Friday, March 19, 2010

The Beautiful Ending Of a Life Well Lived

A well known Korean died on March 11th in Seoul at the age of 78 after a long battle with lung cancer. He was a best-selling author of 30 books and a Buddhist Monk who had won the respect and love of Koreans from all sectors of society. His best known book, Non-possession, over 3 million copies sold, was written for those who were looking for a better material life--a life he spent a lifetime stepping away from. In this book, he urged others to take another look at living a more non-materiialistic lifestyle, a life guided by non-attachment to things of this world. "Poverty," he wrote, "made by choice is not poverty at all."

His life was one of non possessing. His only possessions were clothes, eyeglasses, and a tea-pot. Even in death, he wanted a funeral as simple as possible--no casket or shroud. And, although his books were best sellers, he requested that there should be no more printings made of his books. He had left nothing behind, and he wanted his words to disappear as well.

He was friends with many Catholics, including a close relationship with the late Cardinal Kim and poet Sister Lee (Claudia) Hae-in. In an interview appearing in The Chosun Ilbo, Sister Lee Hae-in mentions a number of cherished moments with Beong Jeong. When the Sister used a Buddhist word, he would respond with a Catholic word. Cardinal Kim and Ven. Jeong were able to keep their religious beliefs and convictions without having that interfere with the respect they showed towards the beliefs of others. Sister would like to see that way of seeing others imitated by society.

She mentions how Beong Jeong's writing style was able to reveal his character so clearly and simply--qualities of writing that were very much the qualities of the man himself. His style was who he was. He had a gift of going deeply into what he was writing about, a gift of insight that attracted a devoted following of readers.
She recalled a time when he came to see her in the convent in Pusan, and they went out to the ocean to walk along the beach. (She regrets not having a picture of that meeting.) Beong Jeong told her he spent most of his time living in the mountains and that he was happy to see the ocean. He was used to eating only rice instead of the broth that was now beside him; he said it was good. .

He was, by any standard, a great man with much to teach a society that feels material progress is of primary importance. In The Beauiful Ending, he wrote "A beautiful ending always requires the preparation to leave. It resembles a pilgrim or a traveler not attached to anything. It is about using the gifts of the universe gratefully and preparing to leave everything behind.''


  1. Sorry my comment is not related to this post. I am trying to get in touch with the Serra Club of Pusan. They are a Catholic Vocation Promotion Ministry. Have you heard of them? Tks :)

  2. I can give you the e-mail for the Vocation Office of the Hope this helps.