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.”

Korean Zen stories

Once it happened that two monks were traveling. They crossed a river in a boat, and the ferryman said to them, “Where are you going? If you are going to the city beyond this valley, go slowly.’

But the old monk said, “If we go slowly we will never reach, because we have heard that the gates of that city are closed after sunset, and we have just one or two hours at the most, and it is a very long distance. If we go slowly we will never reach, and we will have to wait outside the city. And the outside of the city is dangerous—wild animals and everything—so we will have to make haste.

The ferryman said, “Okay, but this is my experience: Those who go slowly, reach.”

The other monk listened to it. He was a young man and he thought, “I don’t know this part of the country, and this ferryman may be right, so it is better to follow his advice.” So he walked slowly, leisurely, as if not going anywhere, not in a hurry, just for a walk.

The old man hurried, started running. He had many scriptures on his back. Then he fell down: Tired, carrying weight,
old, in such a hurry, so tense, he fell down. The man who was not in a hurry simply walked and reached.

The ferryman was following and he came near the old man. He was lying by the side of the road; his leg was broken and blood was oozing out.

The ferryman said, “I told you that this has been always so: Those who walk slowly reach, those who are in a hurry always manage to stumble ‘somewhere or other. These parts are dangerous. The road is rough and you are an old man. And I had advised you, but you wouldn’t listen to me.”

Never Keep a cat in House

A great mystic was dying. He called his disciple, the chief disciple. The disciple rejoiced very much that the master was calling him. There was a great crowd and the mystic is calling only him; he must be giving some secret key that he has not given to anybody up to now. “This is the way he is choosing me as his successor!” He came close to the master.

The master said, “I have only one thing to tell you. I didn’t listen to my master—he had also told me when he was dying, but I was just a fool and I didn’t listen, and I didn’t even understand what he meant. But I am telling you from my own experience he is right, although it had looked very absurd when he said it to me.’

The disciple asked, “What is it? Please tell me. I will try to follow it word by word.”

The master said, “It is a very simple thing: Never, never in your life keep a cat in your house!” And before the disciple could have asked why, the master died!

Now he was at a loss—what a stupid kind of thing! Now whom to ask? He inquired of some old people in the village, “Is there any clue to this message? There must be something mysterious in this!”

One old man said, “Yes, I know, because his master—your master’s master—had also told him, ‘Never, never keep a cat in your house!’ but he didn’t listen. I know the whole story.”

The disciple said, “Please tell me so I can understand. What is the secret hidden behind it? I want it to be decoded for me so I can follow it.’

The old man laughed. He said, “It is a simple thing, it is not absurd. Your master’s master had given him a great message, but he never inquired, ‘What is the meaning of it?’ You are at least intelligent enough to inquire about it. He simply forgot about it.

Your master was young when the message was given; he used to live in the forest. He had only just two clothes with him; that was all he possessed. But there were big rats in the house and they would destroy his clothes, and again and again he would have to ask the villagers for new clothes.

“The villagers said, ‘Why don’t you keep a cat? You just keep a cat and the cat will eat the rats and there will be no problem. Otherwise—we are poor people—how can we go on supplying you with new clothes every month?’

“It was so logical that he asked somebody for a cat. He got a cat, but then the problems started. The cat certainly saved his clothes, but the cat needed milk because once the rats were finished the cat was starving. The poor man could not meditate because the cat was always there, crying, weeping, going round and round and round him.

“He went to the villagers and they said, ‘This is a difficult thing—now we will have to supply milk for you. We can give you a cow. You be finished, you keep the cow. You can drink, and your cat can also survive. That way you need not come every day for your food either.’ “The idea was perfectly right. He took the cow now the world started.

That’s how the world starts. The cow needed grass, and the people said, ‘We will come in the coming holidays and we will clear the forest, prepare the ground. You start growing a little wheat, other things, and leave a part for the grass.’ “And the villagers came according to their promise. They cleared the forest, they cleaned the soil, they planted wheat. But now it was such a problem: You have to water.. And the whole day the poor man was engaged in looking after the field. No time to meditate, no time to read the scriptures! “He again went to the villagers. He said, ‘I am getting deeper and deeper into difficulties. Now the question is, when to meditate—no time is left.’

They said, ‘You wait. One woman has just become a widow, and she is young and we are afraid that she will tempt the young people in the town. You please take her with you.. And she is healthy enough—she will take care of your field, the cow, the cat, and she will prepare food for you, and she is very religious, too. So don’t be worried, she will not disturb you.’

“That’s how things move to their logical conclusion. Now from the cat, how far the man had moved! “And the woman came and she started looking after him, and he was very happy for a few days. And she would massage his feet
and slowly, slowly, what was going to happen happened: They got married. And when you get married in India, at least
one dozen children—one dozen is the minimum! So all meditation, all sannyas, disappeared.

“He remembered only when he was dying. He remembered again that when HIS master was dying he had told him, ‘Beware of the cats.’ That’s why he has told you. Now you be aware of the cats! Just one step in the wrong direction and you have to go the wrong way; and your mind is with you wherever you go.”

Kabir the weaver

Kabir was a weaver. He continued his work his whole life. even after his enlightenment he was still weaving; he loved it!

Many times his disciples asked him, prayed to him with tears in their eyes: “You need not work anymore we are here to take care of you! So many disciples, why go on in your old age spinning, weaving?”

Kabir would say, “But do you know for whom I am weaving, for whom I am spinning? For God!—because everyone is now a god to me. It is my way of prayer.”

