Wabi Sabi is a Japanese philosophy that tells someone to accept imperfections and transient things in life. The idea developed into an aesthetic that is practised in the Japanese culture in all sectors, in architecture, art, business, and life. The concept of Wabi-Sabi was derived from Buddhism. In Buddhism, there are three marks of existence(sanboin), impermanence, suffering and emptiness.
This philosophy is characterized by simplicity, imperfections and ultimately the appreciation of our self and the improper ephemeral and constantly translating lives. This concept challenges our natural instinct for making everything perfect and beautiful. Whenever we break an object, it is thrown away. If not that, the object is repaired so that it looks like its original perfect self again. The Japanese don’t believe so.
Nearly 700 years ago, the noblemen of Japan believed that the first step to achieving enlightenment (also known as satori) was by understanding Wabi Sabi. The meaning of this term has been interpreted in multiple ways but today it generally means that there is wisdom in appreciating natural simplicity.
The best example of Wabi Sabi is seen in their pottery. The style of pottery used in Japanese tea ceremonies displays cups and pots that are not entirely similar. Each cup or pot has maybe a slightly irregular shape, unfinished edges, all to symbolize that the imperfections are what make the pottery more meaningful. Much like how we preach that we human beings have some defining elements of our personality that make us who we really are. The scar, or mole or fingerprint, gives us our individual authentic quality.
Another interesting practice in Japan is known as Kintsukuroi or Kintsugi. It is the practice of fixing or repairing broken pottery with lacquer mixed with platinum, silver or gold. Adhering by the Wabi Sabi philosophy, they treat these damages as a part of the object’s story and life. Hence, they try to highlight it instead of disguising it to perfection.
The other popular sectors where Wabi Sabi is seen making an appearance are in Traditional shahkuhachi music also known as Honkyoku, Ikebana or flower arrangement, tea ceremonies, poetry, Zen gardens etc. Many artists have taken inspiration from this philosophy and created art pieces that are based on Wabi Sabi.
Western culture has also taken a liking to this unique and human philosophy. Wabi Sabi has been an inspiration behind the European Aesthetic Movement started by Potter Bernard Leach. It also got interpreted into a TV series name “ In Search of Wabi Sabi” in the year 2009 presented by Marcel Theroux.
From this philosophy, the biggest takeaway is that we must embrace our imperfections. In this world filled with people telling you that you are not complete or imperfect, this philosophy saves us all. You are simply human, experiencing life and its hurdles, constantly evolving and changing, but a unique version of your own. So the next time someone tells you that you aren’t perfect or your scars aren’t beautiful, you tell them that you are a Japanese noble, for you are practising the Wabi Sabi.