The Timeless Tibetan Singing Bowls

by Richard Rudis (Sonam Dorje)
Proprietor of Illuminarium Convergence

July Fifteenth; Tibetan Plateau

The year is circa 1650; the place is the isolated Tibetan Plateau, three miles above sea level, on the very pinnacle of the world. The great fifth Dalai Lama is still a young man; Tibet is a sanctuary of peace and harmony. It is July fifteenth and the walls of the great scholastic monastery Drepung rise above the land as if willed there within a landscape of barren rock.

An ageless monk stands gazing out over the deep, expansive valley which extends down and away in all directions. It is early morning and in the thin air the dark blue sky of the Himalayas is bright in contrast to the still shadowy lowlands below. The evening fog, cold and damp, lingers as flickering lights, the lantern radiance of a thousand pilgrims, twist in long and narrow rows making their ritual sojourn towards the monastery. The procession is not a new sight to the old monk. He, his brethren and their order have witnessed this spectacle from time before recorded history. It is the pageant of the sacred Himalayan Bowl which trails off into infinity.

The caravan carries within its fiery train offerings of flowers, grains, food, incense and devotion. Each pilgrim has come to hear the echoed song of a sacred Himalayan Singing Bowl. Tradition recounts that karmic obstructions are removed while meditating within its voice. Those that have already managed to mindfully pierce their veil of illusion will hear the Bowl’s resonance from great distances and from within life itself. It is the physical utterance of emptiness, the teachings of truth, the sound of enlightenment.

As the thousands gather in the monastery courtyard a group of monks carry from the thrown stronghold, known as ‘Kungar Awa’, the “Dragons Egg”. It is one of only three ancient sacred Bowls of grand dimensions that has survived the centuries. The path and surrounding area is illuminated by one hundred and eight thousand candles. The air is full of the sound of transformative mantras, the blending smells of temple incense and yak butter lamps. Each monk in turn participates in sacred dance; reenacting teaching stories in sanctified geometry. The large concentrated metal alloy Bowl slowly makes its way into position at the center of the assembly. Surrounded by symbols of devotion its presence radiates wisdom and compassion; means and method.

Hours pass and the initiating ceremonies are completed, all activities stop and the pilgrims wait for silence; the Bowl is struck. Like a stone thrown into a calm pool of water the Bowls’ harmonic resonance and overtones ignite the surface of existence. A shock wave passes through each devotee. As with the stone awakening the pools’ surface in ever expanding circles; the voice of the Bowl embraces and guides each being into synchronization with their intrinsic universal life force; their primordial nucleus.

Consciousness is altered, reality reshaped and each individual of the congregation is transported into an expanded state of meditative dimensions. Within this framework of tranquility and balance the realization of mental, physical and spiritual healing is attained. The Bowls’ reverberations touch the Bodhi self within and escorts consciousness into a deeper understandings of Dharma.

Silence descends again and with breathless anticipation the Bowl is struck again; this time its’ edge is gently rubbed and new levels of overtones fill the space. Many experience a weightless sensation as spiraling, sympathetic sounds attune their left and right brain hemispheres. A still point of relaxation, creativity and balance fills the space. It is Voidness teaching, the song of AUM, the resonance of life, the ‘Bindu’, the universal chord, the ‘diamond self’..

Creation in all of its vast diversities is the reflection of the omnipresent being manifested within time and space through the medium of sound. Within this unmarred aura the illusion of duality ends and the true essence of reality, undivided and yet individually distinct, is revealed. The timeless mantra ‘Aum Mani Padma Aum’, (the Jewel in the Lotus), mirrors the undiminished, interdependent nature of life and is proclaimed within the voice of each Himalayan Bowl.

In our everyday lives of mortgage payments, taxes, traffic jams, near destruction and treasured moments it is easy to lose touch with our inherent wholeness. Perhaps at some deep level we all, in a shared moment of consciousness, have designed gurus, saints, buddhas and gods as vessels of learning; each a relic of discovery to awaken the divine that is innate within us.

In the candlelight moment when the Singing Bowl of Drepung Monastery was first heard and the minds of thousands were released to find their natural state of bliss, a gift was seeded. That gift, from the now distant and dim past, is at our very core and available to each of us if we choose to listen.

- Richard Rudis (Karma Sonam Dorje)

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