Ri or chok-ri in Tibetan mean "one-sided", "partisan" or "sectarian," Me means "no'. So, Ri-me mean "not taking sides," "nonpartisan," or "nonsectarian." It does not mean "nonconformist" or noncommittal," nor does it mean forming a new school or system that is different from the existing ones. Followers of the Ri-me approach almost always follow one lineage for their main practices. Although they respect and learn from other traditions, they would not dissociate from the school in which they were raised. One can take, for example, the founders of the Ri-me movement, Jamgon Kongtrul and Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo. Kongrtrul was educated in the Nyingma and Kagyu traditions and Khyentse was raised in the Nyingma and Sakya traditions. Although these two scholars and meditation masters received, collected, practiced and transmitted the teachings of all eights practice lineages, they never failed to acknowledge their affiliation to their own schools.
One of the unique features of Buddhism is the acceptance that different paths are appropriate for different types of people. Just as one medicine cannot cure all diseases, so one set of teachings cannot help all beings--this is a basic principle of Buddhism. Once chooses the most appropriate sutras and/or tantras from the Buddhist canon and makes them the basis for one's practice. This is how different schools of Buddhism begin. There are no "sects" in buddhism because there are no groups that break away from the main school. Different lineages have come into being even among those who practice the same teachings.
In Tibet, like other places, the different schools practiced and studied in rather isolated environments, without much contact with other schools and lineages. A lack of communication breeds misunderstanding. Even where there was no misunderstanding or disrespect to other schools some practitioners, in their enthusiasm to keep their own lineages pure and undiluted went so far as to refuse teaching from the masters of other lineages and would not study the texts of other schools. Ignorance is the most fertile ground for growing doubts and misconceptions.
The Ri-Me Philosophy of Jamgon Kongtrul the Great
A Study of the Buddhist Lineages of Tibet
By Ringu Tulku