Tibetan Singing Bowls

The complex history of Tibetan Singing Bowls and their origin

Music and sound have been utilized as instruments to aid in relaxation, healing, and meditation since the dawn of human civilization. Sound therapy with Tibetan singing bowls is an ancient form of regeneration. Since ancient times, Buddhist monks have utilized them for meditation, religious ceremonial music, traditional ritual offerings, praying as prayer bowls, and as traditional musical instruments. 

Tibetan singing bowls, Tibetan healing bowls, Tibetan meditation bowls, and Himalayan singing bowls are some of the more well-known names for singing bowls. Due to their names, many people assume singing bowls are Tibetan in origin, but there are really various stories that explain how these healing bowls came to be.

Although they are frequently referred to as "Tibetan" singing bowls, the singing bowls of Tibet are actually believed to have come from the pre-Buddhist, shamanic Bon Po civilization of the Himalayas. They were created in Bhutan, India, Nepal, and Tibet. They are 'resting bells,' and as such, they are members of the Bell family, whose civilization appears to date back to the Bronze Age in China around 4,000 years ago, when it reached geographically as far as Burma and Indochina. Chinese and Japanese resting bells are created in quite different ways, nevertheless. According to Tibetan sources, singing bowls are reputed to be made of an alloy consisting of (depending upon who one is talking to) five, seven, or nine different metals

singing bowls

You can view our Singing Bowl collection here.

The famous myths around the origination of Tibetan Singing Bowls

There are a number of mysterious origin stories for the singing bowl that are not as firmly documented in writing as we might expect. The first metal bowl was probably made of pure copper, believed to be made over 5000 years ago. It was only later that brass was introduced as a new technology that involves a mixture of copper and other metals (which also dates around a few thousand years back). It is also said that at the turn of the century, a 2,000-year-old brass bowl was discovered in Tibet. However, the documented 'Tibetan singing bowl' actually goes back to the 1970s.

Myth 1: Singing bowls were first introduced by musicians?

When American musicians Nancy Hennings and Henry Wolf published their album "Tibetan Bell" in 1972, it is the first time The Singing Bowl was mentioned in writing. The minimalist soundscape of the new age record was produced using a range of percussion instruments and a variety of long-held notes. The Tibetan Bell and its follow-up, Tibetan Bell II, released in 1978, were both designed to give listeners a psychedelic-like experience.

A 1985 review of the album in Yoga Journal entitled “Visionary Music for These Times of Transition” says Tibetan Bells and Tibetan Bells II “brought a wide grouping of Central Asian and Tibetan instruments into Western consciousness for the first time. They have always been in search of recording technology that could truly capture the subtleties and wide-ranging sound qualities so characteristic of Tibetan instruments.”

In any case, the essential instrument utilized in their work — the sound bowl — cannot be definitively proven to have originated in Tibet.

Myth 2: A Japanese history of Singing Bowls

A class of bowls found in Japan known as "Rin Gong" is referred to as the Japanese equivalent of singing bowls and is frequently utilized as such. Possibly the original singing bowls. Every Japanese home has one or more healing bowls for domestic purposes. This is based on a custom that developed between the 17th and the 19th centuries.

singing bowl

The wooden mallet is horizontally held in place by another frame, and a cushion rests on a wooden pedestal with a rin gong. The entire arrangement is commonly referred to as a "Buddhist Altar" or "Butsudan." Along with Rei, Kei, and Orugoru or handbells and percussions, these meditation bowls are heard simultaneously. Additionally, they play a big role in Japanese temple rituals.

They are also distinctive for being crafted of the highest-quality bronze. On top of everything else, Rin Gongs have the best musical scales. It makes a sound similar to that of the popular Tibetan Singing Bowls on the market today when we hit it with a stick. Additionally, it is set down on a Tibetan-style cushion.

The Singing Bowls of Tibet: Are they purely Tibetan??

It is arguable whether many singing bowls were made in Tibetan monasteries. Many Tibetan singing bowls and other ceremonial objects were made in Nepal and were usually sent across the Himalayas using Tibetan materials. That is because the Tibetans claimed the gold, while the Nepalese had the expertise. The enormous pressure that formed the Himalayas also resulted in the formation of a rare metal alloy near the surface. It made the part a common playground for the crafting of antique copper and antique brass.

Singing Bowls were clearly designed for ceremonial purposes. They might have engravings demonstrating that they were given as gifts to monasteries. Some singing bowls, including those with lingams, were clearly ceremonial. Some singing bowls have excellent melody ability that gives the impression that they are tuned for a particular resonance. Many high-quality singing bowls are designed with sound in mind, as evidenced by the fact that brass bowls can be made of cheap metal. But the true history of the bowl and the manufacturer's intent has been lost over time.

According to Frank Perry's article on Tibetan Singing Bowls, the esoteric knowledge of the Tibetan singing bowls has all but vanished as a result of the Communist Chinese military occupation of Tibet in the 1950s and the subsequent, almost total, destruction of its monasteries. And, despite the fact that Tibetan singing bowls and their incredible sounds have been known to the Western world for more than 25 years, little is known about them.

Here are testimonial extracts on the origin of Tibetan Singing Bowls by a leading expert in Himalayan singing bowls, Frank Perry- a leading expert in Himalayan Singing Bowls;

“the spiritual adviser to H.H. the Dalai Lama researched the singing bowls and supplied the following information: – The bowls have been found to be linked with ‘Fire Worship.’ They are very old and come from a very early period of Tibetan History. They were kept in lamaseries. They would worship the tones but didn’t know what they were for. They seem to have originated from a very remote sect close to Bon – a primitive and animistic sect dedicated to Fire and Fire worship believed to be related or otherwise connected to the indigenous peoples of Nepal called the Newars. They were then used in meditation and also for astral traveling. The sound was experienced as moving from the bowl right around the world and then returning back into the bowl. Meditation with this, if possible, meant that one could likewise travel around the world. The bowls came across the silk route into Tibet and were then used for food and begging. Some Tibetans got into the sounds.”
Tibetologist Dr. Alain Presencer(Frank's friend, 1982)

Here is another testimonial in the same context; 

“Metal objects of high quality were made for the Lhassa people in Nepal, in Derge (a place in the Tibetan part of China proper), and, above all, Peking. It seems clear enough that the bowl really came from Tibet, although China and Japan are the places where musical bowls are commonly used in rites. It follows that the bowl (of a kind not usually used in Tibetan rites) could perhaps be a Chinese one sent to Tibet with a lot of specially designed Tibetan-style objects. I have a very cheap Bangkok-made Chinese-style brass musical bowl that produces several notes and several kinds of vibrations according to how and where it is struck. I should say that most of them, even the cheap, ordinary ones, do produce an effect that is conducive to entering certain holy states of mind – that is what they are for.”
~In a letter from author John Blofeld in December of 1968 to Mr. Hector Benson(Frank's friend)

In reality, we don't really know anything about Tibetan singing bowls. Books on Tibetan ceremonial music include nothing about these unique instruments. Despite the fact that "Begging Bowls" are listed as belonging to the practitioner, they are supposedly made of steel or iron. Although they frequently have a pleasant sound, the sacrificial bowls that decorate Buddhist altars also have a different shape from the "singing bowls." We are unable to locate any instances of the "singing bowls" in the dozens of recordings of Tibetan Buddhist ritual music that are becoming more widely available.

Tibetan Singing Bowls at Present

Singing bowls are a common addition to wellness routines today and can be found in yoga studios, sound therapy rooms, massage treatment facilities, temples, homes with good feng shui, gardens, and anywhere else people practice centering. Just keep in mind to purchase purposefully and select fair trade products.






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