Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tibetan Singing Bowls - Centuries of Resonance

Although they are commonly referred to as bowls, they are technically a standing bell. They are not hung upside down or put on a handle, but stand alone on the bottom side. By tapping with a wooden mallet, or rubbing the rim with a leather covered piece of wood, a Tibetan singing bowl can be made to sound. They have been used for centuries by Buddhists and others as an aid to meditation, health care, relaxation and certain religious practices. They are also more correctly known as Himalayan Singing Bowls, for their traditional ranges of occurrence are Nepal, Bhutan, Mongolia, India, China, Tibet, and Afghanistan.

Although they are associated Buddhism, they date before Buddhism. Some scholars believe their beginnings were in India. A Buddhist master traveled to Tibet and introduced Buddhism and the bowls to that region in the 9th century A.D. Ancient bowls were made from a combination of precious and semi-precious metals and stones. From 3 to 12 different ingredients, including pieces of meteorites, were used to make the ancient bowls. They were hammered by hand into shape. The ancient metallurgy and hammering techniques to make these bowls is now considered a lost art.

Because of all the different ingredients in the alloy, ancient bowls have a much richer, more complex sound than Tibetan singing bowls made today. Ancient singing bowls are still available, but they can be quite expensive. Most singing bowls available are modern creations, and are not made from the exotic alloys of ancient bowls. They are usually made from a combination of bronze, zinc and iron. They are usually not hand hammered, but are cast. Modern singing bowls are made in Nepal, Tibet, Japan, Korea and India.

If you have ever rubbed a wet finger around the rim of a wine glass, or gently tapped the side of it with a finger, the sounds you heard are vaguely similar as sounds from a singing bowl. The wine glass vibrates in the air, and emits sounds. So does the Tibetan singing bowl, but the sound itself is different. Research has been done that suggests that the sounds coming from these bowls, especially the ancient ones, resonate with certain brainwaves and can help calm the mind and relax the body. The sounds of Tibetan singing bowls resonate with people today as they did with people of centuries past. The music they make is the sound of meditation, calm mind, and relaxed body.


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Worked in a steel mill for 30 years. Amateur chef, piano player, book reader, letter writer, gardener, peace advocate.