The venerable Beopjeong, who was 77, passed away on account of lung cancer on March 12th at the Gilsang Temple. According to a survey conducted by Media Research in 2004, Beopjeong was selected as the most respected religious leader in Korea. He was highly esteemed and people aspired to be like him because of his teaching, 'Non-Possession'. He preached that we have to live a life with no possessions. Possessions create obsession of material things and in the end, the obsession becomes a torment. People today who regard material possessions very highly were deeply moved by this teaching. People were also impressed by the fact that he kept his words even at the end of his life. In his will, he said that "If you have anything that I left, please use it in activities to make a pure, fragrant society. I now need to abandon time and space.” His funeral was held simply, with no coffin and a simple funeral speech at the Songgwang Temple in Suncheon, South Jeolla, following his dying wishes on March 15th.
A reporter from the Dongguk Post visited Beopjeong's memorial alter located in the Gilsang Temple, where memories of him were recollected on the day of 49Jae (the Buddhist ceremony being held after the 49days of the person's death). Gilsang Temple is relevant to Beopjeong because he helped build Gilsang Temple with the contributions of Kim Young-Han, a female Buddhist. That is also where he spent his final days on this earth before passing away. Many visitors of all ages came to pay their respects to the deceased even if it was not a weekend. The DU reporter met a lot of people there and talked about the message that he left. "The late venerable Beopjeong is younger than me but he passed away first. I'm so sad," Oh Jung-Jae, an 83 year old man said. "Following his teachings on 'Non-Possession' had an extreme affect on my life. I abandoned all the things oppressed me, like alcohol, cigarettes, and greed of meat. This lifestyle made me healthier, and to this day I don't suffer from any illness." His voice was loud and resonant and he was proud of himself that he followed Beopjeong's teachings. Kwon Hye-Jin, who is in her mid 20's and currently looking for a job spoke in a quiet tone. "It is really hard to get a job so everyday I try to forget about my worries and focus on what's happening right now." After saying this she sighed deeply, and kept on saying that she was more relaxed now than ever before. "I had a feeling that the eyes of the picture of the deceased venerable Beopjeong kept on following me and encouraging me. His silent cheer helped me to remove the obsession of worries related to getting a job." His message seems to be sparkling in all people's minds.
The late Venerable Beopjeong's accomplishments were not limited only to Buddhist works such as translation of major Buddhist scripts and soothing people's mind. In his early years he participated in a movement for Democracy with others of differing faiths and together they spoke with one voice. He established friendly relationships with Catholics and showed us how to reconcile our differences with others and live in harmony. "He said to me that religion is just like a cloth," An Jung-Cheul, one member of the Translation Center for Buddhist Scriptures in Dongguk University recollected. "Cloth can't represent the value of oneself. The judgment of a person’s value is only evaluated with one's own contribution to society. So, religion can't be a matter between people."
An Jung-cheul, having had a relationship with him since 1968, introduced more anecdotes that show the notable personality of Beopjeong. An said that Beopjeong was really considerate of others. When he was in Bongeun Temple, An visited him and mischievously brought beer. "Master said to me that if I left the beer there he would drink it in the afternoon." An said, "think of it now, he would not drink it and gave it to others. He could have humiliated me but he did not. He considered my feelings." Furthermore, Beopjeong never blamed others but took responsibility himself. "I can't forget what he said while waiting for the boat which had not arrived. He said that he was too early." He accepted the situation and continued without any blame.
The Reverend Bae Tae-jin, who is in charge of general affairs for The Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, expressed his condolences in public. "He was a great man who broke down barriers between different religions," said Bae Tae-jin. "His life and teaching gave me inspiration. I try to follow his teaching." Regardless of religion, the late venerable Beopjeong inspired all the people in Korea. If you are interested in learning more about Beopjeong and his teachings, please look for his books at the DU library.
Park Ji-hyun firstname.lastname@example.org
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