In the 1970's, after having practiced ikebana for ten years, I reached a
point when I wondered about the meaning of ikebana in my life. I then visited
India and Nepal at a time when people were looking towards India, including
the Beatles and the hippie generation, for answers and inspiration. India
was unlike anything I had seen in movies and photos and I was astonished
by everything I looked at, in particular the human conditions. I visited
Benares along the Ganges River and experienced the atmosphere of this sacred
place. I witnessed the followers of Hindu praying and throwing flower petals
at holy objects, called "linga", to show their respect for the
At a festival of the famous Monkey Temple this practice was at an even grander
scale, with believers throwing volumes of flowers at a huge linga like
a big wind. The layers of old flowers were already beginning to rot and
turn into a compost state. Although Benares is well known for believers
dipping into the Ganges or the deceased being burned in a ceremony along
the river, the sight of piles of flowers around the holy linga impressed
me as an ikebana artist.
The practice of chopping flowers off at the top seemed cruel and murderous
so I asked a guide about this custom of cutting flowers off at the neck
to throw at linga. He explained to me that by cutting flowers at the top
and leaving the stems and roots, this would allow the plants to regenerate
and thus fulfill a Hindu belief in rebirth. This philosophy of regeneration
impressed me immensely.
This experience forced me to reconsider the meaning of ikebana. From the
plane, Japan is verdant but India and China are brown and I wondered if
ikebana could be appreciated just anywhere in the world.
In Katmandu mandala and burning candles can be seen everywhere you go and
are very stimulating. As mandala cannot easily be bought in Nepal I purchased
a mandala poster in Tokyo and placed it on the ceiling of my ikebana studio.
For twenty years I listened to India music and jazz while contemplating
the mandala and practicing ikebana.
Old mandala is exquisite and filled with the drama of life. Then one day
while creating a rikka arrangement I realized that rikka is of the same
essence as a mandala.
As the background history of rikka is steeped in Shintoism, Buddhism, and
Confucianism, it is only natural to think that the influence of mandala
is also present.
Each time I am able to successfully arrange rikka I feel my spirit is in
a mandala. When I visit Nepal as well I feel like I am in a mandala. For
young people who might be at a trying time in their lives, practicing rikka
can give a sense of order and balance. Even though I don't formally believe
in the Gods of India and Nepal I can feel a sense of spiritualism in my
life and work from their images.