How do you know how old the Tibetan singing bowls are?
At Bodhisattva, we list the approximate age of our singing bowls based on our evaluation of authentic wear on the metal and date them “circa” their century of manufacture. “Circa” means “about”. Absent of a specific date inscribed on the piece, this term is used by art historians to indicate an approximate range of 100 years before or after the manufacture. For example, if we label a bowl “18th Century, that means we estimate that the date of manufacture could have occurred either 100 years prior to, or after, the 1700s. It is important to note that even amongst art historians, experts sometimes disagree.
Bodhisattva’s system of dating singing bowls was developed based on the work of Indo-Tibetan bronze art historian Ulrich Von Schroeder, author of the authoritative volume “Indo-Tibetan Bronzes” published in 1981. In an attempt to discover a system of dating Indo-Tibetan sculpture, Von Schroeder assembled a collection of thousands of photographs of bronze sculptures acquired from collectors and museums throughout the world. Starting with the known dated pieces, he identified them by stylistic characteristics and classified them together with other similar pieces. This body of work then showed similar levels of wear of the surface of the bronze consistent with known ritual practices in handling, such as touching and ritual washing. Similarly, as we know how singing bowls were used and played throughout the centuries, we can observe the wear on the metal surface and conjecture an approximate date range of manufacture.
Where do you get the Tibetan singing bowls?
Each of the Tibetan Singing Bowls offered by Bodhisattva have been personally selected by Shakti in Kathmandu, Nepal; some on buying trips and others over Skype. Shakti works with the same families since our founding in 1996, including one that has been purveying singing bowls in the Kathmandu Valley for four generations.
These families have a large network of collectors who travel throughout the Himalayas, traveling from village to village trading for the bowls.
The bowls are brought out of the mountains and consolidated, then the finest pieces are set aside for Shakti to make her selection according to age, harmonic balance, ease and smoothness of playing, sound volume, and long sustain. Shakti tests hundreds of singing bowls each year to select the 1/2 percent which is awarded our Master-quality label.
Our contemporary singing bowls are made by one of these families in Nepal and others are imported from India. They all use similar metallurgy and the same manufacturing techniques that have been in use for thousands of years.
Why are your bowls more expensive than bowls from other companies?
Simply put, we pay more. Since the inception of our company, we have been committed to offering only the best quality, harmonically balanced singing bowls to our customers. We have always found that one gets what one pays for and in order to have the top-quality material reserved for us, we pay a premium. Therefore, our Himalayan suppliers are happy to give us the first pick. After we have made our selection, then our suppliers offer the remainder of their collection to other buyers. Keep in mind that we only select and buy the top 1/2 percent available inventory on the market! The difference between the best – what we call “Master-quality®” – and the other 99.95% of the bowls that we reject, is enormous.
Harmonic balance refers to the quality of harmonies between the fundamental tone, rim tone, and sub-harmonics of a singing bowl. We have found that a bowl that is harmonically balanced will greatly help to put the user into a balanced state. Whereas the bowls we reject, which are harmonically unbalanced or out of tune, sound discordant and can actually create agitation. So if you want to create harmony and balance, then it’s wise to use a harmonically balanced singing bowl. People with musically trained ears will hear and feel the difference right away. Other newer users of singing bowls take time to develop this perception, and there may be a learning curve. So it’s best to select a Master-quality® bowl right from the start.
How do the sounds of the bowls relate to the chakras?
There are many different sound healing systems worldwide. In the West, most purport the chakras correlate to our Diatonic scale, which is derived from the ancient Vedic scale. This system follows:
B = crown/ 7th chakra
A = third eye (pineal gland)/ 6th chakra
G = throat/ 5th chakra
F = heart/ 4th chakra
E = solar plexus/ 3rd chakra
D = sacral/ 2nd chakra
C = root/1st chakra
Those who are doing healing work in this system will want to acquire a set of bowls that will be able to affect all of the chakras.
But even within the realm of the Diatonic scale, there are other considerations. Which octave is the scale in: the second, third, fourth or fifth? The octaves matter. To hear scales in all of these octaves, you can browse through Bodhisattva’s Archived Sets page. Also, please note that most Tibetan singing bowls produce more than one note (most produce between two dominant tones plus semi-tones). Whether you tune your set to the rim or the fundamental tone will determine to octave of your set.
However, there are many other systems that are not based on chakras: some based on the meridians, and others are derived from Bon (the indigenous people of Tibet) practices. There are many other systems based on planetary, historical and metaphysical influences as well. Although Bodhisattva honors all of these systems, we consider them all to be subjective. Some sound healing systems are based on no particular scale at all, but are based on the individual practitioner’s experience using bowls. Most of these systems are not supported by science, and while metaphysical tools for sound healing need not be, we are unable to validate any one particular sound healing school over any other. Hence, while we no longer list chakra correlations for our products, we still offer sets in scales – and custom sets – that practitioners can use for their sound healing methodologies, whatever they are.
