Bardo Namkha

to bless the consciousness of the deceased – mourning aid

Liberation in the first bardo – meditation support for Bardo practitioners

An important part of my formal Buddhist meditation practice is praying for the deceased and preparing my own mind for death.

In Namcho tradition, we practice a ritual called Chang Chog when someone has died. It’s a beautiful and powerful practice that is done on behalf of the deceased in order to facilitate a successful journey through the inbetween state, the Bardo.

This ritual is also a great opportunity to make a namkha. As part of this ritual, namkha can be made to bless the passage of the deceased. A simple, yet powerful, namkha can be created to symbolize the dissolution of the five elements that characterize death.

For the Bardo meditator, on the other hand, the namkha can serve as a meditation support, because it symbolized the desolution proces of the Five Elements, when the earth (yellow) element dissolves into water (white), water into fire (red), fire into wind (green), and wind into space (blue).

During the dying process, the elements gradually dissolve one into another and finally into Space, itself an element but also the source of all the other four elements, as symbolized by the dark blue rhombus in the centre of the namkha.

for the deceased

The namkha should be constructed as soon as possible upon the person’s death, ideally within 3 days (hence the simplicity), and, upon authentication, it can be used in various ways, as inclined. The namkha can be kept on the shrine dedicated to the deceased, on their tomb or favourite place, as a form of rememberance and source of blessings.

However, it can be constructed at any time and can benefit the person even years after their death. I have constructed a Bardo Namkha for someone who passed away decades ago, and the process of namkha creation and subsequent use has been a great source of healing for the mourner.

for meditation

As Vajrayana Buddhist practitioners and followers of Guru Rinpoche, we realize that our practice is in preparation for the dying process. With this realization, I focus shifts to embrace the inevitable, something that is normally avoided, despised and downright taboo.

This namkha is the symbolic representation of liberation in the first bardo, as laid out in the termas of Guru Rinpoche. Patrul Rinpoche’s description of the process is used in the design of this namkha. The desolution is symbolized progressively from the outer edge of the namkha towards the center where the wooden sticks cross.