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10 Different Types of Meditation Bowls

Woman with a Tibetan singing bowl.

There are many different ways to find a sense of calm and inner peace. If you have an especially hectic and stressful life, you may need to take time out for yourself and bring balance back to your mind and body. Some people do this with exercise.

For others, it’s cooking or engaging in some hobby. I am an avid walker, so I tend to stroll my cares away. And yet another way of achieving this mental balance is through meditation.

More and more people are taking up meditation. Many of them embrace the spiritual side of it as well. They prefer to use meditation stones and meditation bowls to help settle themselves and their nerves.

If you are interested in this way of relaxing and getting a bit of perspective on life, then you should read further.

What is a Meditation Bowl?

A photo of a Meditation bowl isolated on a white background.

Meditation bowls are more commonly called singing bowls. The bowls and their use of them derive from Himalayan tradition and spiritual practices. Tibetan Buddhist monks have used these bowls since ancient times.

The bowls vibrate and produce a rich and deep tone when played. Alloy metals such as copper, lead, silver, tin, iron, and gold make up these bowls. This is the way that they work.

You rub the bowl with a mallet, which produces a haunting sound. Practitioners believe that these bowls cure illnesses and help maintain mental stability. The sound produced by the bowls has a range of five octaves, which go from high to low tones.

The shape and design of most meditation bowls originate in Tibet. Nearly every type of bowl found in western markets has an original in Kathmandu.

Types of Meditation Bowls

Meditation singing bowls and gong for meditating zen buddhism.

1. Thadobati

This bowl has high walls, a flat bottom, and straight sides. The lips are plain and undecorated, and they respond well when played with a mallet. These bowls are quite ancient in their design, dating back to the 15th century.

They are the most popular and unique type of meditation bowls on the market. The tone of Thadobati bowls can range over four octaves.

2. Jambati

These bowls have curved walls, flat bottoms, and inward-facing lips. They also have hammer marks that make them very appealing. They have classical etching lines on the outside rim and circular markings at the inside-bottom.

They generally play 2nd or 3rd octave, but their range consists of four different octaves.

3. Ultabati

These are large and heavy bowls. They are similar to Jambati, are easy to play, and can produce the lowest two octaves. These bowls produce the well-known OM sound, which is one of the most spiritually significant in Buddhist practice.

They can also produce fountains.

4. Naga

These singing bowls have a chalice-like appearance. They are responsive. However, sometimes the sound produced is distorted by the loose pedestal base.

The thin walls and round shape of the bowl are not conducive with sonic depth. The sound produced has a large range that can go from the third to the sixth octave.

5. Mani

The bowls have an inward-facing lip, flat bottom, and thick walls. They are large and heavy and tend to be wider in the middle. They have a very high tone.

The sound of the bowl is in the 5th or 6th octave. The Mani bowls date back to the late 16th to 19th centuries. They were given as wedding gifts back then.

7. Lingam

These meditation bowls are shallow with a protrusion in the center. The peak in the bowl makes a flat bottom with a navel-like shape. It has a unique sound owing to its unique structure and can be difficult to play.

Lingam is meant to represent and embody the Hindu god Shiva. These bowls are used in rituals and medicinal purposes.

8. Manipuri

These singing bowls come in small or medium-sized with shallow insides and splayed rims. They are easy to play and produce the primary tones. These are great bowls for beginners.

The name Manipuri comes from the northeastern state of Maipuri in India, which is a center of brass objects. Manipuri bowls were introduced to Western travelers in the 1970s. They are finely crafted and come in a range of sizes and thickness.

They can produce primary tones and lower second octaves to the 5th.

9. Remuna

These meditation bowls have smooth thin walls. They also have appealing decorative artwork and are easy to play. Remuna bowls are similar to Thadobati in shape and timbre and have a similar soundscape that can be combined with the latter.

Remuna singing bowls have inward sloping walls and a flat bottom. They have deep etching with circles inside and out, and occasionally on the bottom.

