Meditation gongs are actually a unique type of musical instrument. The two most prevalent types are suspended gongs and singing bowls. Both are generally used during group or individual meditation to produce harmonious tones and vibrations designed to enhance the meditation experience.
The exact origins of meditation gongs are unknown, but it is believed that they were developed during ancient times, perhaps as early as 2000 B.C. Most likely, they originated in the area of Tibet. Originally, these types of gongs were used primarily during religious ceremonies. Over time, however, they have become increasingly popular for use in other, nonreligious practices, such as yoga and transcendental meditation.
The type of meditation gong referred to as a suspended gong looks like what most people might envision when they think of a gong. A suspended gong is a metal disc, typically made of copper, bronze, or some combination, that is hung on a frame of some sort. The frame can be as simple as two wooden rods, as a complex as an ornate arc, or anything in between. The size of the metal disc also varies, and while some can be small enough to sit on a person’s desktop, others can be large enough to take up an entire wall.
When a person uses a meditation gong, it is typically not struck with a hammer to produce the metallic clang some might associate with a gong. Rather, a specially designed cloth-tipped mallet is gently tapped around the inner portion of the gong to produce resonating vibrations. This process is called inviting the gong to sound and produces a tempered, harmonious tone.
Singing bowls are rounded, bowl-shaped instruments recognized as another type of meditation gong. Many consider them to be similar to inverted bells because of the shape and sound they produce. This instrument is sounded either by striking it lightly with a specialized mallet or running the mallet along the outside of the bowl. When struck, the bowl produces a soft, bell-like tone. If the mallet is rubbed along the rim or outer part of the bowl, the instrument produces a continuous, melodic vibration.
Some people might not consider a gong to be a very versatile musical instrument. By using specific techniques, though, meditation gongs can produce a diverse variety of melodious tones. In fact, there are individuals, particularly in Asian countries, who specialize in playing both the suspended gong and the singing bowl and can produce entire musical compositions using only those instruments.
Primarily, though, meditation gongs are used during the practice of meditation. Both suspended gongs and singing bowls can be used to signify either the beginning or end of mediation and are often used to help participants refocus on their surroundings after a session. They can also be used during meditation to help participants relax their minds. Some individuals might even enter a chant in imitation of the vibrational tones produced by meditation gongs. Either way, the harmonious tones are intended to reduce stress, promote healing, and bring about a state of inner balance.