Buddha and Distress

Once a man came to Buddha and asked, “The world is in such a distress, people are in so much misery—how can you manage to sit silently and so joyously?”

Buddha said, “If somebody is suffering from fever, has the doctor also to lie down by his side and suffer? Has the doctor out of compassion to get the infection and lie down by the side of the patient and be feverish? Is that going to help the patient? In fact, whereas there was only one person ill, now there are two persons ill—the world is doubly ill! The doctor need not be ill to help the patient; the doctor has to be healthy to help the patient. The healthier he is, the better; the healthier he is, the more help is possible through him.”

P. D. Ouspensky and Death

One of the great disciples of Gurdjieff, P. D. Ouspensky, was dying. The doctors told him to rest but he would not—instead he continued walking the whole night. They thought he had gone crazy. He was dying, his energy was disappearing what was he doing? This was the time to rest; he would die sooner if he went on walking. But he would not stop.

Somebody asked, “What are you doing?”

He said, “I would like to die alert, awake. I don’t want to die asleep otherwise I will miss the beauty of death.” And he died walking.

Henry Ford and Opportunities

Somebody asked Henry Ford—because he had given a statement: “My success is through nothing but catching the right opportunity at the right moment.

People either think of opportunities that are in the future, you cannot catch hold of them, or they think of opportunities that have passed. When they are gone and only dust is left on the road, then they become aware that the opportunity has passed.”

Somebody asked, “But if you don’t think of an opportunity in the future and you don’t think of an opportunity that has passed, how suddenly can you get hold of it when it comes? You have to be ready.”
He said, “Not ready—you have to be just jumping. One never knows when it comes. When it comes, just jump upon it!”
What Henry Ford said has tremendous meaning. He said, “You simply keep on jumping. You don’t wait; don’t bother whether an opportunity is there or not: Just go on jumping. One never knows when it comes. When it comes, jump upon it and be done. If you go on looking into the future, wondering when the opportunity is coming … The future is unpredictable. If you wait, thinking ‘When it comes I will catch hold of it,’ by the time you become aware that it is there, it is gone. Time is fleeting, so fast, only dust will be there.
“Rather,” he said, “forget about opportunities, simply learn jumping, so whenever it comes .. .”

What is Meditation? (Three Friend and Buddhist Monk)

Three men went for a morning walk. They saw a Buddhist monk standing on the hill, and having nothing to do they just started discussing what that fellow was doing.

One said, “As far as I can see from here, he is expecting somebody and waiting for him. Perhaps a friend is left behind and he is waiting, expecting him.”

The second man said, “Looking at him I cannot agree with you, because when somebody is waiting for a friend who is left behind, once in a while he will look back to see whether he has come yet or not, and how long he will have to wait. But this man never looks back, he is just standing there. I don’t think he is expecting anybody. My feeling is that these Buddhist monks have cows.” In India they have a cow for milk for the morning tea; otherwise you have to go to beg for an early morning cup of tea.

The second man said, “My feeling is that his cow is lost some- where, must have gone to graze, and he is just searching for the cow.’

The third man said, “I cannot agree, because when somebody searches for a cow he need not just stand like a statue. You have to move around, you have to go and look from this side and that side. He does not even move his face from side to side. What to say about his face—even his eyes are half-closed.”

They were coming closer to the man, so they could see him more clearly. Then the third man said, “I don’t think you are right; I think he is meditating. But how are we to decide who is right?”

They said, “There is no problem. We are Just coming close to him, we can ask him.”

The first man asked the monk, “Are you expecting a friend who is left behind, waiting for him?”

The Buddhist monk opened his eyes and said, “Expecting? I never expect anything. Expecting anything is against my religion.”

The man said, “My God! Forget expecting; just tell me—are you waiting?

He said, “My religion teaches that you cannot be certain even of the next second. How can I wait? Where is the time to wait? I am not waiting.’

The man said, “Forget expecting, waiting—I don’t know your language. Just tell me, have you left some friend behind?”
He said, “Again the same thing. I don’t have any friends in the world, and I don’t have any enemies in the world—because they both come together. You cannot sort out one and leave the other. Can’t you see that I am a Buddhist monk? I don’t have any enemy, I don’t have any friend. Please get lost, don’t disturb me.”

The second man thought, “Now there is hope for me.” He said, “This I had told him already, that ‘You are talking nonsense. He is not waiting, not expecting—he is a Buddhist monk; he has no friends, no enemies.’ You are right. My feeling is that your cow is lost.”

The monk said, “You are even more stupid than the first man. My cow? A Buddhist monk possesses nothing. And why should I look for somebody else’s cow? I don’t possess any cow.” The man looked really embarrassed, what to do?

The third man thought, “Now, the only possibility is what I have said.” He said, “I can see that you are meditating.”
The monk said, “Nonsense! Meditation is not some activity. One does not meditate, one is meditation. To tell you the truth, so that all you fellows don’t get confused, I am simply doing nothing. Standing here, doing nothing—is it objectionable?” They said, “No, it is not objectionable, it just does not make sense to us standing here, doing nothing.”

“But,” he said, “this is what meditation is.” Sitting and doing nothing not with your body, not with your mind. Once you start doing something either you go into contemplation or you go into concentration, or you go into action, but you move away from your center. When you are not doing anything at all—bodily, mentally, on no level—when all activity has ceased and you simply are, just being, that’s what meditation is. You cannot do it, you cannot practice it; you have only to understand it.

Whenever you can find time for just being, drop all doing.

Thinking is also doing, concentration is also doing, contemplation is also doing. Even if for a single moment you are not doing