This last Sunday, April 12th, I delivered a sermon at my church, Westwood Unitarian Congregation on “Ikebana as a moving meditation”. Another one of those challenges I seem to be taking head on these days. Arranging ikebana is not an intellectual exercise, nor is it merely an artistic one, as the arrangers have to abandon themselves to their senses, pay attention to their feelings, in other words, follow their heart. Arranging ikebana is for me a spiritual practice. Here is a quote from Kasen Yoshimura, grandmaster of the Ryusai School of Ikebana:
The art of ikebana is to listen to the spirits of flowers and plants. It is how to make the voice or sentiment of the flower a visual combination with your feelings. Ikebana allows the heart of the arranger to touch the heart of the viewer.
I see in this quote, and others I could cite, a strong influence from shinto, an earth-centered religion. Followers of Shintoism believe that nature is a spiritual world, inhabited by gods known as kamis or spirits, and those spirits are in everything: flowers and trees, animals, people, mountains, rivers, everything. Those spirits are honored and listened to. People who are influenced by Shinto feel in their heart the beauty of nature and its incredible power. Sen’ei Ikenobo, our own headmaster writes as follows: We are moved by the beauty nature suggests and inspired by her many gifts. Through ikebana we see previously unimagined beauty in the forms of the materials we arrange, beauty we could not have created ourselves. Ikebana, like poetry, comes from the heart and expresses our own spirit as well as those found in nature. Such was the gist of my sermon, Ikebana as a Moving Meditation .
Following the sermon I proceeded to arrange what I called a flower meditation. While arranging, on my knees as in a traditional reishiki-ike, our pianist played Sakura. The resulting arrangement is the one pictured above. For the service, I had also arranged, the day before, a special two-level shoka called Niju-ike offered below.