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There’s a Buddhist parable that runs something like this: One day as the Buddha was sitting under a tree, a young, trim soldier walked by, looked at the Buddha, noticed his weight and his fat, and said: “You look like a pig!”

The Buddha looked up calmly at the soldier and said: “And you look like God!”

Taken aback by the comment, the soldier asked the Buddha: “Why do you say that I look like God?”

The Buddha replied: “Well, we don’t really see what’s outside of ourselves, we see what’s inside of us and project it out. I sit under this tree all day and I think about God, so that when I look out, that’s what I see. And you, you must be thinking about other things!”

There’s an axiom in philosophy that asserts that the way we perceive and judge is deeply influenced and colored by our own interiority. That’s why it’s never possible to be fully objective and that’s why five people can witness the same event, see the same thing, and have five very different versions of what happened. St. Thomas Aquinas expressed this in a famous axiom: “Whatever is received is received according to the mode of its receiver.”

If this is true, and it is, then, as the Buddhist parable suggests, how we perceive others speaks volumes about what’s going on inside of us. Among other things, it indicates whether we are operating out of a blessed or a cursed consciousness.


A positive view

Let’s begin with the positive, a blessed consciousness: We see this in Jesus, in how he perceived and in how he judged. His was a blessed consciousness. As the Gospels describe it, at his baptism, the heavens opened and God’s voice was heard to say: “This is my blessed one, in whom I take delight.”

And, it seems, for the rest of his life Jesus was always in some way conscious of his Father saying that to him: “You are my blessed one!”

As a consequence, he was able to look out at the world and say: “Blessed are you when you are poor, or when you are persecuted, or suffering in any way. You are always blessed, no matter your circumstance in life.”

He knew his own blessedness, felt it, and, because of that, could operate out of a blessed consciousness, a consciousness that could look out and see others and the world as blessed.


A negative view

Sadly, for many of us, the opposite is true: We perceive others and the world not through a blessed consciousness but through a cursed consciousness. We have been cursed, and because of that, in whatever subtle ways, we curse others.

What’s a curse?

A curse is not the colorful language that comes out of our mouths when we get stuck in traffic or when we slice our golf ball the wrong way. What we say then may be in bad taste and highly profane, but it’s not a curse. A curse is more pernicious.

Cursing is what we do when we look at someone whom we don’t like and think or say: “I wish you weren’t here! I hate your presence! I wish you’d go away!”

Cursing is what we do when we are affronted by the joyous screams of a child and we say: “Shut up! Don’t irritate me!”

Cursing is what we do when we look at someone and think or say, “What an idiot! What a jerk!”

Cursing is what we do whenever we look at another person judgmentally and think or say: “Who do you think you are! You think you’re an artist! You think you’ve got talent! You don’t, you’re full of yourself!”

Notice in each of these examples that what is being said is the antithesis of what the Father said to Jesus’ at his baptism: “You are my blessed one, in you I take delight!”


The origin

If any of us could play back our lives as a video we would see the countless times, especially when we were young, when we were subtly cursed, when we heard or intuited the words: “Shut up! Who do you think you are! Go away! You aren’t wanted here! You’re not that important! You’re stupid! You’re full of yourself!”

All of these were times when our energy and enthusiasm were perceived as a threat and we were, in effect, shut down. And the residual result in us is shame, depression, and a cursed consciousness.

Unlike Jesus, we don’t see others and the world as blessed. Instead, like the young soldier looking at an overweight Buddha under a tree, our spontaneous judgments are swift and lethal: “You look like a pig!”

Whatever is received is received according to the mode its receiver. Our harsh judgments of others say less about them than they say about us. Our negativity about others and the world speaks mostly of how bruised and wounded, ashamed and depressed, we are – and how little we ourselves have ever heard anyone say to us: “In you I take delight!”

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2 Comments

  1. Frances-26250 March 13, 2011

    Fr. made a good final point. That is true. But he misquoted God the Father. The bible does not say “one” is says “son”. Here is the actual quote: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Matt 3:17 When we hear God the Father speak, there is no need to neuter His words. He chose to have a Son, let’s be humble and leave it at that.

    Also, Jesus’ divine nature was in existence before His human nature was taken on. Therefore, He was always in communication with and connected to the Father. He knew His own blessedness and had the mind of God first, even as He grew into His human nature. The Father was revealing His Son’s divinity to those who needed to have faith in Jesus. Jesus knew He was the Father’s blessed Son, though there is no doubt that His human nature would have been greatly encouraged by His Father’s words. The statement, “As a consequence…” almost sounds as if Jesus did not know His own divinity until the Father spoke to Him. Being the second person of the Holy Trinity, He most assuredly knew His own blessedness and looked out upon the world first from His perfect, divine nature and also from His perfected human nature.

    We’re cursed? I find his newer definition of this word a bit misleading to his readers. One can check and see what the Church defines as cursing, in its many forms, in the Catholic encyclopedia. This does not seem to match up here. Wouldn’t the word “injured” or “wounded” be more accurate? We’re all wounded, but to use the word curse seems a bit much. Or perhaps the word needs more explanation here.

    While I found Fr.’s piece to make an excellent point, it seems his misquoting God the Father, using an unusual interpretation of the word curse, eastern parables and parlance, make me wonder if there is some subtle swaying of his readers that is intended. Why do we need to mix Bhuddhism with Catholicism? When one studies the philosophy of Bhuddhism one will find that at root, it is completely incompatible with the Catholic faith. This is concerning.

  2. Sutton D. June 12, 2013

    Well, I take you at your word and feel I do not need to ask you to justify your statements.
    What Fr. Ron does for me is that he stirs up my thoughts to entertain a different perspective.
    I am somewhat encouraged that Fr. Ron talks about things we see and feel daily–but no one
    seems to talk about–he does. Thus the Son “ship” of Jesus, Buddha, what it means to curse the world, his realization (or awareness) of his own Divinity stir up thoughts that force me to reconsider. I do not see Fr. Ron as a sort of Pied Piper leading us to follow him off a spiritual pier of perdition. I think more can be gained from reading him than not.

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