Frequently Asked Questions
? – My bowl makes ugly rattling-type noises when I play it. Am I doing something wrong?
A – It could be several things. Mostly it’s because you’re either:
going too fast with the stick, or
not applying enough pressure, or
you’ve not got the right pressure in your gripping of the stick – you may be gripping it too tightly or too loosely or your fingers may not be in the right position on the stick making it unbalanced and giving you little control over the amount of pressure exerted, or
you’ve got the wrong type of wood for the bowl : – too hard, too soft, too oily, too thick, too thin, too long, too short, etc.
Other reasons could be that the stick is made of the wrong wood for stroking (as listed above) or that the bowl does not possess a smooth surface around its rim. If this latter is the case you can use Crocus Paper from the jeweller’s – of different grades to smooth it down – unless the rim is too far from being a smooth circle! or use a buffer wheel. Crocus Paper isn’t always readily available, in which case Wet Silicon Carbide Paper will do – depending on how deep the marks are, you can begin with a grade of 220 then 400 then finish with 600 or go on to 800 if you wish. One must also bear in mind that suppliers generally produce one size of stick for all bowls. This will generally mean that the stick is too thin for large bowls and too thick for small bowls. But that is how it is. Such sticks are also often unsuited to striking the bowl. Traditionally, striking sticks are padded with leather although nowadays one can also use felt beaters – large ones for large bowls. Refined users will also hear the difference between well-balanced sticks and those that are less well-balanced.
?- How do I choose a bowl?
A- There is great care needed when choosing a bowl and also in how we use it! Some rare Bowls can be charged with very definite psycho-spiritual energies, possessing very powerful forces that, for the uninitiated, can prove difficult to control or use. This largely relates to the very old bowls – as many modern-day individuals have neither the time nor the inclination to spend days or months charging up objects. Whilst it’s said that some lamas do use them, the bowls are generally associated with Bon, the name given to the ensemble of indigenous pre-Buddhist faith in Tibet, which were certainly involved with magical practices. Therefore some bowls will have been used for either black or White magic. The primary difference between these two forms of magic hinges on the single word coercion; where the will of the black magician seeks, for entirely selfish purposes, to dominate the will of another individual.
Therefore, our Fundamental Intention before working with these powerful instruments must be one of selfless service. Adopting the attitude that All beings may receive the beneficial effects of our action. Besides being the safest foundation for the Spiritual Path, or Journey of Initiation, this will also purify and protect us from harmful influences.
Certain bowls, alongside specific ways of using them, channel very powerful healing energies and this is another one of their traditional Shamanic uses. All healers strive to rise above their individual egos and all worldly thoughts in order for the higher healing energies from the Angels of Healing to pass through them to their patient helping to restore the Harmony.
We remember the Buddhist begging bowl where the monk accepts whatever food is offered. The Way of the Bowl requires Acceptance, Openness and complete Surrender to the Sound – becoming ONE with the sound. This is also similar to the Way of Tao. In such emptiness we come to inner silence, maybe even the ‘sound of the void.’
Either ask someone else to play the bowl for you whilst you see whether or not it speaks to you or play it yourself. Most people find it easy to recognise whether a bowl links to them or not. The only distractions might come from the merchant making high claims (and prices) for the bowl or giving the bowl a special name (that is most often simply for sales purposes e.g. a ‘Master Bowl’, or a ‘Gold Bowl’). Try not to let anything from outside influence you – the price, the claims made, etc, just rely on your own intuition. Another factor is having the correct-sized implement for striking or stroking the bowl in order to elicit the correct tones from the bowl.
Sometimes it is useful to have given some forethought to the process. The weight of the bowl or the loudness of the bowl. If you are playing it alone at home the volume doesn’t matter but if you wish to use it in public then a consideration of how loud its sound is may be helpful. Size might matter if you wish to carry it around with you. Age and signs of antiquity might be important or the sound or the nature of the effect of its sound might be more relevant to you. Listen closely to make sure that there are no signs of cracks in the sound (a buzzing noise). Listen to how many sounds you can hear in the bowl and whether they get on well together. Listen to how long it rings on. Some people have been tourists and visited a stall where the merchant is playing a bowl and then they buy it and he gives them another one which, when they get back home, cannot be made to make a sound when stroking. The seller plays a decent bowl but sells a very inferior object.
Don’t be affected by the price. Some sellers simply want to make a decent mark-up and sell good quality bowls for a decent amount of money. Others sell medium quality bowls for huge amounts of money. Others sell cheap bowls but these come from the lower end of the market quality-wise.
Many bowls on the market are made now. Some of these have a good sound and others don’t. It is increasingly very hard to source old antique bowls and, due to the world prices of raw metals, some merchants at source charge a high amount for these very rare older bowls. New bowls can also be costly because of the prices of raw materials. Just because a bowl shows sings of great age doesn’t necessarily mean that it is superior – neither does it mean that it is old (means of achieving signs of great age are available to those merchants seeking buyers of this persuasion). Only your ears can tell you if any bowl has a good sound. Although it is also true that our ears require educating in this art of listening.
?- Can I buy a bowl for the Chakras?
A- No, not really. I find one bowl will work with one chakra whilst rarely some others might affect as many as two or three e.g. Throat from the Heart. I have never found one single bowl that will work on all 7 chakras – the range of pitches between my own chakra bowls is around 6 octaves. This is far beyond what any one bowl can accomplish. Very few sellers can be expected to know whether the bowl they are selling you is a chakra Bowl. As for checking yourself, you’d need to be above the desire for finding such a bowl in order to give an objective appraisal. There are intellectual systems whereby certain notes of the Western scale have been attributed to the several chakras and a seller might call a bowl a chakra bowl because it is close to one of these pitches – but in my more intuitive experience, such systems are seldom relevant to spiritual work. The subject is far more complex. I have 8 Heart chakra bowls – each a different pitch and each providing a different quality for this Chakra.
