Article Info

published: 2/1/06
updated: 8/8/13

Tibetan Singing Bowl




The singing bowl is a ritual object used in the Himalayan region (Tibet and Nepal) since ancient times. When "played" with a wooden stick, the metal bowl emits a resounding sound that assists in meditation and releases mantras.


Photo courtesy of Himalayan Bowls.

Singing bowls are traditionally constructed of seven metals: gold, silver, mercury, copper, iron, tin and lead, which correspond to the seven planets (sun, moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn, respectively).

The pitch of the bowl depends its thickness, size and weight. The pitch is fixed but may be controlled as to tone and volume by the force of the tap, the hardness of the striking stick, and the point of percussion. You can listen to the sound of a Tibetan singing bowl here or here.





Creating a contemplative and calming sound, singing bowls are used throughout the Himalayas in monasteries and homes to aid meditation. The sound of a singing bowl can be used to mark the beginning or end of a meditation period, or during meditation to focus the mind.

It is also believed that mantras chanted during the making of a singing bowl are released into the universe when the bowl is played (thus having a similar function as a prayer wheel).

In recent years, the use of singing bowls has come to the West, where they are used in meditation as well as prescribed by alternative health practitioners to assist healing. The sound produced by a singing bowl is believed to evoke the Kundalini chakra.

To play a singing bowl, hold the bowl gently in the palm of your hand, allowing the body of the bowl to vibrate freely. With the wooden stick (puja), rub the outside rim in a circular motion, keeping an even pressure. Gently increase the speed as the bowl begins to vibrate, and as the sound grows. You can also tap the bowl to begin the vibration.




Sources

  1. Meher McArthur, Reading Buddhist Art: An Illustrated Guide to Buddhist Signs and Symbols (Thames & Hudson, 2004), 149.
  2. Singing Bowls - Frank Perry Website

Further Reading on Singing Bowls and Sacred Sounds