As we mentioned in our previous message, Lama Teunsang passed away on Saturday 7 October 2023.
Lama Teunsang’s body (kudung) has been left to rest in his room as is customary in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. As soon as his vital functions stopped, Lama Teunsang clearly showed signs of tukdam: he has settled into a post-mortem meditative absorption, the duration of which is uncertain, but it may last several days. During this period, it is essential that he remains in his room where only Lama Sangpo has access to check on his condition (paragraph « Regarding the tukdam » see below).
Lama Teunsang’s funeral details are complex to organise due to the uncertain duration of the tukdam, the large number of people likely to come to pay their respects to the Lama – potentially 2,000 people – and the limited accommodation available in Montchardon, hence exceptional measures need to be taken, as detailed below. As of today, and for a few weeks, all bookings for upcoming courses in Montchardon will be suspended, until we have a better idea of the organisation of the weeks to come. We will let you know when bookings are available again.
This entire period will also entail a significant amount of additional work for the small team of residents. Consequently, we kindly request your cooperation to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
The unfolding of the coming period
1 – During the tukdam, the Centre will be open starting Monday 9 October 2023. During this time, you will have the opportunity to visit the temple to pay your respects, following the conditions outlined below (refer to « Accommodation at the Centre » for details). No one except the lamas will be able to see Lama Teunsang’s body – known as the kudung in Tibetan.
Throughout these days and in accordance with the guidance of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Thaye Dorje, daily practice sessions are conducted in the main temple. These sessions take place from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM and from 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM. For those unable to attend in person, the practices are streamed on KML Gompa TV (further information can be found in « Texts to be recited during the tukdam » below).
2 – At the end of the tukdam and for a duration of 5 days, Lama Teunsang’s body (kudung) will receive all necessary preservation measures, before being placed in the main temple of Montchardon, so that all who wish may come pay their respects. As soon as the specific dates for this tribute period become available, they will be promptly communicated to you.
During this period, we will establish a schedule to provide everyone with an opportunity to pay their respects to Lama Teunsang within the temple premises. In the event of a substantial turnout, it may be necessary to implement rotations and time limits for each person’s visit. We greatly appreciate your understanding and cooperation to ensure a smooth and orderly process.
3 – Cremation: Following Lama Teunsang’s wishes and the guidance of His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa, the kudung will be cremated at a nearby, local crematorium. In 2016, Lama Teunsang expressed his desire for a very simple ceremony and emphasized that there was no necessity for elaborate rituals or the construction of a cremation stupa in Montchardon. The specific date for the cremation will be determined based on Tibetan astrological calendar auspicious days and the availability of funeral services. This ceremony will be conducted in a private manner.
4 – Rituals: Traditional rituals will take place after the conclusion of the tukdam and will continue until November 25, 2023. The list of rituals will be defined according to the Tibetan calendar of the Rumtek tradition. Some of these practices will be performed in Montchardon, others in monasteries of the Karma Kagyu lineage in Asia. We will keep you informed about these practices / rituals which will be streamed on KML Gompa TV.
Organisation of visits to Montchardon
To ensure that all of Lama Teunsang’s disciples and friends who wish to pay their respects can be accommodated, we will organize an extended funeral service spanning multiple days.
This necessitates an unusual level of organization at Montchardon, with brief stays and a rotational visiting system in the main temple to accommodate everyone. We sincerely appreciate your anticipated understanding and cooperation in ensuring a seamless experience for all.
Accommodations at the Centre
To ensure that as many people as possible have the opportunity to pay their respects to Lama Teunsang during this period, whether it is during the tukdam (when the kudung will not be visible), or afterwards when the kudung is placed in the temple, you will have three options:
- People who can make daily round trips will not be accommodated at Montchardon. Additionally, please note that we won’t be able to provide breakfast, lunch or dinner, so kindly bring your own picnic.
- For those unable to make daily round trips, limited accommodation in Montchardon for one night are available, subject to the Centre’s capacity. This allows one to spend a full day at the Centre. For those staying at the Centre, an evening meal, breakfast and lunch the next day are provided. To register for this option, please use the following link on BilletWeb.
- If you prefer an extended stay and are willing to commute daily, there are various lodging options available in the surrounding area. There are over 4,000 accommodations within a 30-kilometer radius of the Centre. You can explore these options using the following link.
We greatly appreciate and rely on everyone’s cooperation and understanding in respecting this organization.
