Many Buddhist lineages go back to Mahasiddha Tilopa who lived in Northern India in the 10th century.
Tilopa (988-1069) was born a
brahmin in India, but he renounced the world while still quite young to
become an ascetic. After a short period, he had a vision of a dakini who
gave him an explicit tantric initiation that connected him directly with the
Void. She enjoined him to throw away his monk's robes, to act
spontaneously and to practice in secret.
Later on, meditating in a seclusion in a tiny grass hut, he came face-to-face with the form of Buddha Vajradhara. The Kagyu denomination holds the Mahamudra teachings that were received directly from Vajradhara via Tilopa.
Following that realization, this unpredictable and powerful master wandered about the country teaching and performing miracles.
He is considered a master in the attitude and techniques of four distinct transmissions:
All of these including Mahamudra (the Supreme Attitude) were transmitted directly from Tilopa to Naropa (1016-1100,) his long-suffering student.