|The following article is from the Winter, 1994 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.|
by Kristine Paknys, Joan Scott and Miriam Zehavi
Geshe Khenrab Topgyal Gajam
On Monday October 4, 1993, probably in the early hours of the morning, our precious Spiritual Master, Geshe Khenrab Topgyal Gajam, began his journey into the Clear Light. One of Geshe-la's disciples came to make breakfast at the Temple Bouddhiste Tibetain that day, and discovered him lying peacefully on his right side. He had not been ill, and his death in his sixty-sixth year aroused reactions of shock and disbelief.
Fortunately several monks from Gaden Jangtse Monastery, who had just left Montreal to resume their North American tour, quickly returned upon learning the news. Although they had been on the road all day, they began the funeral rituals immediately after the abbot had examined Geshe-la's body. That night they recited the Yamantaka self-initiation.
On Tuesday, the monks performed the rituals for Guhyasamaja. In the evening many students and friends of Geshe-la filed past the door of his room where he continued to lie in state, and made offerings of prostrations and white katas.
On Wednesday, Geshe-la's body was wrapped seated in meditation posture in golden cloth and silk of five colors. He was clothed in tantric costume, with topknot, brocade shawls and apron, and five-petaled Bodhisattva crown. Completely surrounded by flowers, seated upon a wooden throne (constructed with great caring, skill and speed the previous night), Geshe-la's body was carried into the Temple's shrine room, which was filled beyond capacity with students and friends, both Buddhist and non-Buddhist. Having respectfully bid farewell, we escorted Geshe-la's body from the Temple, led in procession by students holding symbols of the Buddha's body, speech and mind - a statue of the Buddha, a scriptural text, and a small stupa - and accompanied by the music of cymbals and gyalings, as well as by fragrant clouds of incense.
Slowly the funeral procession wound its way to Montreal's south shore. For many of us this journey evoked memories of receiving teachings at Geshe-la's tiny apartment on Cremazie Street in Longueuil and at the Temple on Vercheres Street. There was a feeling of returning to the beginning, to the memories of wonder and enthusiasm with which we discovered the most miraculous and precious jewel of Dharma through Geshe-la's astounding patience, energy and kindness.
The morning after the cremation, we all assembled at the Temple to await the return of the ashes. After carrying them back into the shrine room in procession, we performed a Lama Chopa offering ceremony. To house the greater portion of these, we plan to construct a reliquary stupa which will be consecrated by the Gaden Jangtse monks when they return to Montreal in the spring or early summer of 1994. A small portion of the ashes will be sent to Gaden in south India, where they will be received by the Ven. Tsetan Norbu, one of Geshe-la's most senior disciples.
All of us who loved and cared for Geshe Khenrab would like to express our deepest gratitude to the Ven. Khen Rinpoche, Geshe Losang Thinley, and the monks of Gaden Jangtse Monastery, whose knowledge and expertise were so kindly and selflessly shared with us so that all the necessary funeral procedures were carried out in a timely and proper fashion.
We would also like to thank the Ven. Geshe Losang Chophel for very kindly remaining in Montreal and teaching, so that activities at the Temple have been able to continue uninterrupted.
Finally, our gratitude extends to all those many people who have expressed their condolences on Geshe-la's sudden passing, and to those who continue to support the activities of the Temple Bouddhiste Tibetain. May the Dharma always continue to grow and flourish. By practicing diligently, may we give lasting meaning to Geshe-la's efforts to work for the endless welfare of all beings.
From the depths of our hearts we pray for Geshe Khenrab's quick return.