10. Crystal

Meditative music concert with crystal bowl.

This is rather a new type of meditation bowl. It is very modern and gained popularity in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Such crystal bowls are made of quartz.

It is important to note that these singing bowl types are mass-produced for commercial purposes.

Benefits of Using a Meditation Bowl

Tibetan singing bowl in sound therapy.

There are a great many reasons to use singing bowls during your meditation sessions. Here are some of them:

They are relaxing

Singing bowls are most commonly used to help guide the body and mind into a state of relaxation. The sounds produced by them can be deeply immersive. This can in turn bring balance, relaxation, and a sense of calm to your whole being.

You can feel the immediate effects even with a short meditative session.

They stimulate calm brain waves

There is some evidence of this. The sound produced by meditation bowls has been shown to stimulate alpha and theta brain waves. The latter are associated with the deep and peaceful brain states that are conducive to healing.

The sounds can also slow the heart and respiratory rate, which creates a therapeutic and restorative effect.

Help reduce pain

Although more research is needed on this, some patients recovering from illness and trauma reported feeling less pain after attending meditations that involved singing bowls.

Help improve mental health

A team of researchers has also discovered that the use of meditation bowls can reduce feelings of tension and anxiousness.

Boost overall well-being

Finally, meditation bowls have been found to give the people who use them a renewed sense of well-being, happiness, and calm. The people who use them regularly in meditative practice tend to have a sense of ease and inner peace.

All of the above benefits are probably familiar to people who meditate regularly and use singing bowls. They are a feasible, low-cost, low-tech way to reduce feelings of tension, anxiety, and depression. They can also be used to increase spiritual well-being.

How to Use Meditation Bowls Safely

Woman hand while practicing yoga at home during quarantine.

Believe it or not, safety is a real concern when it comes to these bowls. Here are some of the things to keep in mind:

Don’t get too close to the instrument

You should never put your head inside a meditation bowl or get too close to a gong. The latter, especially, can damage your hearing and give a serious shock to your central nervous system. If you are sensitive, you may not want to lie too close to the bowls, as the vibrations given off by them can be intense and even overwhelming.

Avoid gongs if pregnant

Using small and low-intensity singing bowls is generally safe at all points of pregnancy, but you should avoid sound baths that use gongs for the first 120 days. If you are pregnant, you should lie in a position that is safe for the baby during your sessions.

Be cautious if you have a pacemaker

If you have this device, you should not lie within 20 feet of a meditation bowl or gong while the instrument is being played. You should get the permission of a licensed medical practitioner before participating in such a session. The bottom line in all the above cases is to be careful.

If you do have a medical condition, you should speak to your doctor before you use a meditation bowl in any of your sessions. In general, meditation bowls are helpful and benign objects. But they do produce a certain kind of sound, which can be harmful to people who are pregnant, use a pacemaker, or are highly sensitive to certain vibrations.

Brief History of Meditation Bowls

The Tibetan singing bowl, the sound of healing.

The history of meditation bowls is not at all clear. There is some evidence that suggests they are the most ancient artisan crafts in human existence. Some historians believe that singing bowls were the first type of metalworking craft tradition to be passed down from generation to generation.

Based on the evidence we do have, singing bowls originated in Mesopotamia over 5,000 years ago. They made their way to the regions of Tibet, Nepal, and India and became part of those cultures over 2,000 years ago. Today, the best and most highly crafted singing bowls are still produced on the Indian subcontinent.

The craftsmanship and component parts are closely tied to the culture and traditions of the region. The bowls are made mostly of bronze or a combination of copper, tin, zinc, iron, lead, gold, and silver. Many of the craftsmen who make these bowls have formed cooperatives, and they sell them to local consumers and to markets overseas.

Meditation bowls are also mass produced in the West. Although they do not all have the craftsmanship and quality as those found in Asia, they still have a ready market. Such bowls are found in yoga studios, sound therapy spaces, massage therapy centers, temples, home feng shui, gardens, and anywhere else that people go to meditate.