Kache Marpo is a very ancient Buddhist deity originating from the time of Guru Rinpoche, a thousand years ago. Kache Marpo was installed as one of the Dharma Protectors in Samye Monastery by Guru Rinpoche in the past, as one of the protective divinities to help increase the growth of Dharma in the country of Tibet and the surrounding areas. Kache Marpo is considered an emanation of Hayagriva, which makes him a fully accomplished enlightened being and also a Buddha who appears in a worldly form.
Kache Marpo has a red face, three eyes and two arms. He gnaws his lower lip with his upper teeth and has bared fangs to scare away obstacles and maras. He wears the helmet of an ancient warrior with five flags fluttering in the wind, representing the five Dhyani Buddhas. In ancient times, warriors would wear flags on their backs to denote who they are, where they are from, their rank, and so on. He wears a full set of leather mail on his body which enables him to stop arrows and other projectiles that are shot at him. But in Dharma terms, it represents that he is impenetrable because he has achieved full enlightenment.
In his right hand which is swinging up in the air, he holds a long spear and in his left hand, he holds a noose. The noose is dragging a human-like form, which represents our negative karma, our sufferings, our problems, and our pains in samsara. The human is bound and tied, meaning that Kache Marpo has the power to bind our obstacles. He pierces the human with the long spear held in his right hand, further enforcing his ability to destroy our obstacles.
He rides on a horse over an ocean of blood. The blood represents all suffering that is inherently existent in samsara and the projections within samsara. When he rides over this ocean, it signifies that he is above and beyond any type of suffering.
A very simple visualization that you can do during Kache Marpo’s practice is to visualize that from every pore of his body, psychic flames erupt and spew into the ten directions to announce his arrival.
In the Nyingma tradition, he is very much worshipped in the form of Tsiu Marpo. Later when Dorje Shugden manifested, Tsiu Marpo saw the benefits of Dorje Shugden’s practice and activities, and on his own free will, he took an oath to become one of Dorje Shugden’s ministers. So, he is practiced within the Nyingma tradition as Tsiu Marpo and within the Gelugpa tradition as Kache Marpo.
In Tibet, there are many famous Kache Marpo oracles. They can come in peaceful or wrathful form, and are very well known for the accuracy of their advice. Even though they are oracles of Kache Marpo, when the oracle takes trance, Dorje Shugden the King will enter first. After the King leaves, Kache Marpo will then come and speak on behalf of the King (Dorje Shugden).
There is a very famous oracle in Tibet called the Panglung Oracle, whose picture I have included here. During the Cultural Revolution in 1959, he was consulted by H.H. Trijang Rinpoche for the safety of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. When he was consulted, Dorje Shugden entered first, then Kache Marpo entered and pronounced that the Dalai Lama should leave Tibet immediately. This event is well recorded by the monks who witnessed this as well as the monks who actually carried the messages back and forth. So, one of the most famous Kache Marpo oracles in Tibet who was very, very well known for his accuracy was the one who gave the prophecy that the Dalai Lama should leave Tibet.
You don’t have to do Kache Marpo’s practice separately. When you do the Dorje Shugden practice, he is automatically included. Having said that, Kache Marpo can and has been practiced as a separate Protector in his own right because he is highly qualified. This also speaks very highly of Dorje Shugden that another highly qualified Protector would submit himself to Dorje Shugden’s ways and methods of increasing the Dharma.
I have included here some short write-ups about the history and iconography of Kache Marpo, some pictures of him for download, and also some praises written by high lamas such as His Holiness the Fifth Dalai Lama and so on for your convenience.
I hope this gives a little bit of information on this benevolent and very effective Dharma Protector who also happens to be the attendant of Dorje Shugden.
Who is Kache Marpo?
Kache Marpo is one of Dorje Shugden’s main attendants and is said to be an emanation of Hayagriva. Kache Marpo assists Dorje Shugden in carrying out his Dharma instructions and activities, and assists us in overcoming inner and outer obstacles to our spiritual practice. Even though Kache Marpo takes on the form of a worldly Protector, in actuality his true nature is the wrathful form of Avalokiteshvara. Thus Kache Marpo is an enlightened Dharma Protector and as such, has his own set of pujas, offerings and rituals which can be used to propitiate him and invoke his blessings.
