One quality that is indispensable is the authentic guru lineage. As the great Sakyapa master Drakpa Gyaltsen said, a guru without lineage has no blessing. Lineage establishes a pedigree of sorts and is an absolutely necessary component of the path. Lineage is a history; it provides authentication. Where there is a lineage, there is a path, and the path has been tested.
Any path leading from one place to another is a product of causes and conditions, and the Buddhist path is no exception. Working with causes and conditions is the essence of the Buddhist path. In the beginning — especially in the beginning — we strive to no longer gather negative causes and conditions, and we learn how to apply positive causes and conditions. Eventually we gather the specific causes and conditions needed to disentangle ourselves from causes and conditions altogether.
For the Vajrayana practitioner, the right causes and condition are of utmost importance. Of all the many causes and conditions, lineage happens to be an extremely decisive factor. On a fundamental level, lineage is a condition that, in our human mind, authenticates the teaching and the teacher. A lineage can be a reference point: you can refer to what has been done by all the lineage gurus prior to your own guru, and this will oftentimes help build confidence in the teacher and the teachings.
Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
from the book The Guru Drinks Bourbon?
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