Buddhist leader Venerable Beopjeong dies at 77

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Buddhist leader Venerable Beopjeong dies at 77


Venerable Beopjeong

Venerable Beopjeong, a Buddhist leader widely known for his best-selling books including “Non-possession,” died of lung cancer yesterday at 1:51 p.m. at the Gilsang Temple in Seongbuk District, northern Seoul. He was 77 years old.

According to the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism, he had been receiving treatment at the Samsung Medical Center as his illness worsened late last month but was moved yesterday to Gilsang Temple and passed away there. He had been suffering from lung cancer for more than three years.

He spoke some of his last words to the monks of Gilsang Temple. “If you have anything left that you own, use it in activities to make a pure, fragrant society. I now need to leave behind time and space.”

Venerable Beopjeong was born Park Jae-cheol in Haenam, South Jeolla, on Oct. 8, 1932. In 1956, he was ordained under the tutelage of Venerable Hyobong and went on to serve as the editor in chief of a Buddhist publishing company, as well as a prolific translator of the Buddhist canon into Korean.

His 1976 book Non-possession went on to sell more than three million copies and is perhaps his most recognized book, included in middle and high school curriculums throughout Korea.

He opened Gilsang Temple in December 1997 and took the helm of all religious ceremonies and committee activities conducted there.

During his lifetime, Venerable Beopjeong was noted for his efforts to tear down barriers between different religions. In 1998, he gave a special lecture at Myeongdong Cathedral in front of 1,800 Catholics on freeing oneself from earthly possessions as a religious person and coming together to overcome the Asian financial crisis.

His funeral is set to take place tomorrow at 11 a.m. at Songgwang Temple in Suncheon, South Jeolla. It will be a small, private ceremony, in accordance with the monk’s wishes. Gilsang and Songgwang temples will be open to visitors wishing to pay their respects.

By Cho Jae-eun [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]
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불교적 메시지에 수필가의 감수성, 길상사 법문 땐 1000여 명씩 경청, “가사 입은 도둑들” 내부 폐단 질타

법정(法頂) 스님은 유서를 두 번 남겼다. 첫 유서도, 마지막 유서도 가슴을 때린다. 첫 유서는 1971년에 썼다. 39년 전이니 법정 스님이 39세 때였다. 유서의 제목은 ‘미리 쓰는 유서’. 거기서 법정 스님은 자신의 장례식 풍경을 이렇게 그렸다. “장례식이나 제사 같은 것은 아예 소용없는 일. 요즘은 중들이 세상 사람들보다 한 술 더 떠 거창한 장례를 치르고 있다. 그토록 번거롭고 부질없는 검은 의식이 만약 내 이름으로 행해진다면 나를 위로하기는커녕 몹시 화나게 할 것이다.”

‘미리 쓴 유서’처럼 법정 스님의 삶도 간결했다. 1932년 전남 해남에서 태어나 목포에서 자란 스님은 목포상고와 전남대 상과대학 3학년을 수료했다. 스무 살 즈음에 한국전쟁을 겪었다. 동족상잔의 비극 속에서 그는 인간과 존재라는 물음과 직면했다. 학창 시절, 밤을 새우며 그걸 묻고 또 물었다. 그리고 스물네 살 때, 싸락눈이 내리던 어느 날 집을 나왔다. 그저 “자유인이 되고 싶다”는 심정이었다.

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