The sacred pilgrimage Site of Maratika cave is a very important destination for Vajrayana Buddhists wishing to engage in long life Practices. It is here that Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava and Dakini Mandarava opened the Mandala of Amitayus and practised for 90 days, attaining the level of "Vidyadhara of immortality." In the Vajrayana tradition of Buddhism, Maratika is considered to be one of the six most holy places of our world.
Maratika Cave is located in the Eastern part of Nepal. At an altitude of approximately 1200 meters above sea level, in the district of Khotang, in the Sagamatha zone. It can be a difficult area to get to both in the dry and the monsoon season. Sometimes one needs to change jeeps three times at different crossover points while new bridges are being put in place. The Holy Caves of Maratika have long been an important pilgrimage destination for Dharma practitioners wishing to engage in long life practice for their teachers. It is only in recent years that it has become easier and more accessible for Pilgrims to come here and spend time.
Maratika Cave is blessed by the Three Dharma Protectors of Refuge: Manjushri , Vajrapani and Avalokiteshvara . The three Hills of Maratika represent the three family lords and are named accordingly: Majushri hill, Vajrapani Hill and Avaloketesvara Hill.
The Avaloketeswara Hill is the most important pilgrimage place at Maratika because it is where Guru Padmasambhava and Dakini Mandarava achieved immortality.
The Long life cave is located 20 meters down into the earth and is the place where Padmasambhava and Dakini Mandarava achieved immortality. It contains the body print and long life vase of Buddha Amitayus. To enter the cave one needs to descend down a number of steps into this vast cavern, which is able to hold over a thousand people. The vast open cave has a number of alcoves with a beautiful display of stalagmites and stalactites. They appear as self arisen statues of deities and protectors, Naga Kings and Guardians for those with pure view. There is a Long life vase, auspicious symbols, a wish fulfilling treasure box and various other Images manifesting.
There are a number of interesting and special features located in different Parts of the cave For example the four secret paths.The first secret path differentiates between virtue and sin and is the great path of the hot and cold hell realms. The second path shows the narrow path of the intermediate bardo state between death and rebirth. The third path is the great path purifying defilements of being born in the human realms and collecting the two accumulations of method and wisdom. The fourth is the great path purifying the sins of those who have broken commitments.
The Eight Herukas Cave is located at the bottom of Avalokiteshvara Hill. Here Padmasambhava tamed the demons. Padmasambhava opened a sky door in this cave leavin a huge left and right footprint. This cave holds many hidden treasures and more than five hundred practitioners can fit in here to do practice together.
Inside the entrance to the cave there is a self arrisen conch shell. This smooth turquise conch which has holes at either side can be blown by pilgrims which creates a sound that reverberates throughout the cave. This cave is also a source of holy nectar. Seeping from within the rock walls the nectar appears like a soft mist of rain upon the surface of the rock Within the cave there are many fascinating things to see and a story to unfold. To fully appreciate everything that is there we will have our own expert guide at hand to explain all the intricacies and important aspects of the cave.
This seems to actually be the most important cave in Maratika, and this is where Guru Rinpoche practiced by himself. You’ll find it when you first go to the monks’ quarters (of Maratika monastery) which are away from the monastery itself. There on the other side of the hill, which you can reach if you walk anti-clockwise around that hill, you’ll find the entrance to the cave. It is a little high up, so you have to climb a very simple bamboo ladder. The cave is only big enough for just a few people at a time. I have been told that HH the Gyalwang Drukpa (Drupa Rinpoche) has done retreat here in this cave (doing a longevity practice that he had received from Trulshik Rinpoche, and even doing ngondro practice in the cave!), among many others. Maratika Cave is highly regarded within the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition and is particularly important to Vajrayana practice.
About 2,5 hours walking from Maratika you can find Mandarava’s secret practice cave. First you walk to its nearby village, where by the way it is also possible to stay overnight, and from there you walk another 40 minutes to the cave. Ask a monk to accompany you on this day. At the cave there is a platform towards the left where you can sit. But towards the right, a little bit up, there is the entrance to the actual practice cave. You have to crawl in like a snake: arms stretched out, then arms first in, and crawl in. The first person will have to use a torch. Also bring a candle, which you can light inside the cave. The cave is not so big, perhaps five people can sit inside. And when you go out, you have to crawl back, legs first. To visit the inside of the cave is a bit… challenging! The water that drips down, outside, is called Mandarava’s nectar. Pilgrims like to bring a bottle and collect the nectar. You may consider to tie a few katas around the stalagtites (rocks pointing down), from where you can guide the dripping water into your bottle.