The Himalayan Singing Bowls.
To me, talking about the Himalayan Singing Bowls means reflecting on my life’s journey. Beyond covering their ancient existence, their different shapes, models and variety of uses and applications, the act of writing about them, will help me ground and organize all of the knowledge that has been shared with me along the way. I’m hoping it can somehow leave its own footprints to guide others on their journey.
A good place to start.
Before I begin, and because I love telling stories – and these are long ones – I’d like to share a few great references that also helped me back in the day:
- Looking for a good place to start? Than start with this great book by Frank Perry, "Himalayan Sound Revelations".
- Interested in following the route I took? Go to Nepal and study at Kundalini Sound Healing with Umesh or Chaitanyashree or if you’re fortunate, visit and begin your initiation at the Divine Love Shower to become part of the family.
- Other good references that helped me a lot, albeit virtually and online, were Diane Mandle, John Beaulieu, Jacomina Kistemaker, Philippe Pascal Garnier, Alexandre Tannous and Mitch Nur. Diane has a small book on essentials, found on her website, that works as an excellent step in the door for practicing on the singing bowls. That’s where I started.
- Oh and of course, where to buy a bowl! I brought mine from Nepal’s Kundalini Sound Healing. Here in São Paulo you can probably get yours at Geeta on Mourato Coelho Street, Kathmandu on 25 de Março Street or even hidden in some antique shop or market, waiting to be rediscovered. In any case, when the time comes for you to find yours, it’ll show up – don’t worry.
Divine Love Shower.
The little I know today, and I truly mean little considering the history and practice of singing bowls date back to over 4000 years ago, is a result of my initiation with and teaching received from Guru Premangee. Guru, as he is called by all, is the Divine Love Shower’s spiritual guide. He created this center for spiritual healing and meditation in Nepal to offers an opportunity for everyone to develop spiritually and to guide seekers to Self-realization.
From him, I received and learnt the foundation needed for my formation in the Himalayan Singing Bowls. He planted the seed that would later flower in me. Divine Love Shower is a family, believe me when I tell you, it is. I stress this point because when I arrived in Nepal, my suspicions were such that I found myself waiting to uncover any of the “four signs needed to discover if your guru is in fact a Guru”, which I had picked up online. You know: does the Guru walk his own talk, how does he carry out his daily practices, how does he handle money and how does he give back to society all that he has received materially or Divinely. Yes, that’s how ignorant, arrogant and hurt I was… a great deal of patience, lightheartedness and love, all his, of course, were needed to slowly help me break through my greatest barrier, my resistance to Divine love.
Do nothing, have no expectations.
This was the first of many lessons I received from the Guru. Letting go of all expectations other than the real expectation of seeking the Divine. I was fortunate to be at the Divine Love Shower ashram with him for over 50 days, 30 of which I had the opportunity of learning directly from him. A privilege? Not at all. The Guru privately meets every single person there. Like a doctor he listens and guides the patient according to their needs/conditions/cases/situations/circumstances, whether physical or spiritual and according to their repertoire. In my case, I shared my dreams, my issues and my pursuits with him, and he, in response, patiently shared his teachings. True showers of love, from the Divine Love Shower.
The Guru’s teachings were always shaped as a story, either from his own experiences, from the Bhagavad Gita, or from the Vedanta – only there was no need for practice, which to my incessant Ego’s need to rationalize and label what it was receiving, made it Neo-Vedanta. The ego insisted on labeling and comparing with what it already knew when in reality all it needed to do was the exact opposite because it was completely surrounded by love. Through love, in love and with love. Divine love. And divine love is in everything, it IS everything. One needs only to open up and receive – switching everything else off. And that’s when the Ego goes crazy. But as long as you don’t fall into the trap of identifying with what’s not real, you’re ready to receive. What? Why, love, of course.
The Guru has no website, no Facebook profile or pictures on the Internet. If you want to meet him, you’ll have to head over there. That is, if the divine so wishes. Sound complicated? It’s not. You just need to be flowing with life or as I heard many, many times, while there: ‘wow, you’re very lucky. People told me how lucky I was when I arrived in Kathmandu and then even more, once I made it to the Divine Love Shower ashram, over 500 km away, in Salakpur, Ilam.
Well, it does for me. Paradise on Earth is in Salakpur, Nepal. Getting there is exhausting and hard but as the Guru himself put it: “All sacred places Luiz, are hard to reach” – and they really are. From Kathmandu to Salakpur, which can’t even be found on a map of Nepal, it’s a 12-hour van ride, followed by a two-and-a-half-hour local bus ride and another hour climbing a mountain on foot in the middle of a forest. When you reach the top of that mountain and look down the other side, BAM!!! The shift in energy hits you and you immediately realize you’ve arrived.
