It’s a couple of month ago that my interest for himalayan singing bowl really started. I was fortunate enough to work on a peace project in Nepal and spent a few days in Katmandu. I knew the address of our local maker and decided I could give him a visit and learn a little more about the instrument.
Every where in Nepal you will see stands of singing bowl sold for all manners of prices to tourist eager to find souvenirs to bring home. Every where I had tried to gather information about the raison d’être of this most peculiar instrument. Every where I ended up with more questions than answers. Singing bowl were created 3000 to 4000 years ago all across Asia in pre-buddhist and predominantly agricultural societies. It takes a whole day of work for four blacksmith to forge one instrument and a proper bowl is composed of an alloy of seven to nine metals. It would have represented a tremendous effort and cost for this people, in those conditions, to create these instruments, so I figured it would have had a very meaningful usage.
So there I was, filled with questions, as I entered the gallery of our own maker and friend in Katmandu. Devendra received me most kindly and for what felt like hours played for me and with words and with silence answered my many questions.
Singing bowls come in many shapes and sizes but in pre-buddhist societies they were used by the Bon shaman to connect to the forces of nature. The singing bowl, with each different metal matching different levels of energy, comes to represent the whole univers. The shaman by using this instrument would try to tune back to the universal vibration, merge with the infinite, and bring back from that experience the message he intended to get. In truth most of the technics belong to occult practices and were likely to be reserved to a few chosen one, so, today, we know next to nothing about how they used it. But today we can, if we so desire, benefit form the practice of the bowl.
“You don’t play the bowl you simply let it play you” and its practice may help us letting go of our self imposed limitations, tensions, pressures. A same bowl will sound differently depending on who plays it, or even if the same person plays it at different times of the day.
So we are left guessing and using our intuition to understand what these bowls were meant for. Modern days have seen a growing interest for cristal bowls, gongs, tuning forks, in a nutshell we are slowly rediscovering the marvellous potential of sound for journey of self discovery.
“The supreme goal of art is self discovery” Sri Chinmoy