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Why God Prohibited Man to Eat From the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil

Genesis refers to the creation of the universe. God created man, Adam in His own image on the sixth day of Genesis. He took the man to the Garden of Eden, which was full of beautiful trees that bore fruits good for food. God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you shall not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” He then crested woman, Eve, from the rib of the Adam. The man and the woman were both naked but felt no shame.

However, the devil in the form of a serpent convinced Eve to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge by telling her that God knew that when you eat, you would be like God, knowing good and evil.

Then Eve and subsequently Adam ate the fruit from the tree as it was good for food, pleasing to the eye and also desirable for gaining wisdom. Immediately, after they ate the fruit, they realized that they were naked and at once they covered themselves with fig leaves. When they listened to the voice of God, they hid themselves amongst the trees of the garden as they felt shame. God immediately understood that they had eaten from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Then God got angry, cursed them and banished them from the Garden of Eden. This act of human being is called the “Original Sin” which has been transmitted from generation to generation till today.

Numerous questions arise in our mind regarding the Original Sin. What was the original sin? Was the act of eating the fruit the sin, or the knowledge of good and evil? Or the sin consisted in disobedience of the command of God? Why must the future generations suffer from the displeasure of God and pay for the sins that were committed by their forefather? People have little understood the mystery of the original sin. Finally, can an innocent act like eating a fruit from a tree really be such a major sin?

What was the Original Sin?

The words written in scriptures are often taken literally by scholars and, in the process, people fail to understand the spiritual understanding of the message. If the act of eating the fruit was the sin, then it would be quite unfair that all future generations of man to suffer due to a single act of the original man. God cannot be so unfair as to punish thousands of generations of men for a single act of his ancestors.

Then, what was it that God did not like? If you read the scriptures carefully, you would find several interconnected things that happened on the day of the so-called original sin.

Appreciation of Beauty: God provided the Garden of Eden to man, which was full of beautiful trees that bore fruits good for food.

The Devil’s advice: The act of persuasion of serpent to Eve to eat from the tree as by acquiring the knowledge of good and evil, man could become equal to God.

The Sinful Knowledge: The object of the sin was the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil

The Sinful Act: Man distrusted God, his creator and trusted devil and committed the act of eating the fruit, in spite of a clear warning from God, in order to become God himself

The Original Shame: The shame that Adam and Eve felt from each other and also from God as soon as they ate the fruit

Though Genesis mentions all five, yet we fail to co-relate them and understand the true message of God. Nothing has changed today? Even now, the first thing that a child learns in his life is the knowledge of good and evil. Every parent and elders teach the child the difference between good and bad. As he grows, man keeps on learning the knowledge of good and evil in the hope that once he understands it, he would become like God. Religious leaders who believe that they have understood this knowledge are exalted by the people to the level of God. The devils, unbelievers and the atheists, too, consider themselves as God as they believe that they have understood good and evil.

What is wrong with such knowledge? Why God has to be so angry with man with this knowledge?

Definition of Good and Evil:

Even after thousands of years from Genesis, we are no wiser today to understand good and evil. A boy was asked:

“Where is your school?”

“It is opposite my home”

“Where is your home?”

“Opposite my school”

“Where are both?”

Opposite each other.

If you can find out the boy, his school and his home from this description, you can surely understand the meaning of good and evil. What is good? What is evil? People can fill volumes in explaining these terms, yet no one has ever understood these terms properly. In very simple words, we can say, good is something that is not evil and evil is something that is not good. I am sure, you must have clear idea of good and evil by now.

Well, you still don’t know? That is what God feared. What He feared was that man after learning the knowledge of good, would divide the world between good or evil. The perception of man about the creation of God, i.e. the world would change forever. Instead of viewing the world as one where everything is complementary to everything else, he would make all His creation as evil on one pretext or the other, just as he made his private parts as evil by covering them to cover their nudity.

What is Evil?

It is extremely difficult to define good or evil. Yet, if we can understand one, we can understand the other. Let us first try to understand evil.

Evil seems to be similar to temptation. Anything that is pleasant to senses and mind so much so that you get attracted to it naturally, is tempting and as such, an evil. The first or the Original Evil was the nudity of the human being that automatically attracts the members of the opposite sex. The most attractive parts of the body are the private parts; hence, the first act that was done by Adam and Eve was to cover their private parts to conceal them as evil. The covering of the private parts is also a symbolic representation of wisdom that evil must be concealed from other people, even from God. If you fail to conceal evil, you must feel ashamed.

As time passed on, the scope of evil spread from the body to almost every thing in the world and every activity of human beings. Everything has to be either good or evil. For example, if your God is good, others’ God must be evil. If one worships your God, he is good while people worshiping other Gods are evil. If you praise God, you are good, if you question Him, you are an evil. Love is good, hate is evil. Killing animals is good while killing human beings is evil. Loving your woman is good, while loving other’s woman is evil. If you use your property, it is good, if you use other’s property, it is evil. Even days were not spared. If you work on a certain days, it is good while, if you work on other days, it is evil.

The differentiation did not stop at this level alone and it grew further and further. For example, killing of human beings is evil if they are one of you i.e. the people of your race, caste, religion, country etc. However, if you kill people of other race, caste, religion or country, it is good. It is the biggest honor and the noblest of acts to kill an enemy.

