(…) Recognition of the impermanence and transience of life is a central tenet of Buddhism, and indeed of most Eastern philosophies. Buddhism holds that life is marked by three key qualities. The first two are impermanence and insubstantiality, referred to in Japanese respectively as mujō (無常) and muga (無我) However, unfortunately, most of us live in denial or ignorance of mujō and muga, clinging resolutely to phenomena that are intrinsically subject to change. This kind of clinging is then the cause of the third “mark” of existence, namely ku (苦), which translates as dissatisfaction or suffering. However, the promise of Buddhism is that liberation can be found through a deep understanding and acceptance of mujō and muga.
This is where mono no aware comes in. With this mood, acceptance of impermanence and insubstantiality is elevated into an aesthetic sensibility, a state of mind that actually appreciates this ephemerality. This does not mean impermanence is welcomed or celebrated. There is still sadness present in mono no aware, a sorrow at this transiency, of the loss of people and things that are precious to us. However, this melancholy is suffused with a quiet rejoicing in the fact that we had the chance to witness the beauty of life at all, however fleetingly. (…)