Ikebana masters say that it is one of the best ways to cultivate your spirituality and it would make it possible for you to mix with those who are similarly spiritual, regardless of their social status.
Ikebana makes it possible for people of different classes to meet. This was quite unusual in feudal times where there were few opportunities for ordinary people to meet people in the upper echelons of society, such as samurai, monks or aristocrats.
The virtue of ‘no discrimination’ may not be so relevant for the majority of people today. Social classes are not as obvious as they were in the Japan of 17th century. If we look at the core of the experience, however, we can realise that this virtue is still valid in our society.
In essence the virtue means that Ikebana brings high and low into spiritual relationship. When Ikebana artists in the Edo period interpreted such an experience, they came up with the idea of no discrimination. Regardless of social, racial or cultural differences, we can share spiritual experiences though flowers.
Artistic achievement was synonymous with personal development in many Japanese traditional arts including Ikebana. Since the art is supposed to be a spiritual training, our level of spirituality is expected to advance as we make progress in flower arrangement. Ikebana work is a reflection of the artist’s spirituality. Great works can be created only by those who have acquired skills to make flowers look more natural, based on deep understanding of nature, which is regarded as inspirational sources for the norms or goals of personal development. Such advanced Ikebana artists certainly deserve some respect. This aspect will be discussed further in the next issue.
In this tiny Ikebana work, I wanted to emphasise the ethereal white colours of ormithogalum. The flower is one of massed flowers in one stem. If we focus on a single flower, we notice that it is not just simple white, but various shades of white from pale green, gentle yellow to pure white. To show such delicate features I chose green chrysanthemums as a background.
Observing a flower becomes a meditation. My meditation deepened when I was able to create the fascinating balance among the two flowers and a small ceramic container from Japan.
Dr Shoso Shimbo is a sculptor and Ikebana artist. He is a director of the International Society of Ikebana Studies and teaches Japanese aesthetics short courses at RMIT University.
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