top of page

haikaiTALKS: a saturday gathering! wabi: simple, austere beauty & the inadequacy of things

Updated: Sep 23, 2023

haikaiTALKS: Japanese aesthetics - a saturday gathering_under the banyan tree


host: Kala Ramesh

23rd September 2023


Japanese aesthetics: wabi

We are repeating this post for the second week.

Yeah! Another exciting week ahead!!


Wabi: Simple, Austere Beauty

In the aforementioned Essays in Idleness Kenkō asks, “Are we to look at cherry blossoms only in full bloom, at the moon only when it is cloudless?” (Keene, 115). If for the Buddhists the basic condition is impermanence, to privilege as consummate only certain moments in the eternal flux may signify a refusal to accept that basic condition. Kenkō continues: “To long for the moon while looking on the rain, to lower the blinds and be unaware of the passing of the spring—these are even more deeply moving. Branches about to blossom or gardens strewn with faded flowers are worthier of our admiration.” This is an example of the idea of wabi, understated beauty, which was first distinguished and praised when expressed in poetry. But it is in the art of tea, and the context of Zen, that the notion of wabi is most fully developed.


Wabi means that even in straitened circumstances no thought of hardship arises. Even amid insufficiency, one is moved by no feeling of want. Even when faced with failure, one does not brood over injustice. If you find being in straitened circumstances to be confining, if you lament insufficiency as privation, if you complain that things have been ill-disposed—this is not wabi. (Hirota, 275) Notes taken from Britannica and other sources.

Keiko Izawa adds:

In order to dig into wabi a little more deeply, I’d like to add this information which might be worthy of attention.


Murata Shukō (founder of the wabi-cha style tea ceremony) wrote:

The moon seen between the clouds is more beautiful than a full moon shining brightly. As this sentence shows, in Wabicha he insisted on the spirit of enjoying the beauty of things lacking. and another piece of info:

Originally, wabi was a word that expressed a state of mind and body that should be avoided, but as the medieval period approached, beauty came to be found in the inadequate state that should be avoided, and a new aesthetic sense that expressed the beauty of inadequacy was developed. In late Muromachi period (1333-1573), the understanding of wabi developed rapidly in connection with the tea ceremony, and the conventional theory is that Matsuo Basho of the Edo period (1603-1867) thoroughly developed the beauty of wabi.

Thus, wabi has another aspect of aesthetic sense other than the appreciation of simple/modest/austere things. Hope this could help you some more.

To Lev Hart’s question:

"The moon seen between the clouds is more beautiful than a full moon shining brightly." Do you mean "between" or behind the clouds?


Keiko replies:

The original Japanese word says “between”. I think it’s a moon somewhat blurred and partly seen between the clouds, not like that blurred as a whole behind the clouds.


<> <>

Thank you, Keiko. _()_

Your presence here is invaluable.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Sample: beneath leaf mold

stone cool stone marlene mountain



old towel folding it again autumn evening marlene mountain

First post: You search and find a haiku that has wabi.

You'll give your reason/s why you think it has this aesthetic nuance. Second post: This will be your first haiku with wabi


Third post: This will be your second haiku with wabi

Please give your feedback on others' commentary and poems too. _()_


Have fun! Keep writing and commenting!

228 views57 comments

57 Comments


Kala Ramesh
Kala Ramesh
Sep 29, 2023

dewdrops become a full moon lotus leaf


Kala Ramesh India

#3 feedback please.

Like

marilyn ashbaugh
marilyn ashbaugh
Sep 28, 2023

#2 28/9/23 feedback welcome


rev. 1. Thank you, Kala.


rag rug

the cat's shadow

slumbers


Marilyn Ashbaugh, USA


<<<<<>>>>

rag rug

the cat's shadow

shivers

Like
marilyn ashbaugh
marilyn ashbaugh
Sep 29, 2023
Replying to

Kala,

Thank you. Yes, I will change L3.

Like

marilyn ashbaugh
marilyn ashbaugh
Sep 28, 2023

#1

frost everywhere

we stuff an old sock

into the mail slot

Jerry Ball, Mainichi Haiku Column


Frost everywhere infers cold both inside and outside the house. L2 and 3 indicate wind blowing through the mail slot, with perhaps the only remedy available: an old sock. All three lines are wabi as the unpleasantness of the situation is accepted and told without complaint.

Like

lakshmi iyer
lakshmi iyer
Sep 28, 2023

#3


scorching heat

the queen bee buzzing

on the nectarine light


Lakshmi Iyer, India

feedback please

Like
lakshmi iyer
lakshmi iyer
Sep 29, 2023
Replying to

Okay, it was the queen bee on the first blossoms of plantain flower. Anyway, its okay.Thank you.

Like

Rupa Anand
Rupa Anand
Sep 28, 2023

Poem 3 ~ September 28th

comments welcome

Edited:


life —

at the willow’s tip

a raindrop

******

Original

this life —

a precariously perched

raindrop


Rupa Anand

New Delhi, India

Like
Kala Ramesh
Kala Ramesh
Sep 29, 2023
Replying to

I get your intent, but is L2 a bit telly? Would an image work better?

Like
bottom of page