In the last news about Lama Teunsang’s health, on April 19th, 2020, we informed you that he is suffering from leukemia. We would have liked to send news earlier, but the uncertainties of the last few weeks prompted us to delay this newsletter in order to provide more precise information. The doctors are now able to give us some rather reassuring news.

Generally speaking, the chemotherapy protocol that was rapidly set up following the leukemia diagnosis is working very well. Indeed, since the beginning of the treatment, the percentage of blasts cancer cells in the blood and bone marrow has rapidly and very significantly decreased. But doctors have warned us that the current treatment only keeps the disease asymptomatic for as long as possible, it does not cure it. Indeed, a healing protocol could not be supported by Lama at his age. The current treatment will therefore have to be maintained permanently to control the production of cancer cells, and it is working well for the moment.

However together with this encouraging result, since January Lama’s blood tests have shown a significant disturbance in his liver, a problem attributed to the heavy treatments that Lama had undergone last year. But these tests further deteriorated with the start of chemotherapy, and on several occasions last week, Lama Teunsang was suddenly taken with violent abdominal pain, fortunately controlled by painkillers.

Sophie Tartas, the oncologist friend who is closely following the Lama, had him hospitalized on Wednesday May 13th for medical examinations, including CT and MRI scans. These imaging techniques made it possible to eliminate the most alarmist hypotheses and to consider the two most relevant ones to explain Lama’s symptoms (the doctors specify that these are medical hypotheses without absolute certainty). These two possibilities are the return of the immunoglobulin-related disease (IGg4) from which Lama Teunsang suffered in 2017, and a concomitant inflammation of the liver bile ducts, linked to the migration of small gallstones visible on MRI. The two phenomena are probably linked.

The IGg4-related disease is a very rare condition (about a hundred cases in France) recently discovered and about which there is very little data. In 2017 it was rapidly treated with cortisone, but it is known that relapses are frequent after a certain period of time, when treatment is stopped.

The doctors’ therapeutic solutions have just been implemented: two antibiotics to stop a possible biliary tract infection and a cortisone treatment for the IGg4 condition. After the second cortisone treatment, Lama Teunsang regained his appetite and vigour. Liver malfunction had caused a jaundice and the yellow coloration of his skin and eyes quickly subsided. In conclusion, the chemotherapy treatment is working wel,l and we are gradually moving towards a seemingly favourable outcome for the liver problems.

As for Lama Teunsang, he remains the same, a rock-like example of patience and calm in the face of adversity, which has not spared him. At Montchardon he continued to walk to the temple morning and evening. These last days he was more tired, had less appetite and had lost some weight. This should improve with this new treatment. He is still under surveillance at the hospital and should return to the Centre in the next few days.

It is useless for people to try to visit him at the hospital: on the one hand the hospital is closed to visits due to the current pandemic, on the other hand it is really essential for Lama to rest. We therefore invite you to rather join in the prayers that are constantly being made for Lama Teunsang’s recovery.

Indeed, spiritually speaking there is a massive mobilization for the Chenrezig practice and Mani recitation that HH Thaye Dorje, the 17th Karmapa, has recommended. At the time of this newsletter, more than 15 million Manis have been accumulated since April 20th, with the participation of many people.

The Tibetan community has also engaged in many collective practices for Lama Teunsang’s health. A hundred thousand praises to Tara have been recited in Lama Sherab Gyaltsen Rinpoche’s monastery, as well as many other prayers with great light offerings. He himself undertook particular practices that are beneficial in this situation. Lama Teunsang’s two nephews, the tulkus Je Karma Trinlaypa and Chime Rinpoche, have undertaken the reading of the Kangyur (103 volumes of the Buddha’s words), and three days of pujas of Sangye Menla (the Medicine Buddha) were concluded yesterday at Chime Rinpoche’s monastery in Ladakh.

A practice called in Tibetan “tsethar” – literally “to liberate or save lives” – has just been performed in Tibet by one of Lama’s nieces. Regularly used in Buddhist culture, it consists of saving the lives of beings doomed to death (fish in this case) and is said to prolong life according to the law of causality.

Thus, Lama Teunsang is supported in his illness by all this accumulation of positive practice, which is obviously not limited to his own person but dedicated to the benefit and happiness of all sentient beings without exception.

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Vigilance COVID at Montchardon

The programme now takes place under special circumstances, since the Centre may resume its activities provided that the health rules are strictly observed.

The conditions of participation imply strict compliance with the barrier measures, whether for practices or courses.

Here is how we will organize ourselves.
For places of worship such as Montchardon, the rules set by the State are as follows:

  • - upon arrival at the Centre, the trainee must not be ill or show symptoms of the virus.
  •  obligation to maintain a distance of 1m around oneself, in the temple, in the refectory and when moving around the Centre,
  • - mandatory wearing of a protective mask in :
    •   - the temple: permanently during the teachings and daily collective practices.
    •   - the refectory: from the entrance to the moment of sitting down and if you get up to get a drink or to go out.
    •   - all other situations: as soon as it is difficult to maintain distance from others,
  • - hand washing with hydro-alcoholic gel at the entrance and exit of the temple and refectory, every time you enter the self-service area and on all occasions when you have to touch a collective object.
  • - An identifiable member of the administration will be responsible for the entry and exit phases of the prayer area to ensure that the rules are respected.

If you are unable or unwilling to follow these guidelines, we ask that you do not come to the Centre while these rules are in effect. The same applies, of course, if you are ill or have symptoms of the virus.

About Lama Teunsang

It is essential to protect Lama Teunsang whose immunity is compromised, making him extremely vulnerable to infection, and the people at the centre are in daily contact with him for meals and care. This also means that it is not appropriate to return to Lama Teunsang's home to greet him. For the compelling reasons mentioned above, he currently only receives those who care for his health.

No offering of kata to Lama Teunsang
It is asked to stay away from him, at least 1m and not to offer him a kata.
This use, so much appreciated by all of us, is currently suspended during the Covid period, to preserve its still fragile health.

Individual interview with Lama Teunsang
We asked Lama Teunsang about personal interviews. He does not wish to resume them for the time being. We will inform you of their resumption when he tells us so.
However, it is possible to request an interview with one of the Lamas of Montchardon. See with the translator.

In brief

Access to the temple will be limited to 80 people to respect sanitary distances. For accommodation, the rooms with several people will become individual accommodation, except for couples or families. The number of dormitory places will be reduced to space between beds. We will thus be able to accommodate about 80 people. The campsite will be open, the installation of the tents will have to follow the same instructions. We will have disinfecting liquids in all the places where it is necessary.

We would like to remind you:

  • - on the one hand, failure to respect the rules could lead to the closure of the Centre and legal proceedings.
  • - on the other hand, we have a moral obligation to protect ourselves and others from a potentially dangerous disease, especially since we live in collective premises.

As Buddhist practitioners, the constraints of masks, social distances and frequent hand washing can be integrated into our practice, as a constant training for vigilance and support of attention in our daily actions. It is also a great opportunity to practice the awakening mind, the altruistic attitude: "I commit myself to make this effort, thinking more about the well-being and health of others than about my own inconvenience". These are the skillful means of Dharma called " integrating unpleasantness into the path ".