Contribution to accommodation costs
Exceptionally, to make it easier to organise accommodation, a contribution to cover the cost of your stay is requested by paying a fixed daily rate. This package comprises one night lodging and three meals, including an evening meal, with breakfast and lunch the following day. Please be aware that due to organisational constraints, meal substitutions or changes are not possible. If you desire an additional meal, we kindly request that you bring your own picnic.
The rates for accommodations are as follows: €31 per day for a dormitory, €39 for a single room, and €25 for a campsite, camper van, or sleeping in your car. These prices are inclusive of the tourist tax. Rooms will be accessible starting at 6 pm and must be vacated (and your key returned to reception) by 10 am the following day.
Campervans, as well as individuals sleeping in their cars, will be treated as accommodations and accepted subject to availability. Camping will be feasible depending on the weather conditions, but it’s important to note that there won’t be an option to move to a room in case of inclement weather. The terms and conditions will align with those for regular accommodations, with a maximum stay of one night, and reservations can be made exclusively through Billetweb.
For those arriving by train, the Montchardon shuttle bus will be available to pick you up at the Saint-Marcelin train station during regular operating hours, provided you have confirmed your shuttle booking at the Montchardon reception desk by email at least 48 hours in advance.
Offerings / Donations
Should you wish to make offerings / donations to contribute to Lama’s funeral and support the organization of the rituals and practices that will take place Montchardon and Asia, you will be able to do so on site and online. For online donations, you can securely make your contributions via the Montchardon website by visiting the following link. Please ensure that donations are directed to the « Association Cultuelle Bouddhique » account.
Volunteering during this period
As the resident team is small, we will as usual greatly appreciate your assistance in various areas during your stay. Further details on this subject will be provided on-site upon your arrival.
The upcoming days are expected to be emotionally charged and demanding. The arrangements for Lama Teunsang’s funeral service have been made within a very short timeframe. We are uncertain about the number of attendees, the timing of arrivals and other specific circumstances. We are putting forth our best efforts to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible for everyone involved. However, it is possible that there may be hiccups, inaccuracies, and moments requiring improvisation. We kindly request your patience and understanding in dealing with any unforeseen circumstances, as there may not always be immediate answers to all questions. Above all, our priority is to uphold the dignity of these ceremonies in honor of Lama Teunsang, our revered spiritual master, for whom we hold deep respect and profound devotion.
Once we have more information, we will provide you with updates. We kindly request that you refrain from calling the Montchardon reception, as they will not have additional information to offer. We sincerely appreciate your understanding and support, and we look forward to welcoming you at Montchardon to pay tribute to Lama Teunsang, often referred to as « a Milarepa of our time, » as His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa has emphasized on several occasions.
With all our best wishes,
The Montchardon team
Regarding the tukdam
From the perspective of Tibetan Buddhism, practitioners well-versed in meditation on the nature of the mind see death as a crucial process. It offers the opportunity to remain in meditation in order to fully realise the ultimate nature of the mind – Mahamudra – and attain enlightenment. This process is precisely described in the teachings on the bardo, which Lama Teunsang has given on many occasions. They explain how to take advantage of the process of death to achieve enlightenment.
To attempt a simple description, the consciousness of the experienced meditator remains linked to the body after the outer breath ceases, at the moment of physical death. What remains is referred to as the inner breath. According to tradition, several physical signs indicate the attainment of this state: the normal decomposition process is not initiated, the meditator’s skin remains supple, their nostrils are not constricted as in the case of an ordinary deceased person, their complexion retains its color, and the area around their heart remains warm. There is no loss of bodily fluids or the presence of unpleasant odors. This state may last several days, after which some liquid flows from the nostrils, and the initial signs of physical transformation signify that the consciousness has left the body. There is now a wealth of information available on the Internet documenting this phenomenon, which is not uncommon in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Furthermore, scientists have initiated research on this subject.
Texts to recite during the tukdam
His Holiness the Gyalwa Karmapa has recommended several important texts to practice during the tukdam. They are recited in the main temple of Montchardon twice daily, from 10 to 11.30am and from 3 to 4.30pm. You can follow them on streaming via KML Gompa TV. When you click on this link, streaming will start once the sessions begin. Here are the texts that are recited:
– Samantabhadra Aspiration Prayer (Sangtcheu Meunlam)
– the Heart Sutra, which we have already recited for Lama Teunsang
– the Chorale of the Names of Manjushri, one of the oldest Buddhist tantras, recited at the Kagyu Monlam, among other occasions
– the 8th Karmapa’s Guru yoga of the four sessions
You can also find the first three texts in the Kagyu Monlam book.