It is not only strength or nervous energy that enables man to stand on the earth; besides muscular strength and nervous energy there is balance. It is balance which enables man to stand and walk without falling. In the absence of balance man will not be able to stand or walk in spite of his muscular strength and nervous energy.
When we think of the mind - is it reasoning, is it far-reaching imagination which makes man thoughtful? No, it is balance. There are many whose imagination reaches so far that they can float in the air for hours together, and there are others whose reason is so powerful that they can go round and round and round, and end nowhere. If there is anything that makes man thoughtful, it is not great reasoning or far-reaching imagination: it is balance.
Is it the deep feeling of the heart, or is it living in a spiritual ecstasy that makes a person illuminated? No, neither of these things. A person can be in ecstasy, see visions, phenomena, and yet he may not be called spiritual. A person may have religious ideas, he may live a pious life, have lofty ideals, and even then he may not be called an illuminated soul. This shows that in order to make the body as it ought to be, to keep the mind in order, and to maintain it to that pitch, it is balance that is necessary.
When we study nature, we find that the growth of plants and the life of trees all depend upon balance. And when we think of the cosmos and study the condition of the stars and planets, the main thing we realize is that the one holds the other, thereby producing balance. All destruction caused in nature, such as volcanic eruptions, floods, earthquakes, comes from lack of balance. As long as nature holds its balance, the abyss in the heart of the earth can remain as it is; people can walk over it without any damage. Storms and famine, all the difficult conditions caused by nature, show that balance is missing; all the different plagues that come to mankind are caused by the lack of that balance which is the security of the health of humanity.
What we call art also comes from a balanced sense of line and colour, and what we call genius in science comes from the balance between perception and conception.
What do we learn from all this? That the secret of the existence of the individual as well as of the whole cosmos lies in one thing, and that is balance. It would not be exaggerated if I said that success and failure are caused by balance and by the lack of it. Progress and lack of progress can be explained as coming from balance and lack of balance.
There is another idea connected with what we call balance. Life is movement, balance is something that controls it, but perfect balance controls movement too much, bringing it to the pitch of inertia. For instance, if the strength of the right hand were equal to the strength of the left hand, if the right leg and the left leg were equal, man would not be able to work or to walk. If each of the two eyes had the same power of sight, a person would not be able to see. In this way balance controls everything, but too much balance destroys it, because too much balance brings stillness. The ordinary balance, which is not complete, brings about success.
Now the main idea is to know how balance is to be obtained and to be retained. In answer to the first question, how balance is to be attained, I would say that balance is naturally there, so there is no need to attain it. The question is only how to maintain balance and not how to attain it. The influence of our way of life in this active world always puts us off balance. No matter what direction we take in life, no matter what our occupation, our business in life, there is always difficulty in maintaining balance.
The Sufis therefore have found a key to it, and that key is to isolate oneself within, and thereby to gain a complete balance within oneself. I have already said that perfect balance means destruction of action, but when we think that from morning till evening our life is nothing but action, we naturally cannot keep that balance. By keeping a few minutes for a process of meditation, of silence, we can touch that complete balance for a moment, and then, naturally, in our active life a balance is maintained. Very often people make the mistake of thinking that by the help of meditation or silence they can bring about success in activity. If it brings about a successful result, it is only because complete balance in meditation makes one capable of maintaining the balance necessary for activity.
Success, failure, progress, standstill, one's state of being, it all comes from the condition that a person is experiencing within himself. A man of common sense will say, "For this reason or for that reason you have met with success or failure". A person who is clairvoyant will say, "Because a spirit or a ghost has said this or that, the conditions must be worse or better". The astrologer will say, "Because this star is in its house or not in its house, you are experiencing such or such conditions". But according to the Sufi idea the condition of life around one depends absolutely on the condition of one's inner self. So what is needed to change the conditions in outer life, or to tune oneself, is to work with one's inner self in order to bring about the necessary balance.
Once balance is lost, it is very difficult to bring it about again. In the first place it is often difficult to keep balance in everyday life, and once it is lost there is little hope of success, of happiness, or of progress. It is just like a clock getting out of order; it cannot work as long as it is not brought into a proper balance again - and the same is true for the condition of the soul. If a person has lost his wealth, has become a spendthrift, has become thoughtless, all these things are signs of his loss of balance. To be too sad, to be too busy, to be too lazy, all these things are signs of lack of balance. All that can be called too much, is always out of balance.
Balance is the security of life, not only in our outward life, but even in maintaining meditation and contemplation. People in the East have always considered balance to be the principal thing to maintain in life. All different exercises they have prescribed, whether in the form of religion or in the form of devotion, whether in the philosophical or in the psychical realm, are all meant to maintain balance.