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Respected Buddhist monk cremated in simple ceremony

SUNCHEON, South Korea, March 13 (Yonhap) -- Ven. Pup Jeong, a respected Buddhist monk who taught the freedom and fulfillment that can be attained through non-possession, was cremated in a simple religious ceremony at an ancient temple on Saturday.

   Pup Jeong died Thursday in Seoul at the age of 78 after a long battle with lung cancer.

   The shrouded body of the monk, who was also a popular author with a number of best-selling essay collections, was carried from the Moonsoo pavilion at Songgwang temple, about 400 kilometers southeast of Seoul, to an open field where wood was stacked for the cremation.

   The funeral procession was followed by 15,000 mourners from all over the country who came to watch the solemn event and pay their last respects to one of South Korea's most well-known religious figures.

   In accordance with his wishes, no coffin was provided. The body was covered in cloth and carried on a flat bamboo bench, with 10 of his former disciples and monks acting as pallbearers.

   Pup Jeong's body was placed on the funeral pyre with monks placing additional wood over the body before it was lit at 11:41 a.m.

   Funeral organizers said that the cremation will go on for roughly 24 hours with the fire put out before noon on Sunday after which his disciples will be responsible for collecting the remains.

   Prominent monks, politicians and other dignitaries were present for the cremation.

   "I am grateful to everybody. I will repent for the mistakes I made in this life ... Please use whatever belonged to me to help make a clean and good society," the monk was quoted as saying while dying. "It's time for me to abandon time and space."

   Pup Jeong, whose secular name was Park Jae-cheol, became devout in his Buddhist faith in 1954. He was officially ordained in 1959, and became well-known after publishing a book titled "Non-possession" in 1976.

   The monk's life followed the principles he taught, and despite his fame, he never took a high-profile position in Buddhist society, and lived alone in remote places for most of his life.