Discover this Japanese Wabi-Sabi philosophy, which speaks of the beauty of imperfections and
the timelessness of life.
What is Wabi-Sabi?
According to Wikipedia, Wabi-Sabi is a world view centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence impermanence, suffering, and emptiness or absence of self-nature.
According to Richard Powell, the famous author of the Wabi-Wabi book “Wabi-Sabi Simple”, Wabi-Sabi is “a way of life that appreciates and accepts complexity while values simplicity”.
The first part of the term, the word Wabi, originates from the root wa, referring to harmony, calm, tranquilly. “Wabi” refers to those who are content with very little, and who appreciate nature ‘s wisdom.
On the other hand, “Sabi” means “the flower of time.” It refers to the natural progression of time, decay, degradation. It accepts the natural cycle of life and death.
These two words together form a beautiful emblem of modesty, simplicity and gratitude.
Origin of Wabi-Sabi
There was a young man called Rikyu who wanted to learn the Way of Tea, according to a Japanese legend. He went to a tea-master who had checked him by asking for garden tenders. Rikyu did so well, but shook a cherry tree just before showing his master the immaculate garden. This caused the dropping of some leaves and cherry blossoms on the ground. And so Rikyu proposed to his tea-master his “complete garden.” Rikyu is regarded as the one who has grasped Wabi-Sabi ‘s importance to this date.
So Wabi-Sabi’s idea has its origins in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. It has also been demonstrated by the well-loved teacup that has an odd shape and was chipped from years of use. Although old and used this teacup symbolized pleasure, love, and serenity.
In the 15th century Wabi Sabi originated as a response to the traditional lifestyle of lavishness, material riches and ornaments. Silently Wabi Sabi introduced himself as the art of seeking imperfection beauty and realising that nothing is permanent.
10 principles of the Wabi-Sabi philosophy
Many people want to apply the ideals of austerity to their daily lives to lead a more uncomplicated and carefree lifestyle. The principles that define, as some call it, the Japanese key for happiness and that can be applied to our habits are:
Live in the moment
Let go of unwanted feelings about the past or the future.at the moment.
Learn to heed the things that really matter to you.
Leave space for new things to come in in your life, without holding on to old ones.
Regardless of logical thinking, trust your gut feeling more.
Beauty does not last, it is ephemeral.
This is one of the basic Wabi-Sabi concepts. One has to adapt to sudden changes and make the best of the circumstances life throws upon us. Including imperfections, embrace individuals, things and nature as it is.
Unlike the Western ideals of beauty, which concentrate on perfection and symmetry, with Wabi-Sabi we must free ourselves from the need to own things or to uphold strict symmetry in the way we decorate our homes.
“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.“Leonard Cohen
Free yourself from unnecessary noise, from old mental “junk” and from distractions that prevent you from finding inner peace.
Humility, modesty, and austerity
Be yourself without projecting your ego. Make a simple life for yourself without pretentious aspirations. In short, everything changes; it is inevitable. According to the Wabi-Sabi philosophy, you have to enjoy the idea that each day is new and different, that the world is full of variables and that nothing is static.
While Wabi-Sabi has no strict guidelines, it is a philosophy which governs every minute detail of Japanese life.
The ancient Wabi-cha painting, a Tea Ceremony form, is an example of Wabi-Sabi ‘s presence. This ceremony, founded by the tea masters Murata Juko and Sen no Rikyu at the end of the 15th century, was characterised by the pieces used for ceramics. The teachers opted for the traditional Japanese pottery instead of using the popular pottery imported from China which was considered ideal for the ceremony. No colours, no patterns and no decorations. They were minimalistic pieces, with subdued colours that had often gone unnoticed and enriched the ceremony for the masters.
The tiny inconsistencies on the cups, the dents, the odd shapes are seen as nature production (instead of being seen as errors), something we will have to recognise without any problem. Nature is also considered a beauty source that can be found in details such as colours , patterns and asymmetries.
This concept and way of perceiving the environment is often applied to interior design like Wabi Sabi Pottery and Wabi Sabi art using wabi sabi aethetics. These are spaces defined by removing all unnecessary and leaving only the critical. This minimalist style is characterised by :
Use of Natural materials
Wabi-Sabi uses wood as the base material and encourages the use of materials such as ceramics, stone, marble or glass as they are more natural and organic than plastic made by human beings. These materials, something regular, are vulnerable to deformation and cracking.
Celebrate the imperfection
In Wabi-Sabi, authenticity is valued above all other attributes. Cracks, cracks in objects, marks that originate from passing time, and climate are part of nature, which is perfect in its imperfections. In design, you learn to appreciate the stains, the rust, and frayed edges that happen over time.
Wabi-Sabi is an intuitive philosophy, more than an intellectual approach, illustrated by natural processes, simplicity, modesty, and asymmetry. This aesthetic is attentive to details, delicate and without effects, and it humbly values every imperfect form and the materials that make it. Wabi-Sabi values foremost, simplicity.
Wabi-Sabi, to put it more simply, offers you permission to be yourself.
Embrace the perfection of being imperfectly you.
Stay tuned for my next article to know about “Kintsugi, a representation of Wabi-Sabi philosophy, and is an art of embracing flaws and imperfections!“