Hi Knowledge Xplorers!
I was mesmerised by Singing Bowls when I discovered them back some years ago. Here’s some introductory information:
- What are Singing Bowls?
- The bowls are made of an alloy of different metals. The most famous ones have7 different metals:gold, tin, silver, iron, mercury, lead and copper. The metals have a meaning – connection to planets of our galaxy. The main base for the alloy is bronze (copper and tin). This alloy generates sound either when striking or rimming a singing bowl
- The origin of singing bowls is very interesting.
- Some sources date back the singing bowls in Mesopotamia over 5,000 years ago and made their way into the regions of Tibet, Nepal and India dating back to some 2,000 years. Other cultures (China, Japan, etc.) have had also singing bowls for a very long time
- From my own reduced research Tibetan singing bowls, apart from not being original from Tibet, were not generally used in the way they are used today (healing, meditation). There is some discussion around their primitive use in very specific rituals in remote monasteries, but in general these bowls were used for religious purposes (to offer food for deities for example) or just to eat from them, storage purposes, etc. This webpage, offers interesting information with an interview to a Lama (apart from selling nice antique pieces): https://www.bodhisattva.com/tibetan-singing-bowl-history/.
- Tibetan singing bowls are actually musical instruments. If they are “tuned” (this is achieved during the manufacturing process) they cast every major note (out of the scale of 7). Depending on how they are played (striking / rimming), there will be a dominant note and then more subtle ones. Here is a good video on how they are made:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzBACxGtw3k
- There are different striking and rimming techniques. They can even be played with water inside which produces some amazing effects. For more info: https://www.shantibowl.com/blogs/blog/how-to-play-a-singing-bowl#:~:text=Simply%20hold%20the%20bowl%20in,produce%20a%20pleasant%2C%20rich%20tone. There are plenty of videos anyway in internet about how to play the bowls.
- What are they for?
- As already mentioned, they are currently mainly used for meditation and healing
- Meditation: This is the more extended use for singing bowls. You can for example strike them to start a mediation practice and to mark its finish, or regularly play them during the meditation session, focusing on the sound and vibration
- Healing: This is a far more complex use for singing bowls. There are many techniques, ranging from a simple cleansing of aura (striking the bowl and moving it sideways close to the head and then up and down to the navel) to much more complex healing practices involving many different bowls (each one tuned to a note) and a person lying down receiving the treatment. The notes are associated with chakras in the body and thus these are activated selectively with specific healing goals. If you want to know more about this I recommend this book https://www.amazon.com/-/es/Suren-Shrestha/dp/1591810876. It is a good introduction and easy to follow. For the advanced practices you obviously need a whole set of bowls.
- As already mentioned, they are currently mainly used for meditation and healing
- Some amazing topics associated with sound and / or singing bowls (and under investigation)
- Apart from the advanced healing practices associated with chakras (which I assume there is no scientific literature on their effectiveness) sound healing is nothing new and has proven effects in the body, still under investigation. Amongst them, it can promote relaxation (possibly through the generation of beta or even theta waves in the brain). Binaural beats are particularly powerful (https://www.webmd.com/balance/what-are-binaural-beats). More info on this: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5871151/#:~:text=Tibetan%20singing%20bowl%20meditation%20may,and%20increasing%20spiritual%20well%2Dbeing. and https://stanmed.stanford.edu/listening/innovations-helping-harness-sound-acoustics-healing.html (acoustic signals can create patterns in cells -quite amazing).
- Vibrations (sound waves) affect matter, this is out of discussion and it can even be connected to our notion of consciousness (although we can leave this topic for another post): https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-hippies-were-right-its-all-about-vibrations-man/ we can even take a step further and, embracing string theory, consider that the whole universe is about vibration (music). Michio Kaku (a leading renowned physicist) has also some interesting thoughts on this subject: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW6JFKgbAF4
- Some interesting videos on the effect on sound on the body for healing purposes:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDZgzsQh0Dw (could we use sound to treat Alzheimer?) and what about treating cancer? Resonance (matter alteration) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1w0_kazbb_U (effects of resonance on matter: https://www.softdb.com/understanding-vibrations/) and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GKh2XFmsUx4 (recent experimental techniques with sound)
- I like this webpage with very interesting insights with sound (cymatics, etc): http://himalayansingingbowl.info/soundhealingresources. In particular, I found fascinating this video by Alexandre Tannous https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iV83en9_JS4. The video shows the work of Japanesescientist and healer Masaru Emoto, and there is strong controversy around it (could the meaning of our words -sound – and thoughts influence water crystals) .
- What types of Tibetan Singing Bowls exist?
- There are many types of traditional Tibetan Singing Bowls, and I believe new ones are developed as a result of the huge interest by Western people on this. The bowls are different in their shape, manufacturing process and the sounds they produce. To name a few, we can mention: Jambati (usually quite old), Manipuri (open shape), Thadobhatti (more straight and thick walls), Coprebhatti (curved walls), Full Moon (quite robust), New Moon, etc….More info: https://www.antiquesingingbowls.com/about/the-singing-bowl-types.html
- How to choose one
- The tradition says that the bowls chooses you, you don’t choose the bowl 😊
- The best thing to do is to play it and feel the sensations that it gives you. Do you like it? If you are looking for a predominant note, you can download an app that measures this in your phone
- Handcrafted bowls are more expensive (and usually of a better quality) and can be distinguished from non handcrafted ones because the surface is not slim (as it has been hammered to create the shape) and they usually do not include too much decoration
- Also you can look for small cracks in the bowl that can generate sounds disturbances.
- High quality bowls can be purchased in shops and also via internet and sent directly from Nepal to your home address. Prices vary based on the quality, type and size of the bowl. Usually the heavier the bowl, the more expensive it is.
- My experience so far with purchasing and then using singing bowls
- I first bought a small old Thadobhatti (less than 1kg) – F note.
- Then I wanted something bigger so the sound could last longer (around 2kg).I got a New Moon (these are only made during new moon nights) – D note, thinner but with very deep sound.
- After that, I also wanted to get Full Moon one (made during full moon nights). I got a 2kg one.The bowl is of excellent quality (Santa RatnaShakya – a renowned manufacture of singing bowls and healer with a strong family (Newari) tradition . I got a B note. The sound and vibration is the most powerful from the 4 bowls that I have so far.
- Travelling throughout Spain, I found a shop that also sells singing bowls and I got an old Jambati, C note, apparently also from Santa’s workshop
- I have been thinking whether to get the rest of the notes I am lacking, but these items are expensive and I haven’t made my mind yet…besides, I personally use it mostly for meditation. If you are not going to use them for healing purposes, you don’t need the whole set (in fact, just one is enough). If you are only going to get one, my suggestion is to get a high quality one, no less than 1,5kg and a good idea is to acquire a Full Moon (they are possible the best type of bowls). The difference between one cheap bowl and a high quality one is really big (length of sound, purity, vibration, etc)
- The mallets need to be adequate for the size of the bowl (you can ask the person who is going to sell it to you)
- With regards to bowls cleaning, best thing to do is just use water. From time to time you can also rub half a lemon to improve its polish.
In summary, this is fascinating topic and, as with anything else, you can get into the rabbit hole easily as there are so many things to learn and discover.
Hope you enjoyed the above!
Do you have other views or want to complete any of the above?
- Singing bowls