Chapter 3, Verse 37
“Rajas Guna has two faces,
Lust and rage,
The ravenous, the deadly.
They are your enemies.”
“All of us will have to face circumstances in which we will be sorely tempted. Even Jesus was not free from these great temptations and the Buddha as well. When cravings propel us, when we find ourselves almost helpless before them, the battle is so intense that no victory in worldly life can compare with it. The soul needs to cut through the stifling cocoon of delusion to emerge as the butterfly of omnipresence. Voracious desire and frustration spring from nature’s activating quality (Rajas), which spawns illimitable variety and enticement, exciting us into unskillful, habit-forming actions. The soul, having descended into the senses from the sphere of unvaried calm, becomes feverishly active with unskillful desires; anger, and habits arising from these emotions, thereby making us identify with thought and form. The Self is motionless, unfluctuating joy. But once we wander into the activating attributes, we become the ego, and proceed, sometimes unwillingly, whirling and swirling, blindly awash in a revolving door. The wise learn how to establish and maintain an inner oasis of poise.”
Gospel of John 3: 1-8:
“Now there was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born anew.” The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’”
J. Paterson-Smyth: (A People’s Life of Christ)
“In spite of the hostile attitude of his fellows, Nicodemus finds the daring young Prophet appealing. He wonders about Him. Nicodemus seems, at heart, honest and earnest. On the other hand, he is a timid, conservative ecclesiastic, a type that does not easily commit to something fresh and new. So he steals out alone under cover of night, concealed by his long mantle until he finds the house where Jesus is staying, probably with His disciple John.
I can see John showing in the distinguished visitor into the poor little upper room which he shares with his Master and remaining there listening and remembering things that he is one day to tell the world. He has only preserved for us a few brief notes. We have to read between the lines and fill it up as best we can.
We gather that Nicodemus wanted to hear about this kingdom of God which Jesus had come to establish and also that he had the popular notions about it. He expected, as most others did, a temporal kingdom of glory and prosperity for Israel. Every Israelite, of course, would be by birth a member of it. He had hopes that Jesus might turn out to be the promised Messiah. Being an old man and wise and of high position in the religious world, perhaps he had the kindly thought that his counsel and influence might be of value to the young enthusiast. And no doubt if Jesus were founding a kingdom such as he expected, he would have been a valuable ally.
But if he had any such patronizing thoughts, the quiet dignity of Jesus must have put him in his place at once. For he addresses this young peasant with deepest respect. One wonders why Jesus’ allusion to being born again should so puzzle a thoughtful religious rabbi. The idea of spiritual rebirth was not strange to a Jew. A Gentile received into Judaism was thought of as reborn. Perhaps the puzzle was that Jesus was saying that everyone, even Jews, must be reborn. ‘I don’t understand,’ Nicodemus says. ‘How can a man be born when he is old?’
How? Jesus does not explain the ‘how.’ He appeals to the man’s own experience. ‘You know the difference between fleshly and spiritual, between the natural one who lives for this world and the spiritually minded one whose heart is set on God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh. The spiritual is that which is born of the spirit. The spiritual mind, the passion for high ideals, does not come by chance or by natural growth. The spirit of God must accomplish it. The influence of God’s spirit is as free as the wind, mysterious as the wind. Hear that wind blowing now amongst the trees outside. Thou canst not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth. So is everyone that is born of the spirit. My kingdom is a kingdom of the spirit-born, born of the spirit of God.’
Imagine the state of mind of the great Rabbi as he listened. Here is this obscure, young peasant, without the learning of the schools, without the recognition of the establishment, quietly, unselfconsciously taking his place as the superior one, claiming to be from heaven and to know the counsels of God and to be the light of the world and the source of eternal life. Surely he must be a victim of illusion or else there must be in him something divine.
We do not know how the conversation ended, for the closing words are evidently St. John’s own comment. (“For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. This is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.” John 3: 17-21.)
And we do not know how the great Rabbi received it, whether he understood or whether he went away sorrowful. We should like to know. For he appeals to us as an honest truth seeker in spite of his caution and timidity. Whatever the result, it did not break his attachment to Jesus. Twice afterwards we hear of him. Each time he is befriending Jesus. Once, when the rulers were about to do violence to him, Nicodemus makes this defense: ‘Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?’ (John 7: 51.) And again, when Jesus was dead and Joseph of Arimathea was burying him, we are told: ‘Nicodemus, who had at first come by night, came bringing a mixture of myrhh and aloes, about a hundred pounds’ weight. They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.’ (John 19: 39, 40.)
God has magnificent ambitions for our species. As from the lower creation, he evolved the higher being in the form of the human being; so from this natural one, God is evolving the still higher being, the spiritual one, the one in communion with God. The natural one has the capacity for rising into the spiritual one as a caterpillar has the capacity for rising into the butterfly. But every caterpillar does not evolve into a butterfly, just as every natural human does not evolve into the spiritual. Every one has the potential to do so, but every one does not. To accomplish this, Jesus says, one’s life must be vitalized by God’s Holy Spirit.
The natural human may become a fine type of natural human as the caterpillar may become a fine type of caterpillar. But the finest type of caterpillar is not a butterfly. It has missed its destiny. Too many of us are content with being stellar caterpillars… decent, respectable folk…while the spirit of God waits with infinite patience, all around us, like the air we breathe, like the soft wind which bloweth where it listeth.
His the gentle voice we hear
Soft as the breath of even-tide,
Calming each fear,
Speaking of heaven.
And thou canst not tell whence. That is a hopeful thought. I must not confine that free breath of God to the saintly soul living amidst all the privileges of the Church. If I hear of a rough soldier brought up in an evil home, who has learned to swear but not to pray, but who is loved by his comrades for utter unselfishness and who gives his life in Christ fashion to save his brother, I am to think that every good and perfect deed is indissolubly linked with what Jesus says of that mysterious breath of God… ‘Thou canst not tell.’”