Buddhism survived in the mountain Kingdoms of the Himalayas and in Tibet.
The Kagyu tradition has its origin in the Buddhism of India a thousand years ago and is one of the four principal Buddhist schools of Tibet. At its head is His Holiness Karmapa Orgyen Trinley Dorge, seventeenth in a reincarnate line reaching back to the birth of the first Karmapa in 1110. The present Karmapa was born in Tibet in 1985 and enthroned at Tsurphu monastery, his traditional seat, in 1992. He became known throughout the world in January 2000, at the time of his escape to exile in India. The Kagyu Lineage is sometimes known as the ‘practice lineage’, for its emphasis on the practical application of the Buddha’s teaching in day-to-day life, and its stress on the primacy of individual meditative experience, properly guided.