The Gelugs are not the only tradition of Tibetan Buddhism which has relied upon Kache Marpo. Kache Marpo was known to and propitiated by the Sakyas in the form of Tsiu Marpo. They propitiated Tsiu Marpo along with Dorje Setrap and Dorje Shugden, who together formed Gyalpo Sum (The Three Kings) who were the main Protectors of the Sakya lineage.
In his present role as a Gelug Protector and powerful acolyte of Dorje Shugden, it is said that Kache Marpo waits on his horse outside Dorje Shugden’s celestial abode, to carry out the King’s (Dorje Shugden’s) instructions and lead the fight against our obstacles.
Kache Marpo’s abode is described to be “A brilliant, splendid brown palace made of leather, which is surrounded by a red ocean formed by the blood of horses and men”.
The color of his body is similar to the vibrance produced when the sun shines on a huge mountain of coral, bright red and luminous. He has the shape of a “son of devas”, with one face and two hands. In his right hand he brandishes a red, sharp lance, with which he pierces the heart of our negative karma and wrong views, rendering them impotent. His left hand holds a noose that is wound around the neck of an obstacle-creating demon. Kache Marpo appears as a Tibetan warrior adorned with a leather cuirass and helmet decorated with victory banners of silk in nine colors.
His facial expression is very wrathful. He gnaws his lower lip in perpetual fury and haste, showing his impatience to help us destroy our obstacles and the causes of our suffering. His three eyes that represent his ability to perceive the past, present and future, throb with red-gleaming veins as they stare with full hatred at obstructors and evil-doers. He rides a very fierce horse, which possesses magical qualities and mounted with a precious saddle, belt and other accessories.
Oracles and Trances
Kache Marpo takes trance in qualified oracles to support practitioners by giving accurate prophecies, sound advice, blessings and healing of diseases, depending on what is necessary. Kache Marpo consistently displays great patience and offers his assistance to sincere Dharma practitioners.
Kache Marpo usually takes trance peacefully through an oracle to give instructions and advice. He will always check with Dorje Shugden before giving out any advice to practitioners. Having great respect for Dorje Shugden, it is witnessed during trance that Kache Marpo always refers to him as ‘The Great King’.
Kache Marpo takes trance in the current Panglung Kuten (Kuten means oracle in Tibetan), who was trained by His Holiness Trijang Dorje Chang and currently resides in Taiwan. He also takes trance in the Gameng Kuten in the USA. In Tibet, the previous Panglung Kuten who lived in Panglung Retreat near Sera Monastery, Lhasa was very famous and many people including H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama, H.H. Trijang Rinpoche, dignitaries and high officials would consult him for advice and guidance.
When the oracle takes trance of Kache Marpo, he may appear wrathful or peaceful depending on the location he is in as well as the ‘requirements’ of the audience. If the people in a certain area are aggressive, full of anger and stubborn, Kache Marpo will take on a wrathful disposition. On the other hand, if the people are compassionate, loving and patient, Kache Marpo will appear in a calm and peaceful form.
At times, Dorje Shugden and Kache Marpo will not remain for long during the trance and may not even accept the offerings presented. This occurs when, through their clairvoyance, Dorje Shugden and Kache Marpo know that the people in the audience who are seeking divine help will not adhere to the advice given. Thus, out of compassion, Dorje Shugden and Kache Marpo do not stay for long so that these people do not accumulate further negative karma by disobeying the instructions given.
A Brief History of Kache Marpo
Kache Marpo is one of the Seven Blazing Brothers who arose from the Tsiu Marpo pantheon and belongs to the ‘tsen‘ classification of Protectors. Prior to the 17th century, Kache Marpo was typically depicted as a minor figure until His Holiness the 5th Dalai Lama popularized his practice during his reign. The Fifth Dalai Lama’s collected works contain a short propitiation to the Yaksha Kache Marpo (in volume Da folios 147a5-149a5), and also contain writings that support this history of how Kache Marpo came to be. The works also have descriptions of Kache Marpo that closely matches the attendant deity found in Dorje Shugden rituals.
