Author Topic: What is a Tibetan Singing Bowl?  (Read 3668 times)

Offline Windhorse

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What is a Tibetan Singing Bowl?
« on: August 07, 2013, 10:45:50 am »
What is a Tibetan Singing Bowl?

There seems to be no evidence that "Tibetan" singing bowls formed part of traditional Buddhist religious practices in the Himalayan region, as bells and other musical instruments are known to have done. However, singing bowls are becoming increasingly associated with Buddhist meditation practice in the West. For example, one of the largest school supplies companies in the UK offers singing bowls among its teaching aids for Buddhism.
So what are singing bowls and how are they used in meditation?

Bronze 'kitchen bowls' have always been highly valued possessions in the homes of Northern India, Nepal and Tibet, and they are passed down from one generation to the next. Western interest in the sound produced by these old bowls seems to have taken hold in the Sixties, as these areas became part of the 'Hippie Trail'. Singing bowls are now produced throughout the Himalayas and India to satisfy demand in the West. 
It is often said that singing bowls were traditionally made of seven metals, corresponding to the seven sacred planets: gold (Sun), silver (Moon), mercury (Mercury), copper (Venus), tin (Jupiter), lead (Saturn), and iron (Mars). Legend goes on to say that the iron was sometimes replaced by meteorite found on the Himalayan mountaintops - metal from the heavens. Whilst skeptics might dismiss this as part of the false mythology that has grown up around the subject, it is true that these metals are often present in old bowls. We have an analysis done by a Canadian university which shows a breakdown of eight metal components as follows: Copper 77.2%, Tin 22%, Lead 0.4%, Zinc 0.01%, Iron 0.14%,  Gold 0.01%, Silver 0.03%, and Mercury 0.02%.
This mixture, predominantly 78% Copper and 22% Tin, is a form of bronze known in the West as "bell metal". As the name suggests, it been used for centuries in the production of church bells. Alloying the two elements creates a metal which is harder and less ductile, and also one with more elasticity. This allows for a better resonance and causes a bell to vibrate like a spring when struck. In India, this form of bronze is used for cooking and eating utensils, due to its anti-bacterial properties. This explains why historically, so many bronze bowls were produced in the region for kitchen use. Traditionally these bowls were made by hammering the metal over a form to produce the shape, and many, although not all, modern singing bowls are still made this way.
Although the way Tibetans traditionally used these bowls is open to question, it is clear that Westerners are often affected in a particular way when they hear the unique sound of a singing bowl for the first time. The low tones of the larger bowls can be resonant of Tibetan temple chanting. It is a sound that cannot be reproduced by any instrument in Western culture, nor can a recording produce the same effect. Many people feel their spirit has been touched when they hear it. Singing bowls can induce a sense of deep relaxation and access to the inner self. This is why they are sometimes used as meditation aids, usually played or struck before meditation begins.
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« Last Edit: August 07, 2013, 10:48:30 am by Windhorse, Reason: missed off »

Offline Peter Vredeveld

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Re: What is a Tibetan Singing Bowl?
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2017, 06:44:24 am »
I don't think these days singing bowls are made with 7 metals rather only two metals are mixed to manufacture them. Yes, there are still some manufacturers who follow the primitive method.

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: What is a Tibetan Singing Bowl?
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2017, 03:33:07 am »
We never used them as 'singing bowls' at the Buddhist center, but as a bell to be rung during stages of meditation in the shrine room. A glass can have the same 'singing' effect if you wet your finger and run it around the rim. A bit of fun, like the singing part of a bowl.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka


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