On balance in the universe


Note: All quotes are from Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao Te Ching.

In a recent zoom meeting, someone raised the question of whether there is balance in the world, or if there needs to be a balance between positives and negatives, yin and yang. Often, when questions like this come up, I go away, let them marinate in the Heart (not in the mind). The answer, at least for me, often comes as a sudden awareness; only then do I attempt to translate that manifestation into words.

I gravitated to the Tao Te Ching for understanding, since it is all about balance, though the Tao is the source, beyond any kind of balance. What is “balance”? Read all the definitions you want, but it has to be between two or more things, whether it’s physical objects (i.e., two people on a seesaw), ideas (good and bad), feelings (love and hate), or a work of art (positive and negative space complementary colors or shapes, contrasts).

It’s interesting that, though the Tao is about balance, it always leads us back to the one source, the “not two”:

Success is as dangerous as failure.
Hope is as hollow as fear.

What does it mean that success is as dangerous as failure?
Whether you go up the ladder or down it,
your position is shaky.
When you stand with your two feet on the ground,
you will always keep your balance.

What does it mean that hope is as hollow as fear?
Hope and fear are both phantoms
that arise from thinking of the self.
What do we have to fear?

See the world as your self.
Have faith in the way things are.
Love the world as your self;
then you can care for all things.

The universe is too big: I can only speak for myself. I can only look for balance in myself. Nisargadatta said (I’m paraphrasing, but if someone wants it, I can find the passage) — Universes come into being and collapse every moment. Why do you need to fix this world? Find your true nature.

I’m not going to look for balance in the world. Every day, I open myself to finding Awareness, to being in the space of Love, Peace, Beauty. The most difficult part of the day for me is often our zoom meetings: So many thoughts arise, so many issues and reactions. I sometimes feel I’m on a Tilt-a-Whirl, a carnival ride swinging me many different ways. I can’t respond in the moment. I take one or two ideas away, let them settle in me. Then sometimes, I try to write from a space of peace.

I may go in and out of Awareness all day, but I have a very hard time staying in the True Self during these meetings. But that challenge is what I love about them: It’s easier to stay in the space of peace and beauty when no one is around, when I’m just doing artwork or pottery or walking outside by myself.

The Tao says,

Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?

The question of balance was really interesting to me, as I seem to be thrown out of balance in these meetings. Of course, it’s the separate self that’s unbalanced, never the True Self. But this question of balance caused me to look at what perceptions, what experiences shift me off my axis.

I was very out-of-balance when I retired: I had been an introvert, somewhat anti-social, in a people-intensive job. After retirement, the first volunteer job I had was at the Austin Animal Shelter, just walking dogs about one morning a week. It was such a pleasant relief. I realized that non-judgmental purity of the dogs helped me re-balance. When you see the refugees fleeing the Ukraine, maybe you’re driven to contribute to the World Central Kitchen (which is feeding refugees coming into Poland). This will not bring balance or peace to the world, but it might help assuage your sadness for those people.

Is there any way to bring balance to the world? Someone in the meeting suggested that 2/3 of what happens in the world is positive, one third negative. So first, you have to define what’s positive, what’s negative. Are some activities 10% positive, 90% negative? Who’s going to create the scale to measure these things? Not I: I have a t-shirt that says, “I’m an English major; you do the math.”

Again, I can only look for balance in myself; and that balance is really just in the separate self. The True Self never requires balance. It’s always in harmony:

Each separate being in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.

If you don’t realize the source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.

Again, I thank the person who brought this up; it was a useful topic that led me to my True Self.

Bill Smith

By Bill Smith

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bill2smith/


  1. Nonduality is not about finding the right concepts for living life. If you want that, select your favorite religion, much of which is about how to live life in the “correct” or “right” way.

    In particular, nonduality is not about right and wrong, or any other pair of apparent opposites.

    Nonduality is about going beyond the mind AND HEART entirely, diving into pure awareness and discovering it to be what we’ve always wanted: the source of peace, happiness, understanding, contentment.

    1. Thank you David, we have different ways of expressing, and you do as you wish.

      To me this comment sounds harsh and dogmatic, but I guess this is again my own mind content.

      And again, all words as concessions: no “going beyond” but simply recognizing what IS, unadulterated, naturally, effortlessly.

      Peace, independent of circumstances,

  2. I don’t think you see the whole picture here, David. It’s easy to pick things apart without ever discovering what someone means. I try to say throughout my discussion that the True Self is never out of balance, only the separate self.
    Our zoom meetings throw my separate self “out of balance,” but in considering this issue, I realized that it only applies to the separate self; and I believe the Tao is saying that (“See the world as your self/ Have faith in the way things are”). The Tao exposes duality as an illusion. I say, “The true self never requires balance.” I also say “the Tao leads us back to the one source.” Balance requires “two-ness,” and only appearances are out of balance.
    I definitely may not have been clear or explicit enough, now that I read it again. But also, you may not have read it with a desire to understand (as opposed to critique).
    I would really like to be your friend, David, but I don’t find it easy. But I admit that most of my friendships in life have not been easy, so it’s probably about me.

  3. Dear Bill, I’m sorry that we are not communicating well with each other. Basically, I’m reacting to your continuing focus on how you feel and how you are searching as a separate individual mind. This includes the consideration of a possible balance in the universe of good and evil, [which actually only applies to human relationships, not to the rest of the Universe, which simply functions according to the physical laws of nature (indeed, most of the Universe consists of hard vacuum, which is non-existence of matter and energy)].

    I react to all this sharing of your personal struggle to understand because I see it as a story of seeking and limitation. We all have these stories. But we are all here in this fellowship and series of meetings because we are learning about our true nature as Consciousness Itself. We are learning that our stories can never resolve, can never be a tool for growth, because they are rooted in our conditioning, our firm beliefs that resulted from growing up in a stressed world and family.

    That is why I keep trying to point to pure awareness. It alone is the real solution to all our questions and seeking. It is both God and Self. It is the observer, and indeed is the only conscious observer that there is. All else, humans, animals, objects, events, space, and time, are all apparent happenings inside the unchanging Awareness, the one and only consciousness that exists.

    If you want to make progress, stop focusing on stories and analysis. Listen to Mooji’s Invitations to Freedom and see for yourself how simple and freeing is our pure awareness. And listen to the first session of any of Rupert’s retreats to hear clear pointing to this same truth. Drop the mind and discover the field of freedom from problems, which is also peace/awareness/joy, accessible in any moment of noticing.

    I say all of this in love, hoping to be heard.

  4. Thanks for the kind comment. I love to write, and I think I automatically go into a centered state when I’m ready to put my thoughts down. But usually, I’ve let the idea or issue sit with me, often for a day or two, let it sink below the mind, connect with the heart, try to respond from Awareness.

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