Eating the Fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: A Zen Commentary

Eating the Fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil: A Zen Commentary January 21, 2020



From 2017. Seemed worth sharing again…

Eating the Fruit of the Knowledge of Good & Evil: A Zen Commentary

James Ishmael Ford

The Text

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.” ’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. Genesis 3:1-7

A Commentary

Most of us are aware somewhere deep in our bodies that something is wrong. That sense of dislocation, which lurks in so many hearts, is a hint that we have somehow strayed far from home. Here’s an ancient Western story of why.
The important point is that taking a bite from the fruit.

What was it that made people “like God,” or in other translations, “like gods?” here we see the secret of human domination of the planet, of all our many successes in a worldly sense. That ability to see good and evil is the ability to divide the cosmos. This power, our ability to discern on and off, up and down, light and dark, good and ill, weaves together into a world, and plays out endlessly as the inquisitive mind. Some animals are strong. Some animals are fast. We are smart.

So, somewhere along the line, and this is as good a story as any for how, we ate the fruit that allowed us to divide the world. And it in fact has made us like gods. And with that and quicker than a heartbeat that very knowing threw us out of the garden, out of our original home.

And now here we are. Somewhere deep in our being each of us longs for that long lost home. So, questions bubble from the depths to consciousness. How can we return home? Some think the way is found through rejecting the world. Here the stories of a pure spirit chained to the mud begin to find their expression. The way of world rejection is very popular.

And it is not our way. Lost on the dark paths, wandering among the poor, accosted by pain and loss, we are called to look here. Right here. At this.

Here, here, among the snares and tares, where is Eden?

Here, here, at this moment, can you see it? Not one. Not two.

Just this. Reaching up, taking the apple, and biting.

A Verse

Biting the fruit
forgetting one’s home
Where is Eden
when you’re naked?


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