The teaching of Dzogpachenpo was first given in the pure realm of Akanishtha, where the teacher Samantabhadra, in Sambhogakaya form, communicates the teaching directly by means of his wisdom mind to disciples who are not different from him in any way-sugatas and bodhisattvas, male and female.
Now, in this world of ours, the first to spread the teaching of Dzogpachenpo was the Nirmanakaya emanation Garab Dorje. Dates given for Garab Dorje put his birth in the year 536BC; by comparison, one popular date for the passing away of Lord Buddha, from the Theravada traditon of Sri Lanka, is 543BC. From the glorious Lord of Secrets, Vajrapani, or it is often said Vajrasattva, Garab Dorje received, in an instant and all together, the empowerments, as well as the tantras, agamas, and upadeshas, of Dzogpachenpo. Then in the north of the western land of Oddiyana, on the rugged mountain-peak of uryaprakasha, the vidyadhara Garab Dorje,along with the wisdom dakinis, gathered and complied all the tantras in existence, both those that were known and those that were unknown. Together they divided the 20,000 tantras which bore the name of Dzogpachenpo into ʻshlokasʼ or verses, and classifi ed them into 6,400,000 verses. Garab Dorjeʼs disciple, Manjushrimitra,
then divided these 6,400,000 verses of Dzogpachenpo into three categories:
the outer category of mind-Semde,
the inner category of space-longde, and
the secret category of pith instructions-Mengakde.
The first four masters in the lineage left this world in a characteristic way. At the end of his life, the first human Dzogchen master Garab Dorje disappeared into a sphere of rainbow light, leaving his disciple Manjushrimitra his last testament ʻHitting the Essence in Three Wordsʼ, Tsik Sum Ne Dek. When Manjushrimitra departed from this world, vanishing in a cloud of light, he gave his laste testament to his disciple Shri Singha, entitled ʻSix Experiences of Meditationʼ, Gom Nyam
Drukpa. When Shri Singha passed away and dissolved into a body of light, he bestowed his testament ʻSeven Nailsʼ, Zerbu Dun, on Jnanasutra. He too left this world by disappearing into a sphere of light, leaving his disciple Vimalamitra his own testament ʻFour Methods of Contemplationʼ, Shyak Tab Shyipa.