When the Iron Bird Flies

Buddha Padmasambhava

Along with being World Tibet Day and the Dalai Lama’s birthday, July 6th is also Guru Rinpoche Day for Tibetan Buddhists

“When the Iron Bird Flies, the Dharma will be spread to the west” – Guru Padmasambhava, The Second Buddha

In recent times singing bowls have gained popularity in the West; their unique sound coupled with their calming effect grabs the attention of anyone hearing a singing bowl for the first time. Working at Ten Thousand Villages of Austin I have the opportunity to witness this experience a few times a week, and the even greater opportunity of showing new people How to Play a Singing Bowl.

Here are a few things to keep in mind while playing your bowl at home, courtesy of Shakti at Bodhisatva.com :

  • “Shine your energy out”- Keep your fingers away from the bowl. Grasping the bowl will obstruct the vibration and not allow it to sing
  • Slow and steady wins the race! Grasp the mallet firmly, but gently and bring it around slowly for a consistent meditative sound
  • Applying more pressure will make your bowl louder. If you’d like to start off louder, you can give the bowl a tap to get it started, just remember to continue to apply pressure instead of lifting and re-applying. I like to let the pressure grow on the bowl and for the sound to build up, myself.
  • If the singing is skipping, “Slow down and breathe”
  • “Clockwise  is said to bring the blessings out into the universe for the benefit of all sentient beings”


Singing bowls are culturally Tibetan Buddhist. Much of the history of the Tibetan Singing bowls has been lost with the destruction of over 6,000 monasteries and shrines, and the deaths of thousands of nuns and monks following the Chinese occupation beginning in the middle of the last century. Although some believe that their use dates back to the time of Siddhārtha Gautama, the first Buddha, or “awakened one,”  an interview conducted by Randall Gray in 1986 with Tibetan monks Lama Lobsang Molam and Lama Lobsang Leshe (a monk of the Drepung Monastary in Tibet before finding refuge in Nepal) shows that they may have started as begging bowls from the Indian side of Tibet. There are three ancient and revered singing bowls (also known as Himalayan Bowls)  in Tibet, one being in the Deprung Monastery, said to be the bowl of the Third Buddha, the Kungar Awa’,or the “Dragons Egg”. People from all over the world come to hear this bowl sing in the middle of July, a tradition dating back to the times of the 5th incarnation of the Dalai Lama, around 1650.


Drepung Monastery

It is believed that listening to a singing bowl will offer you the teachings of the four noble truths ,

  1. The truth of dukkha (suffering, anxiety, dissatisfaction)
  2. The truth of the origin of dukkha
  3. The truth of the cessation of dukkha
  4. The truth of the path leading to the cessation of dukkha

and that hearing the sound will awaken the “seeds of dharma

“Now Buddha is not here but singing bowl is. Someone who can play the singing bowl, really, immediately you can get Buddha’s teaching. Then you can meditate on this teaching, or sound, with bell you can become enlightened” -Lama Lobsang Molam

Sana Hastakala workshop owner Kalayan Krishna Tamraka and his singing bowls

Sana Hastakala workshop owner Kalayan Krishna Tamraka and his singing bowls

There are over 120,00 Tibetan refugees living in Nepal. Ten Thousand Villages carries many bowls hand made by three artisan groups from Nepal that craft beautiful singing bowls: Mahaguthi, New Sadle, and Sana Hastakala. Ten Thousand Villages of Austin also buys vintage singing bowls from Ganesh Himal Trading Co. a fair trade business operating in Nepal that supports women and Tibetan refugees. The bowls purchased from Ganesh Himal are speculated to be anywhere between 20-60 years old, were  hand picked for there sound quality in marketplaces in the City of Patten in the Kathmandu Valley and were most likely hand hammered by Tibetan monks.

I’ll see all you fair trade friends at the Texas State Capitol on July 6th for our large scale Singing Bowl demonstration, in celebration of World Tibet Day and the 78th birthday of the Dalai Lama!


Your Storyteller,