The mystery of Tibetan bowls

- through Sophie Solere

Published on

For millennia, the percussion and resonance of a simple container has accompanied the spiritual seeker on his way. Why do Tibetan bowls produce such a disturbing sound? Where does their power come from?

Rue de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève in Paris called the Himalayas to her. There is a restaurant, a Tibetan shop, Au pays des neiges, and Om Kashi, a Buddhist art gallery. It was while walking there one day with my sons that I discovered Tibetan bowls. In the store In the land of snow, a young woman was playing on one of them, quite small, which gave a high-pitched sound. After kicking him, she passed a wooden stick around his circumference so that the vibration filled the room. The more it turned, the louder the sound. It was getting so disturbing that I asked him to stop. She offered to give me a try. After two rounds, the sound died out. My eldest son of six years experienced in turn this new music instrument. The sound held. The Tibetan then explained to me that it was necessary to be centered for the vibration to soar, that children were more easily than adults. Very proud, my son asked me to give him our new discovery. Since then, I wake my children every morning to the sound of this bowl so pure that it seems to call the angels for the dawning day.

Awakening in Harmony

We were satisfied with this morning magic until the day when I spotted in the Om Kashi gallery a much larger Tibetan bowl, the sound of which is disconcertingly serious. The vibration is so beautiful and deep that my head is spinning. I then ask Régis Bellamich, the director of the gallery, why its effect is so immediate. His predecessor being the first to introduce Tibetan bowls in France in 1968; he is happy to open me up to the mysteries of singing bowls and explains to me that the bigger they are, the deeper their sound. It depends on weight, depth and diameter. Each bowl has a dominant, but it contains all frequencies within it. So it resonates with us on a very subtle level.

Inexhaustible on the subject, he tells me that the first bowls once came from Orissa, in central India. But that today they mainly come from Nepal, India and Tibet. Originally they were bowls of soup, but shamans realizing that they had a particular vibration, they first used them among the Bon (a pre-existing Tibetan religion to Buddhism) for their rituals. This is how they are found later in Tibetan Buddhism.

A production passed down secretly from generation to generation

The bowls are traditionally made from an alloy of seven metals. Before being worked on, this combination, the exact proportions of which are kept secret, is exposed for three nights under the full moon so that they take on its energy. The vibrations emanating from the bowl consist of a base sound (a note) and harmonic frequencies that naturally center the person. Through sound, everyone comes together.

I grab the bowl and discover the marks of hammering, a sign that it is authentic and shaped by hand. Now many industrial golden brass bowls run the streets in India and elsewhere. However, only hammered bowls can trigger this unique emotion for everyone.

Experience proves that sounds can balance both hemispheres of the brain and cleanse and revitalize the body's energy down to the cellular level.

Régis Bellamich runs water into the bowl, hits it, then rubs it on the outside with a chopstick. We then see the water quiver more and more strongly. This phenomenon explains the resonance of these sounds on the liquids of the body: blood, lymph and water. When you play the Tibetan bowl, there are sounds that you don't hear, but which create vibrations like ultrasound. Régis adds that the seven metals that make up the bowl would also impact the seven chakras. The seven metals represent the seven stars of the solar system: Gold (sun) Sahasrara. Crown Chakra/Silver (Moon) Ajna. Third Eye Chakra/Mercury (mercury)Vishuda. Throat Chakra/Copper (Venus) Anahata, Heart Chakra/Iron (Mars) Manipura. Solar Plexus Chakra/Tin (Jupiter) Swadhistana. Sacral Chakra/Lead (Saturn). Muladhara Chakra of the perineum. For the Tibetans, the singing of the bowl puts us spontaneously in tune with the universe.

Thus the singing bowl has two essential functions. We first use its percussion to mark the beginning and the end of a meditation. Thanks to vibration, the being harmonizes more easily with the sound it hears. It is also sometimes used for therapeutic purposes. Even in the West, there are many sound therapies, such as the Tomatis method. Depending on the frequencies emitted, areas of the body are soothed. In India, a therapist recognized by the Dalai Lama gives treatments with Tibetan bowls at the Monkey Temple, located just above Kathmandu. He readjusts and harmonizes the energies and the chakras of the patients with different Tibetan bowls. Experience proves that sounds can balance both hemispheres of the brain and cleanse and revitalize the body's energy down to the cellular level.

Régis Belamich makes the bowl ring one last time. The air vibrates with it. I leave the gallery disconcerted by the power of these millennial sounds that lead to great silence.

photo of author

Sophie Solere

Sophie Solère is an economic and social journalist who has been interested for years in the environment and interdependence. She works for Buddhist News, a media platform dedicated to Buddhist spirituality and wisdom. By practicing yoga and meditative dance, Sophie discovered the power of spiritual journeys, which offer so many paths to (re)find yourself. She is dedicated to sharing inspiring stories and valuable advice on spiritual practice and the environment with Buddhist News readers.

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