Zen, a school of Buddhism, is full of philosophies that should be adopted by each and every human being. Wabi-Sabi (侘寂) is a world view, which is centered on the acceptance of imperfection and transience.

Japanese Wabi-Sabi Design
credits: Envato

Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese philosophy of accepting our imperfections and making the most of our life. In layman’s terms, Imperfection is the utmost principle of Wabi-Sabi. There are countless number of philosophies in the Zen school of Buddhism and most of them make us more modest and respectful towards the natural way of life. 

In the Japanese Tea Ceremony, Wabi-Sabi is deeply rooted as an aesthetic philosophy, which makes a person become more aware of their own imperfections and of the imperfections of life and death. The philosophy of Kintsugi is also important  as it makes us look at the broken and damaged with the same eyes as we would look at the perfect and beautiful. Kintsugi is the idea of putting together broken pieces of pottery by joining the pieces with golden lacquer. The deliberate imperfection of these potteries was seen with a pervasive beauty.

The Art of Wabi-Sabi | Mizkan
credits: Mizkan

According to Zen Buddhism, the seven principles which need to be followed to achieve wabi-sabi in our lives are:

  1. Kanso – simplicity
  2. Fukinsei – irregularity
  3. Seijaku – tranquillity
  4. Datsuzoku – freeness
  5. Shibumi – beauty in the understated
  6. Yugen – subtle grace
  7. Shizen – naturalness without pretense

In these modern times, the constant chase of perfection and the usher of materialistic world views has made people very stressful, anxious, depressed and unhappy. Each one of us wakes up in the morning and puts on a tie and a smile on our face then joins the never-ending queue of attaining the perfection that is pre-conceived by the society that we are a part of. However sadly, only a handful of us ever achieve this idea of perfection and the rest live in a constant and perennial state of unhappiness and discontent with life.

Wabi-Sabi is a philosophy which encourages us to not look at just the one side of the coin but rather the coin as a whole. It encourages us to accept the imperfections of our life as much as the perfections of it. It encourages us to realize that not everyone can achieve this so-called idea of a perfect life. Those who do not have a perfect life still should look at their life with the same pair of glasses. It encourages us to focus on the good things that are hiding in our plain daily lives and celebrate these hidden things as they are rather than how they should be

Embracing Imperfection – The Art of Wabi-Sabi - Kristine Bonnici Design
credits: Barb Brookbank

Our world works on the idea of striving for the best, the most extraordinary and the most perfect. Hence, to us, the idea of wabi-sabi might seem like something out of a fictional world. We cannot comprehend how to celebrate an idea which celebrates the broken and the rusty when we are so hypnotized by the illuminating aspects of the world. I, personally, find the idea of abandoning this pursuit of perfectness and living with tranquillity among the damaged, imperfect and broken irresistibly tempting. 

Wabi-sabi is a state of mindfulness, living in the now and finding satisfaction in our lives with an appreciation and acceptance towards everything we have in our life; just the way it is.

Yusuf Aziz is a student pursuing Literature from Jamia Millia Islamia.

Edited By: Maryam Ahmed

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.

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Written by Yusuf Aziz

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