Ikebana

Elizabeth Berry

I first met Namgyal Rinpoche at a two-week retreat which he named "Trance or Transcendence", (summer 1993?). Being new to this school, and not a regular practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism, I wondered what I needed to do to get the maximum benefit from the experience and how to incorporate it into my daily life.

Each day before Namgyal gave a talk, I walked the woods and fields around the Centre gathering flowers and other objects of beauty to make a composition to put next to his chair. I had studied flower arrangement for many years, and Japanese flower arrangement, Ikebana, in particular, so working with the local materials was a true pleasure for me.

One day during his talk Namgyal looked at my arrangement and said, "This isn't Ikebana". Then he looked again and said, "Yes, it could be Ikebana. Ikebana is a complete spiritual path, the practice of which can lead to enlightenment". I knew he was talking to me and nearly fell out of my chair.

A few days later, I had an interview with him during which I asked him for a practice. I realized that many people who practice Tibetan Buddhism do 100,000 prostrations, or mantras or complicated visualizations. I honestly wasn't attracted to doing any of these things, but had such great admiration for Namgyal, I was willing to follow his advice.

He advised me to learn an ancient Theravadin Buddhist practice of making flower mandalas. I learned the practice and have since shared it with others. Upon learning of his death, I dedicated a flower mandala to him and experienced his presence very strongly as I was working with it. The message he conveyed to me is that this sacred energy would always be available to me through flowers.

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