The origin of Tibetan Singing Bowls is shrouded with mystery, much like their cloud-capped homelands of the mighty Himalayas. It is guesstimated that they date back more than 5,000 years ago but there is little written evidence as to their origins.
The singing bowls’ Tibetan origins added to their historical ambiguity. Although singing bowls could be found inside monasteries and homes, it was said that monks were not allowed to discuss anything about these bowls. In point, the monks’ sacred text, the Tibetan Buddhist Canon, also contained no information about the bowls. Anecdotal references say that Tibetan lamas and monks used these bowls for secret, sacred rituals. It is even said that these rituals were so spiritual in nature that it gave the monks the ability to astral project and travel into other realms and dimensions.
During the Chinese invasion of Tibet in the middle of the 19th century, the lamas and monks were forced to flee, taking all of their valued possessions with them, including their singing bowls. In order to survive the crisis, the lamas and monks were forced to sell their singing bowls and other items of significant value. This circumstance led to singing bowls spreading around the world, as well as causing the esoteric knowledge about them to disappear. Today, singing bowls’ mystical sounds can now be heard in many different places such as healing centers, yoga studios, classrooms, temples, and much more. But one thing remains – singing bowls are still as powerful of a spiritual, medicinal and musical tool as they were thousands of years ago.
Regardless of their truest origin, singing bowls have been used for a variety of purposes throughout the course of history – meditation, alternative healing, religion, music and even as a currency. Today, they have become a popular tool for sound healers, music therapists and yoga practitioners around the world.
Singing bowls are traditionally constructed of seven metals: gold, silver, mercury, copper, iron, tin and lead, which correspond to the seven planets (sun, moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, respectively).
Spiritual and Meditative Uses
With its calming and meditative sound, singing bowls were often used in Himalayan monasteries and homes to indicate the start or end of a meditation period. It was also said that singing bowls were played during an entire session, to help the mind focus and obtain a state of pure relaxation. It is believed that whenever a singing bowl is played, the mantras and good wishes imbued within it while it is was made are released into the universe to flow freely.
Medicinal and Alternative Healing Uses
Hindus believe that the world began with a sound, and thus sound plays a very important role in our bodies and in the universe as a whole. Sound as an alternative healing method has been practiced in many cultures for many centuries. It is believed that the delicate and unique sound of singing bowls can deeply affect our bodies, and can beneficially affect the body’s physical and psychological state. Our bodies contain several energy centers, or chakras, running from head to toe. These energy centers are believed to correspond to specific tones which the singing bowls can naturally produce.
Alternative healing practitioners typically use several smaller bowls with flatter bottoms, and place them on top of these energy centers. The resonance and vibration of singing bowls when placed on top of these energy centers are believed to penetrate more deeply than bigger and heavier bowls which are typically placed above or beside the body. In the traditional Tibetan healing practice, singing bowls are also believed to increase the efficacy of various medicinal herbs. Additionally, when used as an alternative healing method, singing bowls are said to alleviate the negative effects of chemotherapy and radiation in cancer patients, although there are no scientific studies to support this conclusion yet. However, reports say that singing bowls helped patients develop a sense of peace and well-being, and also reduced pain.
Physical Relaxation Uses
Sound massage using singing bowls is a great natural way to restore harmony to the body. Its soothing properties can naturally bring peace and focus the mind. The vibration and sound produced by singing bowls creates a type of energy that works with the body in many ways and which can engender several positive results, such as a deep sense of tranquility and reduced psychological and emotional stress.
Singing bowls used in sound massages are typically engineered for long periods of use and focus more on the vibration than the sound produced. Vibrational sound massage allows the body to become at peace both at an inner and outer level. Singing bowls of different weights and sizes are usually placed directly on top of the body while being struck. They can also be placed surrounding the body.
The body is composed of approximately 50 to 65 percent water. Water synergizes with vibrational patterns and connects and transports important elements within the body. Vibrational sound massages can help these positive elements flow freely within the body. In most cases, this kind of therapy is said to alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, and other similar conditions.
How do I play this thing?
To play a singing bowl, hold the bowl gently in the palm of your hand, allowing the body of the bowl to vibrate freely. With the wooden stick (puja), rub the outside rim in a circular motion, keeping an even pressure. Gently increase the speed as the bowl begins to vibrate, and as the sound grows. You can also tap the bowl to begin the vibration.
Whether you use your singing bowl for meditation, music or relaxation, you are sure to cherish it for many years to come.