When Alexander (the Great Idiot) Met Diogenes (the Ecstatic Beggar)
Sadhguru: Diogenes was a wonderful and ecstatic beggar who lived on a river bank in Greece. Somebody had given him a beautiful begging bowl and he wore only a loincloth. He begged at the temple gates and ate whatever food he got. One day, he finished his meal and was walking towards the river when a dog overtook him, ran into the river, swam around a little bit, came onto the sand and rolled around joyfully. He just looked at this and thought “Oh my god, my life is worse than that of a dog.” He was already ecstatic, but he was saying his life was worse than that of a dog, because many times, he had felt like just jumping into the river, but was worried about getting his loincloth wet and about what could happen if he left the beautiful begging bowl there. On that day, he threw away his begging bowl and loincloth and lived totally naked.
One day, he was lying down on the river bank in an ecstatic state, when Alexander came that way. Alexander is called Alexander the Great. I would like to add a third name to him – Alexander the Great Idiot, because he was one person who wasted life. He wasted his life and other people’s lives. At the age of sixteen he started fighting. For another sixteen years he fought non-stop, killing thousands of people on his way. He died at the age thirty-two, in a most miserable condition because he had managed to conquer only one half of the world, the other half was still left. Only an utter idiot can fight for sixteen years like this.
Alexander came riding his big horse, in his emperor’s clothes and looked down at Diogenes who had his eyes closed and was rolling in the sand in great ecstasy. Alexander raised his voice and almost screamed at him, “You wretched animal. You do not have a piece of cloth on your body. You are like an animal. What is it that you are so ecstatic about?” Diogenes looked up at him and asked him a question that nobody would have ever dared to ask an emperor. He asked, “Would you like to be like me?” This struck Alexander so deeply and he said, “Yes, what should I do?” Diogenes said, “Get off that stupid horse, take off those emperor’s clothes and throw them into the river. This river bank is big enough for both of us. I am not conquering the whole thing. You can also lie down and be ecstatic. Who is stopping you?” Alexander said, “Yes, I would love to be like you, but I do not have the courage to do what you are doing.”
History books always told you that Alexander means courage. Yet Alexander admitted that he did not have the courage to do what Diogenes was doing. So Alexander replied, “I will join you in the next life.” He postponed it to his next life and in his next life, who knows, maybe he came as a cockroach! You have come with the human form with a certain possibility. If you waste that and you think you are going to make it the next time, who the hell knows about the next time?
For one moment, Alexander came close. But then he postponed it. Because of this incident, a certain dispassion dawned on him. He lost the passion for battle towards the end of his life, but he still fought out of habit. Once he lost the passion, he lost his energy and he died. Just before his death, he gave a very strange instruction to his people. He said, “When they make a coffin for me, there must be two holes on either side so that my two arms are outside the coffin, just to show all of you that even Alexander the Great goes empty handed.” This was the one sensible thing that he did in his life.
Do not wait for the last moment to do one sensible act in your life. It could be too late. This is the time when everything is in your hands. When your faculties are in your hands and when life is good, this is the time to look at life with as much depth as possible; not when things have gone wrong. Most people will look at their life with some depth only when things go wrong or some tragedy happens to them. When things have gone wrong, you may become willing, but you might have become incapable of the needed energy and focus. When everything is well, you must look at this life with as much depth as possible.
Editor’s Note: Here’s another fascinating story from the life and times of Alexander the Great Idiot.