Where is the Ashram? To the left, on the foot of that first mountain you see in the picture above. Just head down the hill, pass the small houses of Salakpur village and you’re there. Every small property has 2 houses, one for the family and one for the cow, as well as a small cardamom or orange plantation. To the left, the village’s border is a holy mountain and the Divine Love Shower ashram sits right at its feet.
Great! But what about the bowls?
When I arrived in Nepal, the singing bowls were one of my many interests. And I thought I knew a fair deal about them too…I felt I had the essentials down because I had been studying and practicing with crystal bowls. But I immediately realized I was wrong. It was like I had been playing soccer with my neighborhood friends my whole life, believing I was great, until all of a sudden someone parachutes me in the middle of the World Cup finals.
Not that what I was doing was wrong. It’s just that the level of commitment and devotion they dedicated to the Divine and to heal people was something I had never experienced. Having my belief system rattled like that was the best thing that could have happened, because once you’re there, there’s nowhere to run but towards yourself.
Rationally understanding that “everything that happened in the past was for the good”, is easy. But to really digest that information to the point where it becomes part of you and is integrated to your life, that’s a whole different story. It’s like the fight between Arjuna and his relatives, the fight between our lower selves and our higher selves, a battle that requires courage, a lot of courage and confidence to dive deep into yourself, then even deeper, and once you’re there, deeper still until finally, who knows when – hopefully still in this lifetime, because even that is uncertain – you are awakened by your master or touched by the Grace of God.
The bowls came as powerful aids in my personal struggle – they helped and still help purify, balance and reconnect myself little by little, slowly but surely, to my essence. “Purify to be purified” the Guru told me after the three weeks where doing nothing and having no expectations were my only chores. “You need to purify yourself, purify everything you have received in this life and others so you can begin receiving.” Again, easily understood, not that easily done…
Kundalini Sound Healing.
The first singing bowl I heard in Nepal was at a session guided by Umesh, one of Guru’s brothers, at their clinic, the Kundalini Sound Healing. I heard him play from outside, sitting in the waiting room. Even though we were in different rooms, the sound waves made their way through my body. I was very attentive to the protocol he followed and the images that came up in my mind’s eye. When the session was over, the critic inside me was as awake as ever and trying hard to diminish the depth and beauty of what I had just experienced.
So many expectations! I thought I had none and suddenly realized I was stuck in a web of them.
At first glance, the Kundalini clinic is a sound therapy center for tourists passing through Thamel, Kathmandu. But that is only part of their work. Their real service is spiritual and it happens on different layers, from physical cure to spiritual guidance.
When I visited Kundalini in April 2016, Umesh, one of Guru’s two brothers who also work as sound healer, was responsible for seeing people at the clinic. His other brother, Chaitanyashree, had moved to Australia and opened a Kundalini clinic there with his Australian wife. I later had the good fortune of also meeting Chaitanyashree at the ashram in Salakpur, where I heard him play. Later, upon my return from the ashram, I had the even greater fortune of being initiated into the Kundalini school techniques by him.
The 4 stages of sound initiation.
At the ashram, during the time I spent with Guru, I learned about the singing bowls, how the ashram worked, their method for teaching children and about the sound healing clinic. Fully aware that, as a family, everyone there helped by offering whatever it was they had to offer. If you have money to offer, offer money, if you have knowledge, then offer your knowledge, if you have physical strength to offer, offer that, because, in reality, there is no difference between what you offer. There is only divine service. Your service is the means by which you achieve something - not what you offer. It’s about giving without expecting to receive anything in return. Giving to whom, you might ask. To the Divine.
The sound clinic in Kathmandu maintains the ashram, the family’s home in the city and part of the school for children in Nala, which at the time were not completely covered. The clinic offers sessions and sells singing bowls to do this. Sure, donations are welcome, but only if they come from “good money”. Yes, Guru does differentiate between good and bad money. Good money being that which is offered to the divine with no expectation of receiving anything in return and bad money being that which someone offers for personal gain.
The Kundalini Center initiation for sound healers has four stages, each offered by a different master. Two of them are offered by Guru’s brothers, Umesh and Chaitanyashree, covering the clinical portion of sound healing. Another takes place in Germany with a childhood friend of Guru’s, where the physical and musical foundations of sound are offered. The fourth stage is with Guru himself, where the spiritual initiation is passed on to the student. The Guru can, of course, teach all four stages but that happens in its own time and according to Divine Will. Without Divine Will one does not even pass the first couple of stages.
