Where does the Tibetan singing bowl originate? Is it really Tibetan? Or should we rather call it Himalayan singing bowl? Has it always been used for sound healing and sound massage?
The Tibetan singing bowl
The so called singing bowl is often referred to as being of Tibetan origin. However, as we knew that there are also other opinions out there and lack of thorough evidence, we asked many of our Tibetan friends and collaborators who practice the Sowa Rigpa, also known as Tibetan medicine, what they think of this. Somewhat to our surprise none of them we asked had any real experience with the singing bowls as such, and they also did not know of any Tibetan doctors practicing sound massage using Tibetan singing bowls. They also did not know why they were referred to as being Tibetan, unless this simply had to do with the fact that “Tibet” sells. But the truth is that Sowa Rigpa is only one of the three types of Tibetan medicine, together with Tantric medicine and Karmic Medicine, and some people believe that this healing method is a part of the secret practices of the Tantric Medicine. On the other hand there are people who say that the Tibetans that went into exile to the neighboring countries such as India or Nepal during the Chinese invasion sold their valuable belongings to tourists for survival, and that often these valuable items were singing bowls that later were referred to as Tibetan singing bowls by the foreigners.
We continued our investigation going to the other side of the Himalayas, Nepal, where the practice of singing bows is quite common nowadays. Here we asked several of our sound healer friends about the origin of the singing bowl, and naturally they were more familiar with these healing instruments; some of them learned the use of the singing bowls from their grand parents who were nomad shamans from the Himalayas, others studied more by themselves, but these stories we will save for another article. Here we will share the different interpretations of the origin and the use of the singing bowl that we came across during our trip around the Himalayan region…
The singing bowl in everyday life
Even if there are several stories about the origin and the historical use of the singing bowls, almost all of them coincide in that since hundreds or even thousands of years back in time they were mainly used in the households for storage purposes and as plates. It seems that they were even used for storing newly gathered cow milk! The women went to the riverside to wash the bowls and carved their names on them in order to make sure they did not get mixed up. That is why even today you can see ancient singing bowls with name carvings on them. Moreover the singing bowls were often given as a wedding present to the young couple because of their great economical value.
Spiritual use of the singing bowl
In the spiritual sphere there are also many stories about the use of the Singing bowls. Many people say that the Buddhist monks used them when collecting offerings and food while walking the streets of the villages around the Himalayas. It is also believed that within the Tibetan Tantric tradition the monks used sound for spiritual and healing purposes through singing bowls, bells, gongs and trumpets. The Tantric medicine is still today so secretive that hardly any knowledge about these practices reach outside the monastery walls.
The healing properties of the singing bowls
It is told that women after giving birth ate their main meals from a singing bowl during their convalescence, because it was believed that the minerals it contained had great health benefits. An entirely different form of healing using the singing bowls that focused on their sound and vibrations was used by the Newari people in Nepal already hundreds of years ago. The same idea of using the peculiar sound and vibrations created by the bowls for healing purposes is becoming more and more popular today as “Tibetan singing bowl massage” or “sound massage”.
As you can see there are many different stories about the origin and the traditional use of the singing bowls and you get different answers depending on who you pose the question to. I actually find this quite fascinating and I think it adds an even more mystical flair to these ancient instruments. One thing that is clear though is that sound has been used for centuries in spiritual rituals and practiced all over the world; be it in the form of gongs, trumpets, bells or Singing bowls.
Please share any thoughts or own experiences with sound healing in the “comments” below!
Greetings from Thailand,
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