Common steps and sub-activities

Singing bowls

Rin gong at Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto

Singing bowls (also known as Tibetan Singing Bowls, rin gongs, Himalayan bowls or suzu gongs) are a type of bell, specifically classified as a standing bell. Rather than hanging inverted or attached to a handle, singing bowls sit with the bottom surface resting. The sides and rim of singing bowls vibrate to produce sound characterized by a fundamental frequency (first harmonic) and usually two audible harmonic overtones (second and third harmonic).

Singing bowls were traditionally used in Asia and the tradition of making sound with bronze bowls could go back 3,000 or more years to the Bronze Age.  Singing bowls were historically made throughout Asia, especially Nepal, China and Japan. They are closely related to decorative bells made along the silk road from the Near East to Western Asia. Today they are made in Nepal, India, Japan, China and Korea.

Singing bowls can be used to invoke spiritual experiences.  They produce a unique sound and also physical vibrations that can be felt.

Where the objective is to provoke a spiritual experience, the sound is better when it is a reverberating low frequency tone or tones, a long low vibration that acts to resonate the organs which is when the visions will be experienced, but it can be other organs and then healing may take place. In other words, depending on the vibratory frequency, the effects will either be a hallucination, vision, or a healing type action. 

Their action is well known and they are used worldwide in meditation, music, and to induce relaxation.

They are also used by health professionals and spiritual teachers. Singing bowls are used in health care by psychotherapists, massage therapists, cancer specialists, stress and meditation specialists. They are used to help treat cancer patients and also for post traumatic stress disorder.

Method of use

Singing bowls are played by striking the rim of the bowl with a padded mallet. They can also be played by the friction of rubbing a wood, plastic, or leather wrapped mallet around the rim of the bowl to emphasize the harmonic overtones and a continuous 'singing' sound.

In Tibetan Buddhist practice, singing bowls are used as a signal to begin and end periods of silent meditation. Some practitioners, for example, Chinese Buddhists use the singing bowl to accompany chanting, striking it when a particular phrase is chanted. In Japan and Vietnam, singing bowls are similarly used during chanting and may also mark the passage of time or signal a change in activity, for example changing from sitting to walking meditation. In Japan, singing bowls are used in traditional funeral rites and ancestor worship. Every Japanese temple holds a singing bowl. Singing bowls are found on altars and in meditation rooms worldwide.

Find a bowl that works! 

Many antique singing bowls produce more subtle and effective harmonic overtones than the more modern bowl.   The subtle yet complex multiple harmonic frequencies are a result of the fact they were hand made rather than being mass produced and their special quality is caused by variations in the shape of the hand made singing bowls. The art of making singing bowls in the traditional way is becoming a lost art, but there are still some traditional craftsmen making singing bowls in the traditional manner. But antique and hand made bowls can be expensive.

Not all bowls are going to have this effect and the effects will be pretty unpredictable given that we are all different and all have different resonant frequencies.  What may well provoke an intense religious experience for a Buddhist monk  - all five foot of him eating rice and vegetables - , may have no effect on a 20 stone 6 foot tall American.

Note that the best sounding new singing bowls are made by hand hammering, which is the traditional method. The modern method is by sand casting and then machine lathing. Machine lathing can only be done with brass, so machine lathed singing bowls are made with modern techniques and modern brass alloy. Machined bowls do not produce a sound comparable to hand made singing bowls.

References

  • Singing Bowls; A Practical Handbook of Instruction and Use - Eva Rudy Jansen.

Observations

For iPad/iPhone users: tap letter twice to get list of items.