We are snow flakes; each of us completely unique, vibrational entities. The bowls themselves are hand-made, also unique, and affect us differently. So above all, feel the sound. If we can be help to put together a set that resonates with you, please contact us.
What is the difference between Tibetan and "crystal" singing bowls?
The silicone glass, or as they are popularly called “crystal” bowls produce a pure sine tone, plus a third interval harmonic. This intense tone is louder and sometimes can be experienced as intrusive, as opposed to the subtler, complex interweaving of harmonics produced by Tibetan singing bowls. Also, most Tibetan bowls create a “binaural beat effect”, which has been shown scientifically to entrain our brainwaves from the Beta to Alpha state, inducing a positive feedback loop of calming physical responses, creating relaxation in the body and mind. Aside from the difference in their sound characteristics, it’s also important to note that being made of glass, crystal bowls break fairly easily. Although the bronze alloy from which Tibetan Singing bowls are forged is not indestructible, it is certainly much more durable, enabling Tibetan singing bowls to last hundreds of years with normal use.
What's the difference between old bowls and new bowls?
Around 1997, both machine-made and hand-forged, new-made singing bowls started showing up in the Himalayan marketplace. The hand-forged bowls come in a variety of sizes, from 3 1/3″ to over 24″! Authentic antiques were rarely made in sizes over 12″. Although we believe the new bowls are made with a similar bronze alloy as the antiques, we suspect they may have more iron content, as they are usually a heavier weight as compared to a same-size antique bowl. Some, like most of the contemporary bowls Bodhisattva offers, are a highly polished finish. We prefer this finish because the oxidized dark finish (fake patina) that’s added to contemporary bowls can be slightly sticky, creating a drag on the mallet. Most of these darker bowls now have either etched or bright gold design motifs. Our own etched bowls have this patina to give the etching work dimensionality, but we always remove the patina from the rim in order to make sure the surface is easily playable.
As is the case with antique bowls, the most important feature of new bowls is their sound. Unfortunately, due to the pressures of the exponential demand for singing bowls worldwide, most manufacturers pay little attention to the quality of their product’s sound. It takes exhaustive quality control to go through the mountains of bowls that are produced to find the Master-quality bowls amongst them. Finally, the budget of a contemporary bowl will usually be roughly half of a similarly sized antique bowl – or less.
Whether a bowl is contemporary or antique is, the most important consideration is: how do you feel when you hear it?
How do I find a bowl that's right for me?
Start with a very grounding criteria: consider your budget. If it’s in the $100 – $200 range, you’re going to want to look for a smaller, contemporary bowl. If you’ve no particular budget in mind, explore the larger contemporary bowls and the small, medium and large antique galleries until you find your comfort zone.
As you listen, observe if you resonate to higher pitched, or deeper sounding frequencies. Remember that each bowl has deeper and higher frequencies in it, depending on if you are listening to the isolated fundamental tone (the deeper tone) or rim tone (the higher tone). Some very large bowls also have mid-tones that you can isolate as well, You can hear all of the bowl’s harmonics at equal volume in a well-recorded strike, and some web stores like www.Bodhisatva.com, will also give you isolated recordings of their rim tone and also the fundamental tones for larger bowls.
Once you’ve found the type of bowl you resonate with the best, then it’s a process of elimination. By comparing different bowls to each other (in our galleries, you can play all the sound files you want simultaneously) you will discover which bowl or bowls are right for you. Deep listening is a skill you can develop here: if you listen with your eyes closed, this will allow you to hear at a deeper level since the part of your brain which normally processes visual information will be freed up to concentrate more fully on auditory input. Make sure you’re listening with good-quality earphones. Then, it’s a matter of feeling the sound: where do you feel it in your body? Observe the physical responses your body gives you as you listen: do you draw a deep breath and exhale? Do you feel the tension in your muscles start to let go? If so, that bowl is an excellent candidate as a relaxation tool for you. Or conversely, do you feel your muscles tighten? If so, move on to the next bowl! Your bowl should feel like a warm bath – a vibrational bath of the cells in your body with sound.
Finally, it’s helpful to observe your hand on the mouse, or finger on the screen. If your hand keeps going back to hit “play” on a certain bowl, your body has voted. This is the bowl, or bowls, you should choose for your meditation and healing work as they are the ones in harmony with you. For more assistance, call us at (800) 588-5350 and we’ll be happy to help you through the process!
How do I select a bowl for a gift?
