I recently had the pleasure to interview Richard Rudis, a Buddhist who has traveled to Tibet many times, who also teaches people how to work with Gongs, Tingshas, and Tibetan Singing Bowls.
One question I asked him was about the fact that lately it seems that everyone and their brother is offering Tibetan Singing Bowls for sale. I asked Richard to discuss this phenomenon:
Richard: In regard to the singing bowl proliferation, we should start in India. Now, India is a wonderful country and it is full of wonderful opportunists. If there is a way of financially gaining from anything within their realm of understanding, they are on it in a moment.
So in India there are warehouses full of what are referred to as "singing bowls" or "Tibetan bowls." They have been machined. They are not handmade like real Tibetan Singing Bowls. The alloy that real Tibetan bowls are made from is sacred in origin; I have no idea if these bowls are made from same alloy, but probably not. For example, the iron in ancient bowls is meteorite iron.
That's not to say that some of these Indian bowls can't be useful. It is just that they are being marketed in a way that is not completely honest.
There are only three sources in the United States that I can recommend where someone can go and say I want a Tibetan Bowl, and get a real one. There were two groups in Tibet that made them, and the groups have not existed for over a hundred years, so if the bowl was truly made by them, then the bowls are at least 100 years old.
The research I've done shows that the fourth Dalai Lama, separated these special bowls from drinking bowls, so we can date true bowls back from at least 100 to over 1000 years ago.
The older bowls coming from that spiritual path, they are spectacular. But there are a finite number of them, so when you see all these bowls out there, the sources have to be questioned. You need to use a lot of discernment and knowledge.
I do workshops over the country and people will bring me a bowl they have and to them, it's a wonderful bowl in their mind. But once they experience a true quality bowl that I bring to the workshop, the bowl that they thought was great now becomes mediocre. It can still work for them in many ways, but it is not the same bowl they once thought it was.
Andrew Borakove is a gong aficionado and proprietor of the only store on the Internet devoted to gongs - http://www.gongs-unlimited.com. Richard Rudis leads pilgrimages to Tibet, teaches people how to use singing bowls, and sells remarkable Tibetan and other Asian artifacts and antiquities through his website - http://www.buddhistartifacts.com