Newer research by Christopher Paul Bell also confirms Kache Marpo as the enlightened Tsiu Marpo. Christopher Bell’s recent work, “Tsiu Marpo: The Career of a Tibetan Protector Deity” mentions that one of the 6 ‘demons’ that formed from Tsiu Marpo’s body is known as the ‘Rock Might Demon‘ who comes from the red highlands. This description is in sync with the account of Kache Marpo as coming from the ‘mansion of the high rising copper red mountains’ in “The abbreviated torma offerings and request for activity of Powerful Tsen Go Kache Marpo called Sport of the Slaughterer” written by H.H. Trijang Rinpoche. Christopher Bell’s thesis statement that the ‘Rock Might Demon‘ is ‘Overlord of the Red Copper Rock‘ further supports the derivation that the rock might demon is Kache Marpo that manifested from Tsiu Marpo’s body. Lastly, the iconography of the ‘Rock Might Demon‘ (on p50 of Bell’s thesis) is identical to Kache Marpo’s except for the sword, which ‘Rock Might Demon‘ holds (Kache Marpo wields a lance).
Tsiu Marpo is a ‘subjugated’ Tibetan worldly god of the warrior class (drala). Tsiu Marpo functioned as a Buddhist protector deity of Samyé Monastery (est. 779 C.E.), the oldest Buddhist monastery in Tibet, when the previous Protector, Pehar Gyalpo, was transferred to Nechung Monastery just outside Lhasa. Tsiu Marpo, commonly recognized as a worldly Protector, is the head of the Seven Blazing Brothers. His practice was popularized by the Nyingma teacher Ngari Panchen Pema Wangyal (1487-1542). In essence, Tsiu Marpo is Tamdrin (Hayagriva) and it was Padmasambhava who bestowed empowerments and gave Tsiu Marpo his secret name of Kunkyap Dorje Drakpotsel, meaning “The Power of the Fierce, All-pervading Vajra”.
Tsiu Marpo is said to have first manifested as Lise Chorpa from the land of Li. He was a high practitioner who lived in the forest and due to a misunderstanding, was mistaken to be a dangerous man. Blinded by fear, people hunted him down and the king, in a fit of fear, decapitated him with his royal sword. However, due to the power of his attainments, the various parts of his body – flesh, bones, heart, fluids and so forth – arose as the Seven Blazing Brothers, of which Tsiu Marpo is the chief.
Kache Marpo a.k.a. Tsiu Marpo is very much practiced within the Nyingma lineage up till the present day. You will see his depiction in many Nyingma temples.
Prayers to Kache Marpo written by various Great Masters
- Praise to Yaksha Kache Marpo, the Doctrine’s Watchman by H.H. the 5th Dalai Lama
- Abbreviated Torma Offering and Request for Activity of Powerful Tsen Go Kache Marpo called Sport of the Slaughterer by H.H. Trijang Dorje Chang
- Prayer Offering of the Wild Tsen Kache Marpo by Ngawang Lozang Jorden
Praise to Yaksha Kache Marpo, the Doctrine’s Watchman
by H.H. the 5th Dalai Lama
Abbreviated Torma Offering and Request for Activity of Powerful Tsen Go Kache Marpo called Sport of the Slaughterer
by Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang
Prayer Offering of the Wild Tsen Kache Marpo
by Ngawang Lozang Jorden
[For those who wish to perform a brief prayer offering to the Protector of Riwo Choling, the Wild Tsen (Tsen Go) Kache Marpo, first arrange offerings and tormas as usual. Also have a rising white cloud of white incense smoke. Recite prayers of refuge and bodhicitta three times. Then having generated oneself in the form of the Yidam, bless the kangwa (fulfillment ritual) substances, offerings and tormas as in highest yoga tantra. Then continue: Purify with…]
- ODT: Nebesky-Wojkowitz, Rene de. (1956). Oracles and demons of Tibet: the cult and iconography of the Tibetan protective deities. Mouton.
- WCD: Dung dkar blo bzang ‘phrin las. (2002). Dung dkar tshig mdzod chen mo (White Conch Dictionary). Beijing: Krung go’i bod kyi shes rig dpe skrun khang.
- 5DL: Ngag-dbang-blo-bzang-rgya-mtsho. (1995). The collected works (gsung ‘bum) of Vth Dalai Lama Ngag-dbang-blo-bzang-rgya-mtsho. Gangtok: Sikkim Research Institute of Tibetology.
- Bell, Christopher Paul, “Tsiu Marpo: The Career of a Tibetan Protector Deity” (2006). Electronic Theses, Treatises and Dissertations. Paper 1306.