Another monumental loss

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Another monumental loss

Age and death stop for no one.

Our society has been in mourning since last year, when we lost leaders both political - two former presidents - and spiritual - Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan.

Now another great spirit has left us. Venerable Beopjeong of the Jogye Order passed away yesterday.

It is a rude awakening, as we’re now without two great spiritual teachers of our time.

Master Beopjeong preached the necessity of avoiding an obsession over material possessions, and he lived by his words.

There have been and still are many monks with honorable virtues and intelligence. But few touch, soothe and heal the suffering hearts of this mundane world.

Before leaving us 17 years ago, Master Seungcheol imprinted the ideas of self-value and self-awareness on our collective minds with his famous saying that “the mountains are mountains and water is water.”

Beopjeong’s message to us was liberation from possessions. His book of essays, called “Non-possession,” has been a best seller for the last decade.

His philosophy could not have won so many fans in the secular community if his life had not been synchronized with his teachings. He stubbornly resisted any worldly honors, kept to a humble life in a mountaintop cabin and on his deathbed yearned to go back to his home in Gangwon.

He desired and sought nothing physically and materially, yet his spirit was always warm with care and concern for the living. He was constantly learning, writing, teaching and living among the people. In the 1970s, he stood at the forefront of protests against dictatorship. He served as an editor for the Buddhist paper and head of a training temple and philosophy research center. He was vocal and active in environmental, humanitarian and civilian movements.

Because he was not attached to material goods, it was easy for him to communicate and connect with others. Cardinal Stephen used to attend his services, and Beopjeong would in turn attend the cardinal’s.

The society he left behind is defined by pursuit of possessions and locked in a bottleneck due to lack of communication.

We race to beat others in education, wealth and social status. Society is torn and divided by a severe rift in wealth, education and interests in state affairs. The church is obsessed with enlarging itself, while the temple is never without noise. Master Seongcheol touched our hearts with depth and detachment. Master Beopjeong touched us with his humility.
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