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[Opinion] Be Neither Gain Nor Loss

Posted February. 09, 2004 23:16,   


A married couple, Sohn Jin-soo, 48, an architect, and Park Hyun-shin, 40, a culinary artist, built a detached house next to a lake in Yongin, Korea about four years ago, and have lived there ever since. It is a place where a wet fog curls up all over the lake at dawn and grass insects sing a song like a melody of orchestra in the nighttime. The husband, who is good at construction work, is the CEO of a small architecture office and, concurrently, the worker of his house. The wife decks out their own small dining table with diverse foods made with the vegetables and fresh fruits gathered from a small kitchen garden, and puts down comments about her food.

The family precept of this house is “be neither gain nor loss.” It is the motto on which Park’s father has focused so much, meaning: “You should not harm others, and should not try to gain a profit from them unreasonably.” Although it can be understood as selfish when one listens to it absent-mindedly, the real meaning of it is different from the self-interested one. It possess a meaning which points out that one should not harm others because there are too many people who hurt others and that one should not focus only on gaining a profit based on unreasonable reasons because there are too many people who cannot even look after their own selves when they take interest in others. Like the family precept, this couple enjoys their simple life with pleasure and effectiveness, and without avarice.

Oh Hyun, the head monk of Backdam Temple located on Seolak Mountain in Korea is famous for kicking off volunteer workers. One day, when a woman visited his temple and said that “I would like to offer food to Buddha and render service to the poor people,” Oh, at once, asked: “Did you prepare the breakfast table for your parents this morning?” When she hesitated to answer and blushed with shame, Oh thundered out to her, saying “Go away! Go and look after your husband and parents! You don’t have to be worried about us, for the monks left home to prepare their foods with their own hands.”

In recent times, there are too many people and organizations which assert that they exist for the sake of the others. Without paying attention to their own family members, friends, and relatives, they are eager to attend to their mother country, earth, and the human race. I have always shouted at them in my own heart only: “Mind your own business!” As for the common people, who work hard merely to keep the wolf from the door, it is sufficient not to harm others and quietly help out the other neighbors, relatives, and family members.

Editorialist Oh Myung-chul, oscar@donga.com