These differentiations were, however, not fair as the people in power gradually used this knowledge of good and evil to interpret it in such a way that what was to their benefit was good and otherwise was an evil. They did not spare their own people and later declared even women and children as evil if they defied their husbands or parents, so much so that religions termed even sex that creates life, as unholy and evil. The popes, and priests were asked to follow celibacy and shun sex. Some religions even considered music as evil and sin. Thus, over a period of time, all things that provided pleasure to man were termed as evil. Since the opposite of evil was good, hence, you had to choose between being good or being happy.

The havoc of the knowledge of discrimination

The men in power used this knowledge to such an extent that they took all happiness from mankind. They declared every basic instinct created by Nature or God as evil, and the performance of such act as sin. Thus every one became a sinner. People, who crushed their basic instincts, became good but lost all happiness as they did what they didn’t like and could not do what they liked. Thus the world became full with people who were sinners and unhappy.

A woman, accused of adultery, was brought before Jesus and the crowd suggested that, as commanded by Moses, the woman must be put to death by stoning. Jesus said that if there was any person amongst them without any sin, let him throw the first stone. Soon all the people were gone as there was none in the crowd, who was without any sin. Then Jesus said to the woman that he did not condemn her and advised here to sin no more.

This incident demonstrates that there is hardly any person in the world who is really free from sin. Every person in the quest of happiness has committed sin sometime or the other in his life. The situation is no different today. If any person honestly introspects, he will find himself to be sinful. A famous mystic poet Kabir said:

I searched for evil in man,

I found evil in none

When I looked into myself

I found the evil within.

What is True Knowledge?

Thus the knowledge of Good and Evil is not desirable for man as God knew that man can never live happily after getting this knowledge. What, then, was the knowledge that he wanted for man? This knowledge is described in other scriptures like Gita where Lord Krishna says (Gita, V-16-18):

The wise man is one whose ignorance is destroyed by the knowledge of Self (Atman or soul). This knowledge like sun reveals the Supreme. His soul has become one with Him, his soul resides in Him, his aim has become the aim of Him and all his sins are wiped out by His true knowledge. This man with self-realization looks with an even eye on a Brahmin (pious man), scholars possessed of learning and humility, a cow, an elephant, a dog and even an untouchable.

This knowledge is not easy to get as it leads you to the soul or essence of knowledge. It has to be realized by self. One has to use intuition and faith to realize it.

In order to realize this knowledge, let us imagine the universe as the body of the Supreme and every entity as a cell of the Universal Body. Now, we know that if there is any problem with any cell of the body, the person feels pain and every other cell suffers. Even the pain of the innermost, invisible and unknown cell of the body is felt by man. Hence, once we see ourselves as parts of the Supreme, everything else in the universe automatically gets integrated to us. At this stage of knowledge, we become one with God and develop the ability to understand Him and his thoughts. This represents the true knowledge.

A body has thousands of organs and billions of cells and all these cells are important for the body. It shall be improper to classify some body parts and cells as superior to others as all the cells and organs play their respective roles for the body. Once a person can understand this simple truth, he will view all the creatures with equal perspective as explained in the Gita. Even if a single cell becomes malicious or cancerous, it can destroy the whole body. Similarly, all functions of the organs of the body are different yet equally essential for the body. Even if a single function like breathing, urination, sweating is stopped, the body cannot survive.

Thus we see the world and its inhabitants in a different light, once we are able to acquire true knowledge. Instead of classifying people as sinners and saints, we are able to appreciate that every person is not meant to perform the same task. We realize that differences have to be appreciated rather than punished.

Lessons from Genesis:

Genesis has long been ridiculed by atheists and scientist as they could only understand words but failed to understand the spirit underlying it. All knowledge is good except the knowledge of good and evil. Man can eat fruits from any tree, which are pleasing to the senses and make the person happy. One, who chooses to know good and evil in this world, follows the devil’s advice as on acquisition of this knowledge, he will find the world to be full of sinners. They would feel ashamed of themselves as they would find their most important parts as sinful and evil. Thus the very concept of Evil challenges the wisdom of God because He would never create anything that is not needed. Everything has been created in this world with a purpose. However, this purpose needs not to be only for the benefit of man. There is a purpose for each and every creation of the universe since nothing exists without God or the Supreme.

A world without Evil

It is difficult to imagine a world without evil. Due to our knowledge of good and evil, we often find the whole world as evil since nothing fits into our definition of good. We feel depressed, paranoid and start hating this world instead of loving it. However, this can change, if we realize the true knowledge of the world.

It is said in the Upanishads that “I am the Universe.” If you ask a hundred people as to how they find the world, they are all likely to give different answers. For some, the world is beautiful and the people are good, while for some the world may be extremely bad and the people treacherous and sinful. Why the same world is different for different people? Because each man has formed an image of the universe within himself. Therefore, the only way to improve the outside world is to improve the world within. While, we may not have any control over the outside world, we have the option to change our world within and thus change the world outside. The change inside can come only through true knowledge and by unlearning the knowledge of good and evil. Once you make yourself illuminated with this true knowledge, you can get rid of all the sins and the whole world would appear unblemished and good for you. Then only the goal of universal good can be realized. As it is said in the Vedas, “Let everyone become happy, let everyone become healthy.”

Source by Dr Awdhesh Singh

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