By Devdutt Pattanaik
Adam and Eve ate the Fruit of Knowledge and learnt how to differentiate good from bad. They began ‘judging’ God’s creation. They became conscious of their nakedness and covered themselves. They became mortals, destined to toil until the day they died. This story of the Original Sin has profoundly influenced Judeo-Christian traditions. Taken metaphorically, the ideas expressed are universal.
According to Indian philosophy, man’s “Fall” from Divinity comes from Ego. Ego destroys our equanimity and makes us discriminate between what is right (that is beneficial to the Ego) and what is wrong (that is hurtful to the Ego). Ego makes us cover our true personalities (our nakedness) and hide behind make-up, fashion and snobbery. Ego makes us crave and hence suffer. Ego dooms us to the eternal fear of death. Ego is the Forbidden Fruit that has cast us out of Paradise.
And we shall remain out. For like Adam and Eve we still do not take responsibilities for our actions. “She made me eat the fruit,” said Adam pointing to Eve. “The serpent tempted me,” said Eve. We too blame others – society, parents, politicians – for our frailties. We fear exposing ourselves. We cringe behind the fig leaf of self-delusion. We refuse to throttle our Ego that makes us sin.
Satan is our Ego externalized, making us doubt Divinity. He challenged Jesus. “Prove that you are the Son of God,” he said. Jesus did not fall for the bait. He did not have to prove the existence of Divinity. He knew. He believed. We don’t. We seek proof. We demand reasons and validation. When that is not forthcoming, we feel abandoned, alone. We seek consolation in the Ego and go out to prove ourselves. We stand up and show off, seek applause and exert authority. We surrender to our pettiness, our arrogance, our delusions of grandeur. Each time we do that, fetters clamp on our feet and drag us away from Eden into the dark dungeons of despair and loneliness.
Jesus rejected Satan to become the Son of God. Everybody else crucified him. Pinned to the cross, gnawed by a thorny crown, naked with arms outstretched, he moved his lips to say, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” No one was blamed, no one accused. Here was the union of compassion and wisdom. Here was a resident of Eden. Here was God.
When man indulges Ego, he loses Paradise. He finds himself washed away by the Flood or atop the Tower of Babel unable to understand the language of his friend. He finds himself enslaved in Egypt or lost in the wilderness. Ego brings war to the plains of Judea, Ego makes Saul his own enemy, Ego rejects the cries of Jeremiah, Ego wipes away the writing on the wall.
Perhaps the greatest victims of the Forbidden Fruit are the right-wing “defenders” of every faith. Look how they transform altars into battlegrounds, scriptures into weapons, faith into outrage. Look at their lack of compassion, their desire to hurt and kill, to rape and plunder in the name of God. Look at how they market their whims as the will of the heavens. Look at the swords in their hands, the anger in their eyes. If that is not Ego in action, what is?
When they strike, can we turn the other cheek? Should we let them suffer the poison of the Fruit? Or should we strike back and become poisoned ourselves? Answers are not easy to come by. Perhaps that is why we seek a savior, a messiah, some one who will guide us, direct us, help us transcend Satan’s temptations. We want to be compassionate, but we lack the wisdom. We want to forgive unconditionally, but are weak. The Fruit still festers strong.
Purging out the Fruit requires more than baptism, communion and confession. It requires more than listening to sermons. It requires Armageddon in our hearts where the Ego shall confront Divinity and we shall choose the winner.
Devdutt Pattanaik in an Indian writer who writes on the relevance of mythology (cultural truths) in modern times.
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius