I like the straight translation of the word ikebana. This includes the merging of the word ikeru, meaning to “keep alive”, with hana, meaning “flower”. The art of flower arranging certainly keeps alive and often brings to life the full range of beauty in color and structure combinations.
Some sources emphasize the spiritual aspects of ikebana, providing silent reflection on the beauty of color combinations, and emphasis on shape and lines of the non-floral part of the plant such as branches, leaves and stems. The non-floral pieces often bring shape and form to the flower arrangement, and serve as the back drop of the intended image, while the flower is featured in the foreground.
Silence is important for our ability to be inspired to connect more deeply with the natural forms before us when doing ikebana. We honor the uniqueness of each plant or flower and the flowing lines of stems and branches for back drops. Ikebana can help us appreciate and tolerate our differences, not only in nature, but in general.
Its origins again date back to China – to a 6th Century Japanese Buddhist missionary who visited China three times and brought the art form to Japan. His name was “Ono no Imoko” and became the grounds keeper, then abbot for Rokkaku-do, a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. He lived in a small house known as the ike-no-bo or the “hut by the pond”, which is the original school of Ikebana.
Ikebana has become part of various Buddhist ceremonies such as offerings to the spirits of those who have passed away, but also paying honor to the Buddha. While spiritual in its origins, the Japanese today use it to show cultural refinement and for marriage potential.