‘Ava’ On How To Count Someone As Happy

Dave in his letter to Ava on his impending assassination due to his bid to save her said, ‘”Count no man as happy until his end is known“… It’s not until you know how someone dies that you know what really mattered to them. What they cared about, what they’d sacrifice for. What they would die for. Who they loved and who loved them in return. We don’t have much control over our lives. But our end? Sometimes we write that story. If you’re getting this, you know my end. I’ve never been happier.’

It is when on the edge between life and death that our worldly attachments and spiritual aspirations surface clearly. What (or who) you are truly willing to live for should be what (and who) you are truly willing to die for. How well we cared does matter to those cared for, while whether we are cared for in reciprocation is actually optional. For that we have control over, we should control fully. The story of how we depart is always written by us, as we get to choose our final attitude, even if the manner of death is forced upon us.

When Solon the Athenian wise man uttered ‘Count no man as happy until his end is known’ to King Croesus of Lydia, the latter was so caught up with arrogance from his wealth and power that he did know see its truth. It was on the brink of death, when his pride and money did not help at all, that he realised what it meant, then repeating the line — such that it is now attributed to both Solon and Croesus.

What Solon meant was that when alive, one is still subject to worldly (karmic) turns of fortunes and misfortunes. Thus, it is whether there is a happy (i.e. peaceful and honourable) death that determines if the whole of one’s life can be considered as truly happy or not. This might be in part conditioned by wealth, but wealth is surely no guarantee for True Happiness. It is actually possible to live frugally but die happy, just as it is to live filthily rich but die unhappy.

Despite not knowing exactly how our lives will end later, we can decide how our lives should be led now. The worthier the lives we live are, the happier the deaths we will have. The quality of death is after all the overall conclusion on the quality of our lives. Of course, it is also possible to turn our lives around for the better in time, but why take the risk of making last-minute changes when the moment of death is uncertain but surely coming?

For Buddhists, beyond whether one departs happy or not, there should be focus on whether one’s rebirth will be happy or not too — since most, if not all of us will still not attain liberation by the end of this life. A happy death leads to a happy rebirth, but it is possible to ensure there is the happiest rebirth possible, by practising to attain birth in the Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss. There, progress towards the Ultimate Bliss of Buddhahood is guaranteed to be the swiftest possible. This can be said — ‘Count no one as truly happy until Pure Land and Buddhahood are reached!’

Please Be Mindful Of Your Speech, Namo Amituofo!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.