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Himalayan bowls, also known as Tibetan or Nepalese singing bowls, are believed to have originated from the Bon civilization, dating back more than 3,800 years, long before Buddhism. Historically, there is evidence that the metal bell originated in China, even earlier during the Shang dynasty (16th–11th centuries BCE), and that bells are among the oldest bronze objects found in China. Musically, Himalayan bowls are classified as a type of bell (a bell is a hollow object which has maximum vibration around an open rim - a gong, on the other hand, has maximum vibration towards the center).
Historically, Himalayan bowls have been used in various religious ceremonies, particularly in Buddhist meditation, chanting and prayer. The Himalayan singing bowl is a type of standing bell played by striking or rubbing its rim with a wooden or leather-wrapped mallet called “Puja”. This excitation causes the sides and rim of the bowl to vibrate and produces a rich sound. These bowls are handmade, though their precise composition varies, and generally are composed of a bronze alloy that may include copper, tin, zinc, iron, silver, gold or nickel. There are many distinct bowls, which produce different tones, depending on the alloy composition, their shape, size and weight.
Quantum physics tells us that all life is energy, eternal in nature and morphing from one shape or form to another. Physicist Dave Bohm calls this the “implicate order”. According to Bohm, what lies behind all phenomena is vibrating energy, which forms an “unbroken wholeness, which connects us all”. Each “energy shape” has its own unique pattern of frequencies, or vibrations. When one form experiences a matching frequency in a musical note, or even words, the form will begin to vibrate in sympathetic resonance. A strong enough vibration can even cause a form to restructure itself, as has been noted with crystal glasses and water crystals.
Every note or sound frequency creates a sympathetic resonance with every other note, producing harmonic overtones that commence the meditation or healing process through entrainment.
Entrainment can be understood as the process of falling into vibrational step with a surrounding frequency, such as the bowls. It is thought that the sympathetic resonance between mind-body and bowls helps to awaken an intrinsic bliss and self-regulating healing within us.
Today, Himalayan bowls are primarily used for ceremonial and meditation purposes. Nevertheless, these amazing instruments are increasingly being used in healing sound therapy, music therapy, and even contemporary music. The following articles describe some of the cultural background and sound-harmonic research associated with the Himalayan singing bowls.
Goldsby, Tamara L., Michael E. Goldsby, Mary McWalters, and Paul J. Mills. Effects of singing bowl sound meditation on mood, tension, and well-being: An observational study. Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine 22, no. 3 (2017): 401-406.
Inácio, Octávio, Luís L. Henrique, and José Antunes. The dynamics of Tibetan singing bowls. Acta acustica united with acustica 92, no. 4 (2006): 637-653.
Inácio, Octávio, Luís Enrique, José Antunes, and Rua da Alegria. The physics of tibetan singing bowls. (2003).
Inácio, Octávio, Luís Henrique, and José Antunes. The physics of Tibetan singing bowls part 1: theoretical model.
Institute of Physics. Researchers map the physics of Tibetan singing bowls. ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 July 2011.
How to Heal with Singing Bowls: Traditional Tibetan Healing Methods Expanded and Revised by Suren Shrestha.
Terwagne, Denis, and John WM Bush. Tibetan singing bowls. Nonlinearity 24, no. 8 (2011): R51.
Wepner, Florian, Julia Hahne, Angelika Teichmann, Gertraud Berka-Schmid, Annette Hördinger, and Martin Friedrich. Treatment with crystal singing bowls for chronic spinal pain and chronobiologic activities-a randomized controlled trial. Forschende Komplementarmedizin (2006) 15, no. 3 (2008): 130-137. (Abstract)
Young D, Essl G, HyperPuja: A Tibetan Singing Bowl Controller, Proceedings of the Conference on New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME-03), Montreal, Canada (2003).