A lineage in Buddhism is a line of transmission of the Buddhist teaching that is "theoretically traced back to the Buddha himself."Template:Sfn The acknowledgement of the transmission can be oral, or certified in documents. Several branches of Buddhism, including Zen and Tibetan Buddhism maintain records of their historical teachers. These records serve as a validation for the living exponents of the tradition.
In the lineage of the vinaya, the requirements for ordination as a monk or a nun include the presence of at least five other monks, one of whom must be a fully ordained preceptor, and another an acharya (teacher). This lineage for ordaining nuns became extinct in many Buddhist countries. When Ani Tenzin Palmo wanted full ordination for example, she had to travel to Hong Kong to receive it.
Chán and Zen lineages
Construction of lineages
The idea of a patriarchal lineage in Ch'an dates back to the epitaph for Fărú (法如 638–689), a disciple of the 5th patriarch Hóngrĕn (弘忍 601–674). In the Two Entrances and Four Acts and the Continued Biographies of Eminent Monks, Daoyu and Huike are the only explicitly identified disciples of Bodhidharma. The epitaph gives a line of descent identifying Bodhidharma as the first patriarch.Template:SfnTemplate:Sfn
In the 6th century biographies of famous monks were collected. From this genre the typical Ch'an-lineage was developed: Template:Quote
D.T. Suzuki contends that Ch'an's growth in popularity during the 7th and 8th centuries attracted criticism that it had "no authorized records of its direct transmission from the founder of Buddhism" and that Ch'an historians made Bodhidharma the 28th patriarch of Buddhism in response to such attacks.Template:Sfn
The earliest lineages described the lineage from Bodhidharma to Huining. There is no generally accepted 7th Chinese Patriarch.
The principle teachers of the Chan and Zen traditions are commonly known in English translations as Patriarchs, however the more precise terminology would be "Ancestors" or "Founders" (祖, zu3) and "Ancestral Masters" or "Founding Masters" (祖師, zu3shi1) as the commonly used Chinese terms are gender neutral. Various records of different authors are known, which give a variation of transmission lines:
Continuous lineage from Shakyamuni Buddha
Eventually these descriptions of the lineage evolved into a continuous lineage from Śākyamuni Buddha to Bodhidharma. The idea of a line of descent from Śākyamuni Buddha is the basis for the distinctive lineage tradition of the Chán school.
According to the Song of Enlightenment (證道歌 Zhèngdào gē) by Yǒngjiā Xuánjué (665-713),Template:Sfn one of the chief disciples of Huìnéng, Bodhidharma was the 28th Patriarch of Buddhism in a line of descent from Śākyamuni Buddha via his disciple Mahākāśyapa: Template:Quote
Transmission to Japan
Twenty-four different Zen-lineages are recorded to be transmitted to Japan. Only three survived until today. Sōtō was transmitted to Japan by Dogen, who travelled to China for Chan training in the 13th century CE. After receiving Dharma transmission in the Caodong line he returned to Japan and established the Sōtō line. The Linji line was also transmitted to Japan several times, where it became known as the Rinzai line.
Possession of lineage
Preservation of lineages
Gyatrul (b. 1924), in a purport to Chagmé (Wylie: karma-chags-med, fl. 17th century), conveys Khyentse's 'samaya' (Sanskrit), diligence and humility in receiving 'wang' (Tibetan), lineal transmission and 'rlung' (Wylie) as rendered into English by Wallace (Chagmé et al., 1998: p. 21): Template:Quote
There are several hagiographic accounts of how chöd came to Tibet. One namthar, or spiritual biography, asserts that shortly after Kamalashila won his famous debate with Moheyan as to whether Tibet should adopt the "sudden" route to enlightenment or his own "gradual" route, Kamalashila enacted phowa, transferring his mindstream to animate a corpse polluted with contagion in order to safely move the hazard it presented. As the mindstream of Kamalashila was otherwise engaged, a Mahasiddha by the name of Padampa Sangye came across the vacant kuten or "physical basis" of Kamalashila. Padampa Sangye was not karmically blessed with an aesthetic corporeal form, and upon finding the very handsome and healthy empty body of Kamalashila, which he assumed to be a newly dead fresh corpse, used phowa to transfer his own mindstream into Kamalashila's body. Padampa Sangye's mindstream in Kamalashila's body continued the ascent to the Himalaya and thereby transmitted the Pacification of Suffering teachings and the Indian form of Chöd which contributed to the Mahamudra Chöd of Machig Labdrön. The mindstream of Kamalashila was unable to return to his own kuten and so was forced to enter the vacant body of Padampa Sangye.
- Dharma transmission
- Religious order
- Wang (Tibetan Buddhism)
- Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim's lineage chart
- Chagmé et al., 1998: p. 22
- Source:  (accessed: Wednesday March 25, 2009)
- Template:Cite web
- Template:Cite book
- Thrangu, Khenchen & Klonk, Christoph (translator) & Hollmann, Gaby (editor and annotator)(2006). Chod – The Introduction & A Few Practices. Source:  (accessed: November 2, 2007)
- Tantric Glossary
- Template:Cite book
- The Lineages and History of Buddhism
- Chö/Chöd/Lineages associated with Machig Labdrön
- Schools of Zen Buddhism at the Zen Buddhism WWW Virtual Library
- Zen Ancestors in China - The Five Houses
- Caodong and Linji lineage chart of present day Chan Master Sheng-yen
- Buddhist masters