duality of life

How to use duality or paradoxical unity to understand the life?

Duality is an indispensable concept that you must learn if you want to have a deeper understanding about life. In the journey of spiritual enlightenment first you must understand the duality before going further beyond duality i.e. towards non-duality. In this article, I will be concentrating on the concept of duality. Going beyond duality and understanding Non-duality will be shared separately in future articles.

What is duality or dualism?

As the word suggest by the word “dual” within it, duality refers to having two parts, often with opposite meanings. Duality conveys you that every aspect of life is created from a balanced interaction of opposite and competing powers. However these forces are not just opposites; they are complementary. These opposites don’t revoke each other; but simply balance each other like the dual wings of a butterfly. These opposites are like two sides of the same coin and together make the coin – a complete coin.

duality of life

The human brain and duality

Duality is an essential feature of the human brain. Our brain uses concept of duality to understand the world and to make sense of it. It works on the principle of relativity. Relativity helps mind to understand the measurements, languages and words. If you have never experienced the chill of a dark winter, it is very unlikely that you will ever cherish the warmth of a bright summer’s day. Nothing can stimulate your appetite for the simple joys of life more than the starvation caused by sadness. Your brain can’t differentiate and understand what the concept of “happiness” is without having a “sadness” to compare and contrast to.  Same applies for height-depth, in-out, up-down, hot-cold, start-finish, sweet-sour, successfailure, young-old, positive–negative, male-female, light-darkness and on and on, the list is endless. If we don’t have an opposing counterpart, then it can’t have any value to us.

Duality in Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu has also referred about duality in Tao Te Ching. The Tao Te Ching is an ancient and paramount piece of writing that has stood the test of times.  Lao Tzu speaks of “paradoxical unity” in  2nd verse of  Tao Te Ching. He mentions that we experience beauty because of ugliness. We experience good as good only because there is evil.  Similarly, existence and non-existence give rise to one another. Difficult and easy, long and short, High and low, before and after, the music and the silence; all cannot exist without the other. They are two sides of the same coin.

Paradoxical world

Have you experienced this duality or paradoxical unity daily, hourly or every moment of your life? We experience this duality in life constantly on day to day basis; but often fail to see it. If you say, “It’s dark in the night”; the statement is based on your understanding about “light “and “day”. “Darkness” exists only because there is “light” and there is no meaning of “day”; if “night” does not exist. We create these judgement and duality belief systems without even knowing it. This has been mapped in our mind during upbringing. We have been trained to label and categorize things as positive vs negative, good vs bad or right vs wrong since our childhood. It has become part of our nature.

How to use duality to understand the life?

You can use the duality for understanding the life in better way and live a peaceful life. Here are few tips how to use duality enhance the quality of your life.

Awareness about duality of life

To live a peaceful life you need to be aware about duality or paradoxical unity in day to day life. Be aware of the duality unities and give thanks for the bad, because good would not exist without the bad. Being aware about duality will help to embrace and balance the contradictions in life to achieve harmony.

Accept the negative

In fact, not only awareness you must have understanding as well as acceptance of both sides. Most of the people do not accept the failures, bad things, sad happenings and negative part of the life. They feel why negative events happen to them. One needs to accept the negatives of life. Look at the things in totality with  wholeness and completeness in life; without negative you can’t enjoy the positive.

Accepting the negative experiences is the most positive experience of life. The Tao teaches “to live openly with the apparent duality and paradoxical unity.” Accept the positive and negative, appreciate that every emotion and every feeling has two sides.

Big picture perspective

If you remember in one of my posts on how to accept with negative aspects of life “ The posi-positive approach”; I mentioned about a quote of Helen Keller, which says “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow”.  There I mentioned to look at the paradoxes Sun shine (light) and shadow (dark) as oneness or unity. Without “sunshine” or “light” the “shadow” or “darkness” does not exist.

duality or dualism

What I am trying to communicate here is that look at the things with big picture perspective. Incorporate the duality into the perception of your day-to-day life. I know it’s tough but I encourage you to try it.  Doing this you will move few steps ahead towards spiritualism enlightenment. In your day to day life, you will find oneness and unity within these paradoxes, within the happy and the sad, the good and bad, the negative and the positive.  These opposites balance each other and part of same coin i.e. your life.  In order to complete your incredible journey of life successfully, it is vital that you turn each and every dark tear into a pearl of wisdom, and find the blessing in every curse.

That’s all from my side. Thank you for reading this. Over to you now, I would like to know your experiences and understanding about duality of life. Please add your valuable comments, they are much appreciated.

If you have liked this article, please share it at your favorite social networks.

Similar Posts


  1. Part of Verse 2; “As the sage lives openly with apparent duality, he synthesizes the origin with the manifestation without forming an opinion about it [my emphasis]. Living without judgment and in perfect oneness is what Lao-tzu invites his readers to do. He invites our wisdom to combine perceived opposites and live a unified life”

    In terms of ‘Living without judgement …’ does that mean I cannot say ‘this is a beautiful painting’?

    1. Hello Clive,

      First of all thanks for visiting our blog and sharing your views here. Now coming to your point; Yes, you can say “This is a beautiful painting”, but looking the beautiful and ugly not as opposites; but as a “perfect oneness”.

      Living without judgement means – not looking “beautiful” as good and “ugly” as bad. You do not need to make an opinion about goodness or badness of the painting (read again the part without forming an opinion about it [my emphasis]). You need to go beyond “duality belief system” towards “non duality” to understand it. What will you say, when painting is neither beautiful nor ugly? There is something in between “beautiful” and “ugly” also. So beautiful and ugly are mere two small parts (the extreme ends) of “bigger whole one”, which incorporates all what comes in between the “beautiful” and “ugly”. Further, if you explore more, what you call as “beautiful” may not be necessarily “beautiful” for me also. So, there is concept of relativity also. This relativity comes due to difference of judgement.

      When you remove judgement, you become mindful and start living in present. You start noticing the unnoticed – between beautiful and ugly. You start looking toward paintings with perfect oneness. You combine the perceived opposites “beautiful” and “ugly”.

    2. We have to love ultimately knowing that beneath our flaws is a cause … like the system and the way of things
      Our problems are not really ours to hold only the love … like a child being born again and again being delivered from evil … out of the darkness in forgetfulness and fore giving light … the sun has to be the sun …. I’m still thinking a lot about this myself … hello 👋:-) I like your comment and was very interested !!

    3. Hello Roxanne,

      Here loving (as you used the words – have to love ultimately) is with a judgement. You feel that beneath every flaws there is a cause. Flaw is not something negative, it’s a part of a whole. Similarly don’t look at darkness and lights as opposites. There is something grey also which is in between black and white, something dawn between day and night. The concept of duality is good for understanding and accepting the two extremes. But for living life to the fullest you need to a step further and understand Nonduality of life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *