“Which chakra is this singing bowl?” is one of the questions I am often asked. What’s a chakra? How does sound relate to a chakra? Why do people talk about chakras in relation to singing bowls?
Chakras are a concept from Hinduism. In Hindu belief, there is a mirror spiritual body similar to the idea of a soul in the west. The spiritual body exists alongside our physical body. Chakras are said to be vortices of energy in that etheric spiritual body. Upon death, the spirit body is believed to leave the physical body and enter a new physical body in the process or rebirth. This is the basic Hindu concept of reincarnation. Chakras are generally associated with 7 areas of the body: the root, sacral, solar plexus, heart, throat, third eye and crown.
Chakra theories and practices have become popular in the west in recent years due to the New Age and Yoga movements. Today chakra meditations, chakra toning, chakra music, chakra art are a big part of spiritual and yogic practices in the west. Chakra visualizations are key to yoga and meditation practices and enjoyed by many.
I have studied chakra meditation from Buddhist and Bon meditation masters. In these traditions, chakras are not thought of as a literal fact, but as tools for meditation. They are visualizations and not to be considered as a real part of our anatomy or being. In Buddhist and Bon belief, to give the chakras too much thought is a form of grasping. Such intellectual grasping should be seen as a limitation of the mind, something to be avoided or moved past.
How do singing bowls relate to chakras? How does sound relate to chakras? How did all of it start?
In Asia, people sometimes say “the sound clears your chakras,” meaning sound and vibration is helpful to your spiritual being. You can feel the vibration of a singing bowl. It feels great and people search for ways to describe the experience. “I can feel it clearing my chakras” is a way of describing the feeling. It means they are feeling something and they like the feeling. Then they are applying their experience through the filter of the belief in chakras and spirit bodies. It’s similar to the western expression “It’s good for your soul,” or “it feeds my soul.” It’s not meant literally, but people often take the ideas very literally.
When Westerners started selling singing bowls, this nice saying “It’s good for your chakras” was morphed into “chakra tones.” The idea that certain tones are good for anatomical chakras became a big marketing tool. The idea was only used relating to selling singing bowls. It has never been applied to any other vehicle. The belief in chakra tones is so widespread that almost all singing bowl websites and books talk about it. In fact, I’m one of the few singing bowl sellers that does not make a claim about “chakra tones.”
At this point I will admit that I do not believe in a spirit body or in chakras. I’m Buddhist and the Buddhist idea of non-self and non-soul is contrary to the idea of literal chakras. I think chakras are a concept. They can be a useful visualization and support to meditation but they do not exist as literal part of our anatomy. According to my experience and beliefs, concepts are deluding and distracting. Chakras are a concept, sometimes a very vivid one, invented in the mind. Buddhism teaches freedom from concepts and impositions of the mind. Due to my own beliefs I tend to think of such concepts as obstacles.
However, chakras can be useful as a practice. The idea can open the door to new spiritual insight. Meditation tools like chakras, symbols and mantras can be very useful in our spiritual development. However, they are not the end. They are only steps on the path. They should not be taken so seriously. When it comes to chakras and singing bowls, it’s mostly marketing.
The truth is that singing bowls can vibrate us in surprising and unexpected ways. One bowl may vibrate many areas of the body and different people may have a different response to the same bowl.