As often happens here in your favorite Urban Semiotic, yesterday’s article — The Unnecessary Necessary: An Anonymous Stranger — and its comments, creates the inspiration for a second article to expand the ideas we expressed together.
Today I will share with you a story I learned many years ago from my first Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga guruji: The Lesson of the Singing Bowl.
A traditional Tibetan Singing Bowl is made of bronze and you use the song it creates to soothe your inner core and to provide direction for others in discovering the peace its voice provides. Here is The Lesson of the Singing Bowl as it was taught to me:
A young man traveled to Tibet to find his path in the world. The young man stayed at a monastery and he and a monk became friends. As a part of the daily meditation, Singing Bowls were called into song.
The young man was enchanted by the sound and wished to play all the bowls into voice at every opportunity. The young man was a natural at coaxing rich tones from the bronze bowl. The monk was impressed and supportive. One day the young man was visiting the monk in his quarters and he saw a large and valuable Singing Bowl.
He asked the monk if he could play the Singing Bowl and the monk readily agreed. At the end of the session, the monk said to the young man, “The Singing Bowl was made for you.” “I love the sound very much,” the young man said, “It makes a beautiful song.”
“The song is because of your touch. That voice belongs to you now.” The monk picked up the bowl and provided it to the young man.
“Oh, no!” The young boy said. “I can’t accept such a valuable gift. The bowl is yours, not mine.” The monk again provided the Singing Bowl to the young boy, “I want you to take the gift. The bowl now belongs to no one but you.”
The young boy, embarrassed and feeling unworthy, shook his head and backed out of the room apologizing. “I cannot accept such a precious gift. I’m sorry.” The young boy left the monk’s quarters and, the next day, left the monastery and Tibet to return home to America.
A month later a large box from Tibet arrived at the young boy’s doorstep. When the boy opened the box, he found the monk’s beautiful Singing Bowl with the following note attached: “The bowl decides its owner. It has no song without your touch. If you still feel the bowl does not belong to you, pass it on to the next person who claims it as I have done for you.”
The young man, realizing the gift was in the recognition of shared beauty, and not money or attachment, accepted the bowl from the box and played it with joy into song every day for the rest of his life.
The Lesson of the Singing Bowl, my teacher taught me, is to not judge the intention of others beyond the immediate truth of the matter.
The singing bowl was not about value or ownership. The singing bowl was about expressed joy and the beauty in finding each other and in making even greater joy and beauty in the process of ongoing discovery.
“Too often,” my teacher taught me, “we judge people and gifts and appreciation from our viewpoint and not from the viewpoint of the giver, and that causes frustration and hurt feelings.” If a person chooses to provide you a Singing Bowl in any form — accept the gift and smile and make the moment everlasting.
If someone thanks you for a favor or a kind act with money or a gift or a simple smile, accept the offer as is without deciding its worth based on your experience or expectation.
They are thanking you in the only way they know.
You are not to judge appropriateness — you are only to receive what is given back to you.
The gift, the thank you, the return favor — all have tremendous power and value from the giver in the reciprocity of the necessary expression.
To deny them that opportunity — and to disregard their wanted flow of energy back into you by unnecessarily frustrating the natural need for give and take in the world — is to reject the very sound of joy found in the song of The Lesson of the Singing Bowl.