A tulku is a reincarnate custodian of a specific lineage of teachings in Tibetan Buddhism who is given empowerments and trained from a young age by students of his or her predecessor.
Historically, the tulku system of preserving Dharma lineages operated in Tibet with the first being the Karmapas.
After the first Karmapa died in 1193, a lama had recurrent visions of a particular child as his rebirth.
This child (born ca. 1205) was recognized as .
Nyingma traditional histories consider their teachings to trace back to the first Buddha Samantabhadra (Güntu Sangpo) and Indian mahasiddhas such as Garab Dorjé, Śrī Siṃha and Jñānasūtra.
Traditional sources trace the origin of the Nyingma order in Tibet to figures associated with the initial introduction of Buddhism in the 8th century, such as Padmasambhava, Yeshe Tsogyal, Vimalamitra, Vairotsana, Buddhaguhya and Shantaraksita.
Nyingma teachings are also known for having been passed down through networks of lay practitioners .