I was lucky, and after hearing how lucky I was so many times, I finally understood just how lucky I really was. Luck, destiny, karma… the fact is that when aligned to our life’s purpose, everything flows, and that flow led me to being initiated by Guru himself. Resisting to no end, constantly repeating that I was not in search of a Guru, asking him not to do anything to my energy that I was not aware of, he lovingly and patiently, with the greatest joy and lightheartedness, continued giving me one lesson after another. Shortly before returning to Kathmandu, I asked Guru if I should take a month of singing bowl lessons at Kundalini, and he told me not to. He said I already knew how to play them and said I should only take one basic class and that would be enough for me at this point. It took me a while, months, to realize that my initiation had been spiritual.
My healing 7.
Back at Kathmandu, I spent a looong week waiting for “my bowls” to arrive. According to the Kundalini teachings, you don’t choose your bowls, but in fact, in accordance to your Vedic astrological map, they choose you. My bowls, of which I am a temporary guardian to, arrived on June 14, 2016 – one day before my birthday and a day after I accidently stumbled upon Frank Perry’s book in a Tibetan library in Thamel. Nothing left to chance, ever! And there I was, flowing with life, still resistant because life isn’t a walk in the park. But I was walking, finally!
Learning the basics from Chaitanyashree.
What can I say about a person who has cared for over ten thousand people in the last five years and who has been on a personal retreat to cleanse and rebalance himself for the past two. A master, right? Right. The best thing about having the opportunity to learn from a master is not having to agree with everything he says and from each point of resistance or disagreement be able to reflect about oneself and one’s practices. And that’s how it was in my ‘basics’ class with him and how it still is every time I remember or relive his teachings.
How to hold a bowl. How to play it. What type of mallet to use and what is the difference between them. The volume one should play at, the direction the mallet should spin and why. The power of intention, discipline, concentration and meditation before and after playing. These were only a few of the topics he briefly taught me.
At first, play only for yourself, he told me. Play for a month on only one of the bowls, with only one of the mallets. Play with your ears covered until you are able to recognize every one of your bowls via the vibration they produce. “Your duty is to connect with the bowls” …and that’s what I set off to do.
The Himalayas and the beginning of my studies.
Before I left the ashram, half based on stubbornness and half based on exercising my search for real expectations on connecting with the Divine, I decided I would get to the Himalayas and play my bowls. My trip to Nepal actually began two years before I physically travelled there, when I dieted in the Peruvian Amazonian Forest and intuitively sensed I should travel to the Himalayas to pray. Two years later, with my singing bowls in my bag, I was heading to Pokhara, to then follow on to Ghandruk and finally reach Little Paradise. It was monsoon season and I didn’t even know if I’d be able to see the mountains, but everything changes so fast. Very, very fast.
Little Paradise is a small lodge on a mountain opposite Ghandruk, placed on the feet Annapurna’s South. I was there for two weeks, on my own, studying the bowls. That was the first time I grasped the true dimension of our eternal dilemma: what we know and what we might one day (maybe) come to know. An endless journey that requires humbleness, a reminder strengthened daily when waking to the Himalayas outside your window.
A myriad of enchantments.
Mother Earth is astoundingly beautiful. Every rock, plant, drop of water, every particle, every being composed of o myriad of enchantments. Every being holding a unique spirit and energy, interacting to form and generate the energy that moves the Universe. Having left Salakpur, the ashram, and arriving at Annapurma, was like jumping from one pole to the other – if in Salakpur I had visited paradise, there, at the feet of the Himalayas, I was in…how can I put it…The energy was dense, sometimes heavy, almost dark, as if a colossal grey mass created a wall, a barrier between the mountain and me.
This is where I spent the first days of tuning with my bowls. I began to understand how the sound circuits worked, how they open, close, activate and help unblock energy points. I studied each bowl individually, tested them to no end and slowly started opening myself up to the universe of harmonics. An entire universe on to itself. The more I studied, the more questions came up and the only thing I was sure of was that I had to keep walking, slowly, very slowly, but continue on my journey…and that’s how I started to come back.
When I was leaving the ashram, Guru told me I had received a seed and that I’d have to wait for it to germinate and grow. Only now, a year upon my return, have I begun to truly grasp everything that I have been given, to feel this profound sense of gratitude and trust in life, to feel the freedom it is and freedom one has when living in the present and at peace with oneself.
At peace with myself.
Remember I mentioned that Guru told me sacred places were all difficult to reach? Well, later, on a different day at the ashram, he told me that maybe…maybe the next time I came to visit Nepal, he’d take me to Salakpur’s sacred power points or would tell me the story about the holy mountain or maybe take me to the clearing where over twenty bird species meet up to “chat” or…maybe…maybe…
Maybe the time has come for my second trip to Nepal, to the Divine Love Shower.
This time, without a bag full of expectations, of course.