Much like Newton postulated centuries ago; every action, there is an equal opposite reaction; the Balinese believe that there are two opposing forces that are required to maintain universal balance. That is the concept of rwa bhineda.
Rwa bhineda literally means “two opposites”. The Balinese believe that everything that exists as a duality. The existence of this duality is what brings a cosmic balance to the universe. So, if there’s good, evil must exist to bring balance. Birth balances death, joy balances sorrow, young balances old, positive balances negative, health balances sickness, and so forth. The universe constantly adjusts itself to bring about the perfect equilibrium. It is similar to the more familiar yin-yang concept in Taoism.
To symbolize rwa bhineda in everyday life, the Balinese often use the metaphor of black and white. Black symbolizes evil while white symbolizes good. You might have noticed most attributes in Bali, especially ceremonial fabrics, have a black and white chessboard-like pattern. It is often wrapped around large banyan trees and shrines. You might think they’re for the spirits, but that’s just how the Balinese remember rwa bhineda.
Rwa bhineda is embedded so deep into Balinese life, it is practically part of the Balinese way of life. From a young age, Balinese are taught not to wallow too long in despair, for there will be joy to balance it. Likewise, it is not wise to celebrate joy in excess, for it is temporary and will be balanced by sadness in time. It also teaches tolerance as rwa bhineda places emphasis on appreciating differences, rather than antagonizing them. It truly is a great philosophy!