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The Prohibited Food






Source: Folk-tales Of The Khasis

When mankind first came to live upon the earth, the Great God saw
fit to walk abroad in their midst frequently, and permitted them
to hold converse with Him on matters pertaining to their duties
and their welfare. At one time the discourse turned on the terrible
consequences of disobedience, which caused punishment to fall, not
only on the transgressor himself, but upon the entire human race also.

The man could not comprehend the mystery and sought for enlightenment
from God, and in order to help him to understand, the Great God
said unto him, "Do thou retire for seven days to meditate upon this
matter; at the end of the seven days I will again visit the earth;
seek me then and we will discourse further. In the meantime go into
the forest and hew down the giant tree which I point out to thee,
and on thy peril beware of cutting down any other trees." And He
pointed out a large tree in the middle of the forest.

Thereupon the Great God ascended into heaven, and the man went forth
to meditate and to cut down the giant tree, as he had been commanded.

At the expiration of seven days the man came to the appointed place
and the Great God came to him. He questioned him minutely about his
work and his meditations during the week of retirement, but the man
had gained no further knowledge nor received any new light. So the
Great God, to help him, began to question him. Their discourse was
after this manner:

"Hast thou cut down the tree as thou wert commanded?"

"Behold, its place is empty, I have cut it down."

"Didst thou observe the command in all things? Didst thou abstain
from cutting down any of the other trees?"

"I abstained from cutting down any other trees; only the one that
was pointed out to me have I cut down."

"What are all these trees and shrubs that I see scattered about?"

"These were broken and uprooted by the weight of the great tree as
it fell."

"Behold, here are some trees that have been cut down with an axe;
how did this happen?"

"The jungle was so thick I could not reach the giant tree without
first cutting a path for myself."

"That is true; therefore learn from this parable, man is so great that,
if he falls into transgression, others must suffer with him."

But the man still marvelled, and his mind remained dark. The Great God,
in His long-sufferance, told him to ponder further upon the parable
of the giant tree. So the Great God walked abroad for a time and man
was left alone to ponder. When He returned He found the man still
puzzled and unable to comprehend; and once again He questioned him.

"What took place in My absence?"

"Nothing of importance that I can think of."

"Why didst thou cry out as if in pain?"

"It was for a very trivial cause; an ant bit me in my heel."

"And what didst thou do?"

"I took a stone and killed the ant and the whole nest of ants."

"This also is a parable; because one ant bit thee the whole nest was
destroyed. Man is the ant; if man transgresseth he and all his race
must suffer."

Yet the man comprehended not: whereupon the Great God granted him
another seven days to retire and to meditate upon the parables of
the giant tree and the ant.

Again the man came to the appointed place at the end of seven days'
seeking to receive fuller knowledge and understanding. The Great God
had not yet appeared, so the man took a walk in the forest to await His
coming. As he wandered aimlessly about, he met a stranger carrying a
small net in his hand out of which he was eating some food. Now this
stranger was a demon, but the man did not know it.

"Where art thou going?" asked the stranger affably after the manner
of the country.

"Just to walk for my pleasure," replied the man; "what food art
thou eating?"

"Only some cakes of bread which I find very tasty; take some and
eat." And he passed the net to him.

"Thy offer is kindly made, but do not take it amiss that I refuse to
accept thy bread, for it is decreed that we shall live on rice alone."

"Even so, but surely to take a morsel to taste would not be wrong."

This time the man did not resist, but accepted a cake of bread and
ate it with enjoyment, after which the stranger departed, taking his
bag of cakes with him.

The man had scarcely swallowed the strange food when he heard the
voice of the Great God calling unto him from the skies, saying:

"What hast thou done, oh man? Thou knowest the decree that rice was
provided to be thy food, yet thou hast unmindfully transgressed and
partaken of the strange food of the tempter. Henceforth thou and thy
race shall be tormented by the strange being whose food thou hast
eaten. By eating his food thou hast given him dominion over thee and
over thy race, and to escape from his torments thou and thy race must
give of thy substance to appease him and to avert his wrath."

Thus, too late, the man began to understand, and ever since then
the days of men have been full of sorrow because man yielded to the
tempter's voice instead of submitting to the decrees of the Great God.





Next: The Cooing Of The Doves

Previous: What Makes The Lightning



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