During the Warring States era in China, a man brought what he claimed to be an elixir of immortality to offer up to the king of the So country.
The gate keeper official asked the man, “Can it be eaten?”
The man replied, “Yes, of course!”
So, the official grabbed the potion and swallowed it.
The king got upset and ordered the official be put to death by beheading.
The official exclaimed, “Great King, I asked him whether or not it can be eaten. He replied in the affirmative. I therefore ate it because he said so. So, it’s really his fault that I ate it. Furthermore, if it were truly an elixir of immortality then why is it that after I ate it I will die? In other words, your devoted subject exposed a charlatan who tried to fool us.”
The king chuckled at the humorous argument, ordered the man to be executed, pardoned the official and even gave him a reward.
* * * * *
The official was lucky that the king appreciated his humor. The king could have also humorously chosen to test the elixir of immortality by continuing with the beheading order to see if the official would die or not. Then order the execution of the commoner.
The story is humorous but it actually illustrates a Buddhist principle.
The Buddha said that if there is birth, there is death. And yet people of the world never have ceased to pursue immortality.
Even the Taoists method of practice can “lengthen life” but eventually they must eventually die.
Therefore, we should strive to have a meaningful life in order to repay our parents’ kindness in bringing us to this world and raising us. Moreover, we should also strive for a good death.
Worldly people have few clues about what happens after death. For the Buddhist disciples, a very good death is to manage to be reborn to the Land of Ultimate Bliss to get out of the Wheel of Reincarnation.
Homage to Amitabha Buddha of the Western Bliss Pure Land!