Technically, Tibetan singing bowls are types of bells, that are in the family of standing bells. This means that they are not attached to handles. Instead of being upside down, they sit like a bowl, with the open end on top. The sides of these bells/bowls make sound when they vibrate. In ancient Asian traditions, Tibetan Singing Bowls were used as part of Tantric and Bon Buddhist sadhana. Nowadays, they are used across the globe, both religion-related and not. They are also used for meditational purposes, relaxing, health care, inducing trances, and personal well being and health.
Though in the past they were manufacured in Nepal, India, Tibet, China, Bhutan, Japan and Korea, nowadays Tibetan singing bowls are manufactured in only Korea, Japan, Nepal and India. The best known types are from the Himalayas. The origins of Tibetan singing bowls lie in Buddhist tradition. In Buddhism, singing bowls are used in conjunction with meditation and prayer. For instance, Buddhists in China use the bowls to go along with the wooden fish while chanting. They strike the bowls during a specific phrase in a mantra or hymn. In Vietnam and Japan, singing bowls are used in a comparable fashion, or can also signal the passage of time or a change in activitty.
It is believed by historians that metal workers were able to perfect the craft of forming Tibetan singing bowls as long as 2500 years ago. Thus, the history of these artifacts dates back into 700AD. One of the amazing things about Tibetan singing bowls is that the sounds from the ancient versions can’t be replicated today. This is because the old bowls were made from more metals and alloys. Some of the metals were even taken from meteorites. Plus, the aging process affects the bowls in such a way that it enriches the sounds that they make.
If you hold the bowl in the palm of your hand, that leaves it free to vibrate. Then, you run the wooden mallet along the rim of the bowl, gently. This will create the sound, or “singing” noise. You can also gently strike the side of the bowl. This creates a sound like a bell ringing. Either way you play Tibetan singing bowls, it is the vibrations that produce the sound, just as if you rubbed your finger around the edge of a wine glass. The pitch of the noise can vary depending on the size of the bowl and the density of the metal. Bowls can range in diameter from 5 to 13 inches. You can also speed up the mallet movement to change the sound.
In the Hindu and Buddhist religions, sound is an integral part of spiritual practice. In the Buddhist tradition, 9 methods of realization of reaching enlightenment exist. The seventh way was sound. Because of this, the bowls’ sounds are used by Buddhists as one element of their religious music and rituals.
The singing sound is both relaxing and captivating. It helps with Tibetan meditation, and helps induce a sense of calmness. It also helps those meditating remain in the present moment, which is an important Buddhist concept.
Tibetan Singing Bowls are works of great beauty, and we hope this page has helped to shed some light on their beauty and history.
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