The Art, Methods and History of Healing with Singing Bowls
Singing bowls are a somewhat esoteric item which is commonly associated (for those in the know) with Zen meditation and Buddhism. These bowls, made with a number of different materials, (most of which are typically metallic in nature) are a commonplace sight in many monasteries in Asia and have been employed by Tibetan monks, Buddhist monks, Hindu ascetics, itako and onmoyodo practitioners (traditional Japanese shamans), and, in an earlier time, by a large number of animistic shamans in Asia. Nowadays, singing bowls are usually associated with feng shui practitioners, and are referred to as ‘blessing bowls’ – a role which it has played alongside it healing and meditative purposes since the early days of its creation. For those who are in the know, as well as for individuals who run in the more esoteric circles of today’s know-how, singing bowls are usually associated with reclusive monasteries found in the peaks of the Himalayas, and is generally thought of as a staple item used by Tibetan monks. However, what most individuals don’t know is that the art, methods and history of healing with singing bowls dates to an age far older, and a practice far more ancient that Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism and Zen Buddhism combined.
A History of Singing Bowels
Considering a history of singing bowels in relation to its current use can be difficult, especially for individuals that have very little background on esoteric subjects. Singing bowls were originally an item employed by shamanic proto-religions, with the earliest root of its usage and practice dating back to as early as the 8th century BC. The earliest versions of singing bowls were of roughly made bronze, copper, or brass bells that were struck to produce prolonged sounds, employed by shamans during periods of trance to further their trance. Two of the most notable shamanic ‘faiths’ that employed these early forms of singing bowls were the Bon – a group of animistic worshippers who were the forerunners of today’s Tibetan Buddhists and even the now largely forgotten pre-Vedic faiths that existed in the Indus Valley long before the synthesis of Hinduism evolved from the then broad and often contradicting pantheist-animist beliefs. While nowadays, singing bowls are used primarily for ‘blessings’ and general healing, in the old days, the Bon employed the bowls for more than just those two uses. The art and use of singing bowels often included its employment as a means to facilitate a trance-like state, usually accompanied by the use of entheogenic substances, long before the advent of the Buddhist-oriented styles of meditation.
Well into the advent of Hinduism, the use of singing bowls were later adopted from the pre-Vedic concepts and later refined into what would soon become a near-universal employment of the items. These post-Vedic singing bowls, which would later be employed by ascetics, shamans, and later, Buddhist practitioners in Tibet, are unique in that their metallurgical composition is highly advanced and (nowadays) inimitable, with some rare extant period pieces being a testament to the metalworking skills of the ancients. A number of old singing bowls are made of more than one metal, but rather is fashioned from an alloy of as much as twelve different metals, giving it its unique sound, and, esoterically speaking, it’s amazing healing powers. The art and use of singing bowels drastically changed with the passage of time, and what initially was meant as an aid to facilitating trances soon became a general tool to generate wellness and health, and even to exorcise evil spirits, especially within the belief-systems of the Hindus and the later Buddhists who valued the power of sounds, syllables, and words, where healing with singing bowels became a common facet of their belief-system. In the furtherance of a history of signing bowels, the composition of the items also drastically changed from the believed twelve-metal varieties, to the five-metal ones that are still available (though nowadays fairly rarely) in some parts of India. This five-metal alloy, called panchaloha is also the same alloy that is employed in the creation of Hindu icons of worship (called murti). In the Tibetan tradition of metallurgy, the five-metal alloy is often mixed with an item called thokcha – meteorite iron –, which is believed to add to its auspiciousness and power. Due to its unique metallurgical composition authentic singing bowls produce an amazing range of sounds, and is notable for its one-of-a-kind resonance, which is the key feature in its ability to promote healing.
The Art and Use of Singing Bowels Today
Much of the art, methods and history of healing with singing bowls are still very much alive today, as it has been passed down both through written and oral records from faiths and cultures which have long employed it for such purposes since time immemorial. However, the methods, and even the purpose of singing bowls have drastically changed. Nowadays, healing with singing bowels no longer curtail a highly ritualized or ceremonial process, as the art, methods, and history of healing with singing bowls originally set its usage to be, but has rather been adopted and employed in a faster, less stylized way to cope up with the ever-increasing pace of modern lifestyles. Today, even the materials that comprise singing bowls are no longer the traditional metallic alloys that were originally used, and any extant variants that employ the original metallurgical compositions are often expensive, or are deemed collectible antiques. Antique and modern singing bowls are in themselves a wonderful works of art that often display exemplary forms of craftsmanship. Typical motifs and designs (generally carved in relief or etched outside the edge of the bowl) include common Buddhist or Hindu symbols, such as lotus flowers, mantra inscriptions, and other auspicious symbolism.
While the art, methods and history of healing with singing bowls curtail a necessary understanding of how the esoteric mindset of Buddhists and Hindus work, the healing that is garnered from these items can easily be explained through the concept of ‘music therapy’ – a seemingly modern take on alternative healing which has predominantly ancient roots. The concept behind healing with singing bowls (outside of its esoteric concept) is simple – the resonance that is produced by either striking, or slowly ‘stirring’ the bowl from its lip to create a ringing and vibrating sound that spreads throughout. Depending on the quality of the singing bowl and the materials used to create it, the sounds, its clarity, as well as its resonance vary. Practitioners of music or sound therapy believe that specific vibrations, once heard, can facilitate a change in the overall consciousness of an individual, altering their health either for good or for ill, depending upon the vibration exuded – and this is the primary tenet upon which the art, methods and history of healing with singing bowls stands. In a more traditional sense, it is believed that the sounds that are produced by a singing bowl helps to activate or cleared blocked chakra points – the vital nodes of energy which are found throughout the human body. Investing in a singing bowl for therapeutic use, and the regular employment of such an item is believed to not only alleviate stress, but also help to hasten the healing of certain diseases such as cancer. Whether you purchase singing bowls for the sake of its being an artistic object, or if you employ it for any of the three distinct practices associated with it – as aid for healing and meditation, as a means to bless or imbue certain objects with power, or as a means to drive away negativity, then a blessing bowl is well worth the investment! Not only will investing in singing bowls allow you to appreciate the art, methods and history of healing with singing bowls, but it will present a new perspective of increased consciousness towards what truly drives the dynamics of wellness. Peace! Roger Marlow