Tibetan singing bowls have been an important tool used by Buddhists of Tibet in their meditative practices for centuries. These are basically a type of musical instrument that produce sound through vibration when struck, scraped, or shaken.
Oral traditions state that the singing bowls were brought to Tibet from India around the 8th century A.D. by a tantric master named Padmasambhava. A metallurgical analysis of a bowl done by Concordia University in Quebec found that it was made from a combination of 8 alloys. While copper and tin were the primary metals, trace amounts of zinc, iron, lead, mercury, silver, and gold were also found.
“Singing bowls come in a single, inverted bell form, but come in different sizes, ranging from a few centimeters to a meter in diameter. The smaller ones produce more delicate sounds, while the larger bowls produce deeper, full-bodied sounds. To produce a sound, singing bowls are often struck on their rim or side using a mallet. Each method produces very distinctive sounds,” according to Shanti Bowl.
Buddhist Himalayan monasteries use the singing bowls as a starting point in their meditation. Sometimes, the singing bowls will be played during an entire session to help the people focus their minds and attain a state of deep relaxation. In such a state, the mantras uttered by the meditators are believed to freely flow into the universe. Harmonious sounds created by the singing bowls are also said to have a direct effect on the chakras in the body.
In 2011, a study was conducted to find out why the water in a Tibetan singing bowl tends to “dance” when rubbed with a mallet. Researchers analyzed the effect and found that the core phenomenon is dependent on Faraday waves that arise when a fluid vibrates in a constrained space. When the frequency of the rubbing equals the frequency at which the bowl naturally vibrates, the edges begin to slightly change shape.
“The energy of this shape-shifting partly transfers to the water, in which a range of interesting patterns can arise as the intensity of the rubbing increases. But at a certain point the water becomes unstable — and a fizzing display of droplets and chaotic waves results… under certain conditions, droplets can actually bounce repeatedly and skip on the surface of the water,” according to the BBC.
A study published in the Swiss journal Research in Complementary Medicine looked into the health benefits of Tibetan singing bowls. The study looked at 54 people suffering from chronic pain originating from the spine. They were split into three groups, with the first given a placebo treatment, the second provided with six sessions of singing bowl therapy, and the third group left with no treatment.
“Study results showed that members of the singing bowl group and the placebo group experienced a significant decrease in pain intensity. The study’s authors also found that both the singing bowl therapy and the placebo therapy had a stress-reducing effect on participants,” according to Very Well Mind.
Tibetan singing bowls that are in use today are not produced in the traditional way since the ancient methods have been lost. However, the manufacturing technologies used at present can create bowls that are capable of generating beautiful tones. The best Tibetan singing bowls are now said to come from neighboring Nepal.