WABI-SABI: By Jerry C. Weinstein


One could say that in artistic terms, “wabi-sabi” is a term describing the Zen-like esthetic, made popular by the tea ceremony. Wabi-sabi is hard to translate into English, but as Koren tells (pp. 21-22), sabi originally meant “chill,” “lean,” “withered.” Wabi meant the misery of living alone in solitude, cheerless, alone. Later, they acquired more positive values. Together, the words indicate the simplicity of the hermit, the spiritual opporunities of solitude, the beauty of inconspicuous and the overlooked.

This book tells about the esthetic of Wabi-Sabi. In Koren’s words:

Wabi-sabi is a beauty of things imperfect impermanent, and incomplete.

It is a beauty of things modest and humble.

It is a beauty of things unconventional.

Dear Greg-ji,

This looks like a book worth getting. Actually, the zen master himself (mois) previously discussed the terms “wabi” and “sabi” in a previous post to Harshasatsangh about the zen garden. (ln that you’ve been so helpful here you will be spared a symbolic rapping with the zen stick for presuming an ignorance of these terms! 🙂

From my reading of zen garden books l have associated these words with an atmosphere of solitude, age and elegant simplicity. This correlates pretty well with the above description, which includes some ideas that are new to me. The atmosphere evoked in a zen garden is hopefully one of being in harmony with nature, even communicating the spirit underlying nature.

At the same time, l’ve found that the effect of the garden depends mostly on me – — on my intention, on how much l let myself open up to it. l have to admit that when l’ve traveled to zen gardens l’ve always tried to be there alone and away from all the people who see it as no different than going to a park to discuss business or relationships, etc., which makes me feel like a crime is being committed!

ln Japan, gardening is considered a high art form. l often forget, in the hum drum of the daily routine, how fortunate l am to have the opportunity to partake of such profound richness. Just getting your input here has reminded me — thank you !!


zen master jerrysan

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