Tomorrow morning I am leaving the snow packed ice box of Kurobe for "the garden island" of Kauai for two weeks to meet up with my dearly loved and sorely missed girlfriend, Jolene!
Mentioning this prevalence of Buddhist notions in flower arranging, let's see how Buddhism has affected other arts in Japan.
"In the Muromachi period many activities were cultivated and developed beyond their original functions into arts: the tea ceremony, flower arrangement, and incense appreciation are prime examples. As Eisai's famous work Kissa Youjou Ki (Tea Drinking for the Cultivation of Life; 1211) attests, tea was first appreciated for its medicinal properties. Only later was it drunk for its taste, and finally its preparation was developed into a ceremonial function. Flower arrangement had its origins in the decoration of Buddhist altars. Gradually its religious import lessened and it was practiced to beautify daily life and, eventualy, as an aesthetic pursuit in its own right.
"The same tendency toward aestheticization was seen in medieval painting and architecture. Ink paintings, for example, were originally the work of Zen priests, and Zen personages or anectdotes were frequently their subjects, making them, in a sense, religious paintings. But in the Muromachi period landscapes and other secular subjects were increasingly depicted, even by Zen priests."
(pages, 114, 115)
"The arts of medieval Japan developed and spread in the context of the daily life of the people, and as these arts were refined, their enjoyment and appreciation became a pastime of the Japanese in general. The arts of the medieval period - Japan's Renaissance, in some ways - affirmed life, sang the praises of the world, and aimed to bring pleasure; and Japanese Buddhism evolved in response to this spirit.
"It is widely held that the foundation of Japanese culture and art as we know them today was laid in the Muromachi period. In that regard we must note that this period was also a time of systematization in Japanese intellectual life, and that this systemitization contributed to the development of culture and art. It was Buddhist practice that supplied the apparatus for the systematizationof both thought and art. One striking example is the oral transmission of the secrets of an art. Oral transmission was originally the means by which the Tendai doctrine of original enlightenment was passed from master to disciple, and the tradition of the oral transmission of essential teachings soon spread to other sects of Buddhism and to Shinto. In imitation of this practice, secret oral transmission from master to disciple evolved in many of the arts, as well."
(page, 116)Perhaps we are getting closer to finding the root of Japan by studying its relationship with Buddhism, but it appears to me to be only a temporary tool we can use to catch a glimpse of this mystery, and Japanese religion is not the end-all-say-all point we must stop at. However, Buddhism is everything and is everywhere; it's statement of "impermanence" is just as much religious as it is scientific as it is artistic. There is no black and white, but the wide array of colors of the rainbow and all shades of grey. I believe Japan's greatest contribution to Buddhism is the application to all facets of life, Buddhist or not Buddhist.