? – Can I buy a Healing Bowl?
A – Not really. As with the chakra bowls above, one single bowl will only work if you’ve loads of charisma! I use over 60 bowls in my sound healing. One bowl for all ills is like asking the doctor for one pill for every illness! However, it sometimes works for the healer to choose one bowl for themselves to assist them in entering and attuning themselves to their own source of healing energy. Be wary of anybody selling you a so-called Healing Bowl – unless it truly has that effect upon you (without the intentions of the seller interfering). Also be wary of anybody selling you a so-called Master Bowl. I’ve met persons who’ve purchased such bowls and they can never answer questions such as “Why is it called a master bowl?”, “Was it made by a master bowl maker?”, “Compared to other bowls is it special?” “If it is attuned to a particular spiritual Master then why on earth didn’t the seller inform you as to Whom this is????” Often, regrettably, it’s just a sales-pitch or an excuse for putting the price up!
? – I’ve been informed that you shouldn’t hit the bowls. Is this right?
A – This is untrue. Bowls are bells, and Metal bells at that, and all bells, right around the world, and since their first beginnings, are struck! Traditionally, bells are either struck from without (by a beater or mallet) or from within, by a tongue. A rule of thumb is – the larger the bowl the larger the stick or mallet, or the thicker the rim the bigger the stick. However, Crystal bowls, being essentially made of Glass, would be less resilient to being struck – inn fact, they tend to explode (unless struck very gently).
?- I’ve been told that it is forbidden to stroke the bowls. Is this right?
A- I know of several practitioners of long-standing around the world all of whom are intimate with Tibetan Buddhist lamas and these practitioners stroke their bowls. If it were such a sin, then I am certain that their Tibetan Buddhist lama friends/teachers would inform them without delay!
? – I have been told that it is forbidden to play a bowl anti-clockwise. Is this true?
A – I would always advise to play a bowl in the clockwise direction. In essence, playing it clockwise would be to perform the action for the benefit of all beings (in keeping with all Buddhist practises) whilst playing it anti-clockwise would be for one’s personal benefit. Always playing in the anti-clockwise direction would, by analogy, enhance self-centeredness (not advisable). If one is ill, and the beneficial effects of a particular bowl are desired, then it would be permissible to play it in the anti-clockwise direction, if one so desires. But, as part of a spiritual practise, playing the bowls in a clockwise direction is the preferred choice from the spiritual perspective. I would never lay down the law for all people. I advise regarding the results of playing in one direction or the other – leaving individuals free to make an ‘informed’ choice.
? – Can you tell me where my bowl comes from , its age, how it has been used and by whom?
A – No. Very, very few bowls ever come with a provenance. Bowls arrive in different conditions – some suppliers like to clean their bowls (in which case all patina and most signs of ageing disappear) either using wire wool, abrasive paper, or dipping them in acid whilst others go out of their way to make them look ancient! Notwithstanding, it is sometimes possible to estimate its age and its origins – but as for who has used it, goodness knows how many hands it might have passed through! In rare instances certain bowls possess spiritual vibrations from their previous owners / users – but it is rare for them to arrive with special instructions from these previous owner(s)!!!!
? – Are all bowls chakra bowls?
A – No. A Chakra Bowl should directly affect the chakra in question being unquestionably focused and in-tune with that particular Chakra’s nature. Bowls can be anything from simply a nice-sounding bowl right up to a Chakra Bowl or one used for Deity Yoga. Many bowls don’t truly affect any chakras at all.
? – Do all bowls work with water?
A – Not at all. The adding of Water will make no difference to many bowls but once placed inside the right kind of bowl it instantly begins to speak its magical voice! Some water bowls require an extremely accurate amount of water before they ring out their mystical song in all its fullness – others are less precise in their needs.
? – Should I clean my Bowl?
A – It is entirely up to you. Some people like to leave them as they found them, whilst others prefer to clean them. Some bowls arrive with extraneous dirt upon them whereas it would not really be proper to remove the patina of an old bowl. The first bowl that I cleaned was very small. After cleaning I noticed that I could hear more of the upper partials (the higher notes) – the dirt was preventing the bowl from vibrating. Should you choose to clean your bowl I suggest: –
Fill the bottom with washing up liquid then fill until around a quarter of an inch from the rim with boiling hot water and then add a piece of aluminium metal and leave over-night – some people (lacking access to aluminium) use baking foil with sea salt inside resting upon the bottom of their bowl;
fill with warm water and lemon juice – the larger the bowl the more lemons you’d juice;
failing this clean with Brasso wadding or finally
use Crocus Paper from the jeweller’s to remove rust stains or especially scratches around the outer rim in order to cut down on the problems of noisy playing. Crocus Paper isn’t always readily available, in which case Wet Silicon Carbide Paper will do – beginning with a grade of 220 then 400 then finish with 600 or go on to 800 if you wish.
Copyright by Frank Perry. All rights reserved. 2001
© Frank Perry, 2001. All of these articles are copyright. They may individually be copied and shared with others in a spirit of knowledge-sharing and fair play, but they may not be sold, printed or reproduced in quantity or changed in form without the permission of the copyright holder. None of this material may be reproduced in workshops or lectures of any kind unless quotes are credited or properly attributed.
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