Ikebana: Bringing Life to Flowers


If you have ever wondered about the unusual flower arrangements at our Ottawa Shambhala Centre, you may be interested to learn that they are inspired by Ikebana, the ancient Japanese art of flower arrangement. Ikebana, which means “bring life to the flowers,” began in China 2,300 years ago. It arose out of the practice of monks offering flowers to Buddha at temples. It was introduced to Japan along with Buddhism in the sixth century.

The art developed very slowly, and was taken up by aristocrats and even Samurai warriors. It is said that Japanese Samurai believed that practicing Ikebana helped them to learn concentration and patience and to see the essence of beauty in nature. It became a custom among the whole of Japanese society and eventually spread all over the world. It is a modern art form that can be enjoyed by everyone. No doubt the link with Buddhism explains why the art is so appealing to modern Buddhist Centres.

Ikebana forms are composed of three main lines consisting of two tall twigs and a small bundle of flowers. The twigs are of differing height, tall, medium, and short, symbolizing the harmony between heaven, human beings, and earth. Arrangements often include natural materials, such as rocks, stones and shells, bringing the beauty of nature indoors. One carefully placed flower in an Ikebana arrangement can be more beautiful than a large bunch of flowers.

The Ottawa Shambhala Centre has a small Flower Team of which I am a member. We take turns in purchasing, arranging and refreshing the flowers, which amounts to a couple of hours every four to six weeks. The benefits of this labour of love are many. For me, Ikebana has become another form of meditation. I derive a sense of connection to nature and my practice is expanded way beyond the cushion.

The Flower Team welcomes any member who would like to join. If it appeals to you, please send an email to the Coordinator, Jennifer Mealing, at [email protected].