Marpa Sherab Yeshe

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Marpa Sherab Yeshe b.1135 - d.1203

Name Variants: Marpa Drubtob Sherab Sengge; Marpa Drubtob Sherab Yeshe; Sherab Yeshe

Marpa Sherab Yeshe (smar pa shes rab ye shes) was born in a place in Markham (smar khams) called Rusho Gegye Jemai Long (ru shod dge rgyas bye ma'i klong), the youngest of three children. While he was a child a lama named him Kunga Pel (kun dga' dpal). His father, Lui Tsuk (klu'i gtsug), was known as a natural-born bodhisattva, and as a child he had great faith in the Mahāyāna. So when the renowned teacher and translator Ga Lotsāwa, Zhonnu Pel (rgwa lo tsA ba gzhon nu dpal, d.u.) traveled through his home region he took refuge, generated bodhicitta and received teachings on mantra recitation.

At age fifteen he commenced serious studies on both Buddhist philosophy and mantra under the best teachers in Kham in his day. When at age twenty-one he received ordination together with the name Sherab Yeshe, he was careful to avoid even the most minor infractions of the monastic rules. That same year he conceived a strong desire to further his study in Tibet. So, without regard for possessions, with Geshe Darma Bum (dge bshes dar ma 'bum, d.u.) as traveling companion, he set off.

The first destination was the school of philosophy and logic Sangpu Neutok (gsang phu sne'u thog) with its famous teachers Tsangnakpa Tsondru Sengge (gtsang nag pa brtson 'grus seng+ge, d.u.) and Chapa (phywa pa chos kyi seng+ge, 1109-1169). Both were among his ordinators when he took the complete bhikṣu vows. At the same time he sought out teachers of tantra, particularly from the Ngok tradition (rngog lugs). At last, after considerable accomplishment in the fields of learning, he went to meet Pakmodrupa Dorje Gyelpo (phag mo gru pa rdo rje rgyal po, 1110-1170). Under the guidance of Pakmodrupa he went beyond book-learning and found realization through the practice of meditation.

In 1165, Sherab Yeshe returned to Kham and, in 1167, founded Sho Monastery (sho dgon) in Markham. He constructed images of the Buddha, the descending Maitreya, Marpa, Gampopa, Pakmodrupa and other inspiring objects of worship for its temple. Eventually more than eight hundred monks gathered there. The monastic curriculum included a strong emphasis on Madhyamaka philosophy, study of the tantra texts, and so forth, but also empowerments and experiential guidance.

Sherab Yeshe's lineage received the name Martsang (smar tshang), or "based in Mar(kham)", and he himself became widely known in the central parts of Kham under the name Choje Marpa (chos rje smar pa) as one who had realized the ultimate goal of Mahāmudrā. Sometimes he is called Marpa Sherab Sengge (smar pa shes rab seng ge), or Marpa Drubtob Sherab Sengge (smar pa grub thob shes rab seng ge).

After a very long career as an educator and meditation instructor, Marpa Sherab Yeshe passed away, soon after saying the following words in verse:

When you realize what it means to say that primordially pure
mind-as-such is ‘neither produced nor impeded,'
like space seeing space,
you attain Buddhahood beyond birth and death.
There no death is found, not even the word.




Bsod nams rgya mtsho. N.d. Chos rje smar pa shes rab ye shes kyi rnam thar. In Bka' brgyud chos 'byung nor bu'i phreng ba, vol. 1, pp. 91-95. TBRC W1KG4232.

Chos kyi ye shes. 2006. Chos rje smar pa'i rnam thar. In Smar pa bka' brgyud kyi rnam thar phyogs sgrig. Chengdu: Si khron mi rigs dpe skrun khang, pp. 1-52. The same work is also found in Grub thob o rgyan pa rin chen dpal, ed, Bka' brgyud yid bzhin nor bu yi 'phreng ba, Leh: S.W. Tashigangpa, pp. 672-716.


Dan Martin
August 2008