Spiritual conversation between Diogenes and Alexander the Great

So many stories about Diogenes, Alexander had heard and had loved. He said, “I would like to go and meet him.” It was early morning, the sun was rising. Diogenes was lying on the sand on the bank of the river taking a sunbath. Alexander felt a little awkward, because Diogenes was naked. He also felt embarrassed because this was the first time that somebody had continued to lie down in front of him—”Perhaps the man does not know who I am.”

So he said, “Perhaps you are unaware of the person who has come to meet you.” Diogenes laughed.

He also used to have a dog. That was his only companion. Asked why he had made a dog a friend, he said, “Because I could not find a man worth making a friend.” He looked at the dog who was sitting by his side and said, “Listen to what this stupid man is saying. He is saying I do not know who he is. The fact is, he himself does not know who he is. Now what to do with such idiots? You tell me.”

Shocked but it was a fact. Still, Alexander tried to make some conversation. He bypassed the insult. He said, “I am Alex-
ander the Great.’

Diogenes said, ‘ ‘My God.” He looked at the dog and said, “Did you hear that?”—that was his constant habit, to refer to the dog— “Did you hear that? This man thinks himself the greatest man in the world. That is a sure sign of an inferiority complex. Only people who suffer from inferiority pretend to be great; the greater the inferiority the more they start projecting themselves higher, bigger, vaster.”

But he said to Alexander, “What is the point of your coming to me? A poor man, a nobody, whose only possession is a lamp, whose only companion in this whole world is a dog, who lives naked For what have you come here?”

Alexander said, “I have heard many stories about you, and now I can see that all those stories are bound to be real—you are certainly a strange man, but in a way immensely beautiful. I am going to conquer the world, and I heard you are just residing here. I could not resist the temptation to come and see.’

Diogenes said, “You have seen me. Now don’t waste time, because life is short and the world is big—you may die before you conquer it. And have you ever considered if you succeed In conquering this world, what are you going to do next?—because there is no other world than this. You will look simply foolish. And can I ask you, why are you taking so much trouble conquering the world? You call me strange, someone who is just having a beautiful sunbath. But you don’t think yourself strange, stupidly strange, that you are on your way to conquer the world? For what? What will you do when you have conquered the world?”

Alexander said, “I have never thought about it, to be frank with you. Perhaps I will relax and rest when I have conquered the world.”

Diogenes turned to the dog and said, “Do you listen? This man is mad. He is seeing me already resting, relaxing—without
conquering a thing! And he will relax when he has conquered the whole world.”

Alexander felt ashamed. There was truth, so clear, so crystal clear—if you want to rest and relax, you can rest and relax now. Why postpone it for tomorrow? And you are postponing it for an indefinite time. Meanwhile you will have to conquer the whole world, as if conquering the whole world is a necessary step in being relaxed and finding a restful life.

I am looking foolish Alexander said, “I can understand before you. Can I do anything for you? I have really fallen in love with you. I have seen great kings, great generals, but I have never seen such a courageous man as you, who has not even moved, who has not even said ‘Good morning.’ Who fias not bothered about me—on the contrary, who goes on talking to his dog! I can do anything, because the whole world is in my hands. You just say, and I will do it for you.”

Diogenes said, “Really? Then just do one thing: Stand a little away from me, because you are blocking the sun. I am taking a sunbath, and you don’t understand even simple manners.”

Alexander remembered him continually. All through his journey to India and back, that man haunted him—the fact that he did not ask for anything. He could have given him the whole world just for the asking, but he asked only that Alexander move a little away because he was preventing the sun from reaching his body. As he was leaving, Diogenes had said, “Just remember two things, as a gift from Diogenes: One, that nobody has ever conquered the world. Something always remains unconquered because the world is multidimensional; you cannot conquer it in all its dimensions in such a small life. Hence everybody who has gone to conquer the world has died frustrated.

“Second, you will never come back home. Because this is how ambition goes on leading you farther and farther: It goes on telling you, ‘Just a few miles more. A few miles more and you will be attaining the very ambition of your heart.’ And people go on chasing hallucinations, and life goes on slipping through their hands. Just remember these two things as gifts from a poor man, a nobody.”

Alexander thanked him—although in the cool morning he each thing he said would was perspiring. That man was such
make you perspire even in the cold breeze on a cold morning, because he would hit exactly the wounds that you are hiding.

A strange coincidence: The day Alexander died, Diogenes also died. In Greek mythology, like many other mythologies

In Indian mythology the same is the case: Before entering the other world you have to pass through a river, the Vaitarani. In Greek mythology also you have to cross a river; that river is the boundary line of this world and that world.

Up to now, whatever I said is historical fact. But after the death of Diogenes and Alexander, this story became prevalent all over Greece. It is very significant. It cannot be historical, but it is very close to truth. It is not factual. That’s how I make the difference between facts and truth: A thing may be factual, but still untrue; a thing may be nonfactual, but still true. A story may be just a myth—not history, but of immense significance because it indicates toward truth.

It is said that Diogenes died a few minutes after the death of Alexander. They met while crossing the river—Alexander was ahead, Diogenes was coming behind. Hearing the sound Alexander looked back. It was an even more embarrassing encounter than the first one, because at least at that time Alexander was not naked; this time he was also naked.

But people try to rationalize, try to hide their embarrassment. So just to hide his embarrassment he said, “Hello, Diogenes. Perhaps this may be the first time in the whole history of existence that a great emperor and a naked beggar are crossing the river together.”

Diogenes said, “It is, but you are not clear about who is the emperor and who is the beggar. The emperor is behind the beggar. You wasted your life; still you are stubborn! Where is your empire? I have not lost anything because I had nothing, only that lamp. That, too, I had found by the side of the road—I don’t know to whom it belongs—and by the side of the road I have left it. I had gone into the world naked; I am coming from the world naked.”

That’s what Kabir says in one of his songs—Jyon ki tyon dhari “I have used the dinhin chadariyas Kabira jatan se odhi chadariya— clothes of life with such care and such awareness that I have returned to God his gift exactly as it was given to me.”