Giving the gift of a singing bowl has a positive impact on in the life of your recipient in so many different ways! First, it gives someone you care about a relaxation tool they can use when they need it most, giving them the health benefits the stress reduction responses the bowls produce: softening of achy muscles, increased oxygenation, and lowering of heart rate. The bowls are also quintessential meditation tools. Their binaural beat patterns have the effect of balancing the left/right hemispheres of the brain, enabling the user to drop from the busy Beta brainwave frequency to a deeper Alpha state. And finally, every time your recipient plays their singing bowl, it will always bathe them in the energy of your love and intention, creating more positive responses in the body and mind.
But how to choose a singing bowl that’s right for them? First, decide how much you want to spend on the gift. If it’s in the $150 or less, you’re going to want to look for a smaller, contemporary bowl. If you’ve no particular budget in mind, explore the larger contemporary bowls and the small, medium and large antique galleries until you find your comfort zone.
Then, keeping your recipient in mind, start to listen. As you listen, imagine if they might resonate to the higher pitched, or deeper sounding frequencies. Remember that each bowl has deeper and higher frequencies in it, depending on if you are listening to the isolated fundamental tone (the deeper tone) or rim tone (the higher tone). Some very large bowls also have mid tones that you can isolate as well, You can hear all of the bowl’s harmonics at equal volume in a well-recorded strike, and some web stores like www.Bodhisatva.com, will also give you isolated recordings of their rim tone and also the fundamental tones for larger bowls. Although there are no hard and fast rules, generally someone with no singing bowl experience will have an easier time playing a medium sized singing bowl than a smaller one, seeing as a smaller bowl has less weight to offer resistance to the pressure of the mallet against its rim. Yet, learning how to play a singing bowl is pretty easy, so either way, they’ll get the hang of it.
As you go through the selection process, keep your recipient in mind and then just deeply listen with your eyes closed. This way, you will be able to hear at a deeper level since the part of your brain which normally processes visual information will be freed up to concentrate more fully on auditory input. Remember to listen with good quality ear phones. Feel the sounds in your body, and if a bowl gives you a positive relaxation response, then chances are very good your recipient will love it too!
If you you prefer, you can simply give them one of our Gift Cards. As all our products come with a 30-day Money-Back Guarantee, your recipient can call us during this time if they would like to exchange it for one that they like better. But honestly, we get very few returns. We attribute this to not only the quality of our bowls, but the power of your recipient’s association of the bowl’s sound with you.
By purchasing a bowl am I depriving Tibet of its cultural artifacts?
Absolutely not. Back when the bowls were “discovered” by Westerners in Nepal, the bowls mainly flowing out of the Tibetan Himalayas with the refugees fleeing Communist Chinese occupation. Hence, they became known as “Tibetan” singing bowls, even though they were used in cultures all over the Himalayas in countries such as India, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. Even countries such as China, Thailand, Viet Nam, Korea, and Japan had their own singing bowl traditions that can be traced back thousands of years. Judging from some of the inscriptions in the language of Urdu we have found, we believe they may have at one point been also made in the ancient kingdom of Gandhara, now present-day northwest Pakistan and northeast Afghanistan. Most of the authentic antiques that still remain available today come from India. Contemporary bowls are made in both India and Nepal.
There have been indications in ancient art that in addition to being used in the monasteries, singing bowls were used by householders, much as they are today. An early second century Gandharan bas relief called “the Marketplace” showed a seated man listening to a large bowl, his ear cocked in its direction, and his palm still poised in mid-air from the strike.
Why are the bowls named what they are?
In the beginning of his research and collecting in the Himalayas, for lack of the Tibetan names, we simply named them according to their physical characteristics, hence the names Low-wall, Low-wall-thick-lip, and High-wall bowls. Since then, in an effort to find more bowls, local collectors searched in more remote parts of the Himalayas finding other shapes of bowls. We subsequently created allegorical names for these shapes in more Buddhist dharma terms, such as Buddha, Karma, Dharma, Bodhi, Lotus, and Mani.
The Buddha bowl is so named due to the fact that the earliest piece of Buddhist art found to date showing Buddha with his bowl, a stone carved bas relief (see image below) from Gandhara, circa 2nd to 3rd century CE, previously owned by Guiseppe, London, and called “The Offering of the Four Bowls”, depicts Gautama Buddha holding a deep bowl in his left hand while bestowing a blessing with his right. Underneath the bowl, which rests on his left thigh, folds of his robe arranged in a flowing wave may attest to the importance of the object and its mystical significance.
Do you have a store?
We have a showroom in West Los Angeles and we are by appointment only. If you are interested in making an appointment, please call in advance. US calls: 1-800-588-5350. If you are international and are planning a trip to Los Angeles, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call 1-310-838-5350, or What’s App Shakti +1 310-200-5002.