I went to see a presentation by a practitioner of Tibetan sound healing. He was a Nepali man, very sincere, who was practicing what he called a dying art in his native country. In the course of his discussion he spoke of many instances where people had experienced healing through hearing the tones of his bowls – even in hospital settings. It seemed to me that it wasn’t just the bowls but the presence of the practitioner that facilitated whatever healing might have taken place.
His bowl set consisted of about 30 new bowls, some machine made and some beaten, which were labeled by note and chakra. These were the kind of better quality new bowls one would see in most of the shops in Kathmandu. He arrayed the bowls by tone and played specific arrangements of frequencies, sometimes repetitively (as one might do in a meditation). Listening, as I did, with the trained ear of a bowl professional I was aware of the missing and flat elements in the sounds. Even in the hands of an experienced and skilled player these new bowls lack the subtle qualities I find most appealing in singing bowls. This is not to say listening was a bad experience. Quite to the contrary, a proper spell was cast and people seemed to really enjoy it, yours truly included. Still I couldn’t help thinking just how much better the presentation would have been with a full set of sweet and well balanced ancient instruments.
During Q&A afterwards I asked him about his experience of brass bowls as a kid in Nepal. He said he only remembered eating out of them, and never knew anything about their sounds. Only when he got older and began to deeply explore his country’s ancient traditions did he meet a teacher who could initiate him into the mysteries.