What is the importance of lineage in various spiritual traditions?
The concept of lineage is found not only in esoteric orders, but also in spiritual traditions of the East, as well as in Christianity and Freemasonry in the West. Lineage, much like trademarks, may serve to prevent public confusion about a given spiritual tradition. Lineage may also be a formal means of mutual recognition, as in the case of Freemasonry, which uses charters and systems of mutual recognition between Grand lodges to establish regularity, or finally, it may carry with it a spiritual transmission or realization, as in the case of Dharma transmission in Zen Buddhism. Zen Buddhism, for example, maintains records of their historical teachers who, according to the traditional history of that school, have passed the Dharma from generation to generation in an unbroken line since the time of the Buddha. Dharma transmission is the formal confirmation by a master of Zen or Chan Buddhism of a student’s awakening. This one-to-one transmission is said to trace back over 2,500 years to