Departing this life without a penny
It is now more than two years since the late Reverend Beopjeong, one of Korea’s most venerated Buddhist leaders, passed away on Feb. 17, 2010.
During the month of May, amid the vibrancy of spring, we remember him as one of our greatest teachers. Without doubt, he was a frugal and temperate man as well as a profound essayist.
Many people love his compassionate view of life, and share the message of his books that he demonstrated throughout his life, living in the condition of ``non-possession.” While alive, he emphasized and taught people to live with few material possessions. ``If we have too much and try to have more than now, we are all destined to agony and unhappiness,” he said.
We can be free from stress and worry through non-possession and become happier. But, regretfully, there are many people who simply forget the late Beopjeong’s invaluable teaching, and we often learn the tragedies of those who ambitiously strive to have more than they need.
Korean politicians, in the ruling and opposition parties, wrangle for power, to win elections, to remain in power or to retake it. The mass media amplify the hollow words of the political arena and I am often surprised to notice that there is no one around me talking about current political issues and government policies. People seem to be more apathetic than ever. I wonder who will be Korea’s new president in December, but will it make any difference? History teachers us that almost all are alike.
What about our educational system? Middle-aged Koreans pay more and more money to send children to private academic institutes in order to gain entry to prestigious universities. It is disheartening and a sad indictment of the Korean education system that Seoul’s education chief was sent to prison on charges of bribing a rival candidate during the election that appointed him.
He must have made greater exertions to promote himself in the world than on making the education system more effective.
To our chagrin, the number of youngsters who commit suicide due to the stress of studying and pressure put upon them continues to rise.
What do all these different situations illustrate? Regardless of social class, people want more and more, irrespective of whether their behavior in obtaining power or status is fair and righteous.
Many rich people can afford to donate some of their money to needy people in our community.
However, although they have it all, they still want more.
Of course, there are also people in our society who put the wisdom of Beopjeong into practice. Many contribute enormous sums of money or even their entire property to social institutes and schools in need of financial support every year. Others promise to donate their organs after death because the number of patients in need organ transplants increased over recent years.
I hope Koreans will realize and practice a true sense of non-possession in their lives.
``The more do we possess, the more miserable our life is,” as the sage says to us again and again. Whether you are for or against Beopjeong’s teaching, I understand it is pretty hard for people to give up their possessions. But, if we try at least to have less than before while not coveting the things that belong to others, we will feel more comfortable and have less stress in our lives.
Who knows, if we try and continue to live this way, we might have fewer regrets over later departing from this life without a penny?
The writer works for Korea Marine Transport Co. and has contributed to The Korea Times for the last 20 years. His email address is email@example.com.