Sunday, March 21, 2010

Much Ado About Nothing

Last week a highly respected Korean Buddhist monk, the Venerable Beopjeong, died. It was all over the news.

He'd written a book in 1976 entitled 'Non-Possession', which espoused a philosophy of possessing nothing, and it sparked a non-materialist movement of sorts. Other books on the theme followed. Indeed, the Venerable Beopjeong saw the philosophy as transcending death and to that end asked not to be buried in a coffin, since this would mean he had something. So his body was covered in a simple cloth for his burial.

It was believed that after his death his still popular books on possessing nothing would no longer be printed at the monk's request, which was later confirmed; he didn't want to leave anything remaining in this world when he moved beyond it.

Then we learned that some of the otherwise devout Buddhists we know are scrambling to buy copies of 'Non-Possession' because 'it will go up in value'... It's even hit the news - the recommended price of 'Non-Possession' is normally 8,000 won (£4.69/$7.05), but the average second-hand selling price on a popular auction site is now 50,000 won (£29/$44), with 77,000 won (£45/$68) being the highest price anybody has paid, although one seller is holding out for 154,800 won (£91/$137). So much then, for the lesson - perhaps he left behind even less than he thought.

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