THE NINE YANA JOURNEY
The Nyingma tradition classifies the corpus of Buddhist teachings into Nine Yanas, among the highest of which is known as Atiyoga or Dzogchen (Great Perfection). The Nine Vehicles are: the Three Common Vehicles – (1) Shravaka-yana, yana of the Hearers, (2) Pratyekabuddha-yana, yana of the Solitary Realizers, and (3) the Bodhisattva-yana, the Mahayana (consisting mainly of the sutrayana teachings taught by Buddha Shakyamuni); the Three Outer Tantras – (4) Kriya (Activity) Tantra, (5) Upa (Engagement) Tantra, and (6) Yoga (Practice) Tantra (the three stages of tantra); and the Three Innermost Tantras – (7) Mahayoga (primarily consisting of Utpatikrama teachings), (8) Annuyoga (emphasizing Sampanakrama), (9) Atiyoga (focusing on the most profound Sampranakrama).
The first three are common to all schools of Buddhism and the next three are common to all schools of Tantric Buddhism, whereas the last three are exclusive to the Nyingma tradition.
THE NYINGMA TANTRIC LINEAGES
According to the history of the origin of Nyingma tantras, there are six types of lineage:
Three Common Lineages (of Kama and Terma):
(1) The Thought Lineage of Buddhas, the most original teachings of the Dharmakaya Buddhas, originating from the primordial Buddha, Samantabhadra. (2) The Symbolic Lineage of the Vidyadharas (Knowledge Holders), which refers to the teachings of the Sambhogakaya Buddhas, originating from Vajrasattva, to Vajrapani to Garab Dorje of Uddiyana. (3) The Ear-whispered Lineage Of The Great Individuals, which are the teachings of the Nirmanakaya Buddha, originating from the Five Buddha families to the great human emanation master Garab Dorje, and then to Manjushrimitra, Shrisimha, Padmasambhava, Jnanasutra, Vimalamitra and Vairochana. This lineage then started and continued in Tibet, and continues through the present day.