Outside of Asia, Buddhism has been a major fad of the 20th century, particularly in the western world. It has accordingly been treated and seen through an orientalist lens as a mystical, new and exotic religion In truth however, it is part of a rich dharmic tradition going back thousands of years.
Buddha statue in the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. Siddhārtha Gautama was an Indian prince around the 6th or 5th century BCE who attained enlightenment and shared his teachings, now known as the Buddhist religion.
Interest in Buddhism has only spiked in recent years, both popular and academic, especially as modern academics have begun to take note of how deeply the mind and consciousness have been methodically studied by Buddhist sages through the ages. A key practice among practitioners of dharmic religion in general, and Buddhists in particular, is that of meditation. In the Buddhist tradition, meditation is a tool for self-realization. While it is sometimes confused with prayer, Buddhist meditation is actually a secular practice that does not involve any God or deity, but merely seeks to elevate the consciousness of the self. It is a practice that has proven beneficial health effects, particularly for the mind.
Replicated from an ancient Southeast Asian temple, this meditating Angkor Khmer Buddha is the perfect wall frieze. Here is where you can get it!
As with any ancient world religion, Buddhism is not monolithic but practised in many ways and in many places. It does, however, have some general postulates. Often called the four noble truths, these are:
- duhkha (suffering) is an intrinsic part of life in the worldly realm.
- tanha (craving) is the source of this duhkha.
- nirodha (cessation) of this duhkha can be attained by the renouncement or letting go of this craving.
- magga (path) is the way leading to the renouncement of tanha and cessation of dukkha.
In essence, one of the central tenets of Buddhism is that humans spend their lives in a state of suffering and anxiety at the prospect of suffering. Happiness, inasmuch as it is ordinarily found, is ephemeral in the Buddhist worldview because humans are trapped by a sense of craving. It is only in the renunciation of this craving that human suffering can be ended, and the various sects of Buddhism all try to offer a path to end this suffering.
Depiction of the Buddha awakening to the Four Noble Truths
The path offered by Tibetan Buddhism frequently employs the use of music and chants as meditation aids. The history of music in Buddhism has been a long and varied one. Although it has sometimes been seen as an earthly distraction from attaining nirvana (successful renunciation), the use of mantras and incantations has a long history in Tibetan Buddhism as a result of syncretism between Buddhism and the native religious practices that predated it.
Tibetan Buddhism follows the Vajrayana tradition within the Buddhist fold, distinct from the other major strand of Theravada Buddhism and itself a derivation out of Mahayana Buddhism. Buddhism, like Hinduism and other strands of Dharmic thought, subscribes to a belief in reincarnation as part of the cycle of life and seeks to break free of the endless cycle of birth and rebirth by attaining enlightenment. Vajrayana Buddhists believe that this it is possible to achieve this in a single lifetime, distinguishing them from other believers. Quite apart from the ritualistic chanting that has a place in all Buddhist practices, Vajrayana places greater reliance on instrumental music than Theravada.
Tibetan Prayer Flags. Rather than petitioning deities, they seek to spread goodwill. You can find your own slice of goodwill right here.
Tibetan Tinghsha cymbals have long had ritual significance. The two cymbals are joined together by a strap or chain and struck against each other at the edges for a sharp, clear, high pitched sound. There is a belief that the sounds help increase focus and awareness and amplify healing processes. The origins of Tingsha are shrouded in mystery, going back centuries, but they likely derived from Hindu practices of ancestor worship. While their earliest usage seems to have been associated with appeasing hungry ghosts, their usage in Buddhism has been tied to meditation and cleansing the mind and spirit.
Tingsha cymbals are often used to mark the start and end of a meditation session. This pair is embossed with Buddhist symbols of luck and crafted out of high-quality copper and a sturdy leather strap and can be bought here.
More recently, Tibetan singing bowls have also become a ubiquitous presence among practitioners of Buddhism. While their usage among Buddhists has been a more recent phenomenon, Tibetan or Himalayan singing bowls have themselves been around for thousands of years. The bowls, also called standing bells owing to their inverted bell-like shape, are usually placed on a pillow, and operated by means of a wooden mallet. The mallet is brought into contact with the rim and rotated along it to result in a humming sound brought about by vibrations that is incredibly soothing to the ear.
This beautiful singing bowl comes complete with a cushion and mallet and is beautifully gift wrapped in sustainably harvested Himalayan lokta paper. Get it here!
Possible healing effects of these instruments have been studied multiple times and while no conclusive effect has been proven, it has been shown that, at the very least, there is a noticeable placebo effect in stress and blood pressure reduction from the use of Buddhist musical instruments. A soothing, pleasing audiovisual aesthetic and possible benefits to mental health? Culturekraze Marketplace is happy to sign up!