Alexander meets Diogenes…Twice!

1001 Tales told by the Master Discourses

Osho tells a rare account of a second meeting between Alexander and Diogenes, published here in the series 1001 Tales, compiled by Shanti.


That’s why millions of people have denied God – because the very presence of God, the very idea that God is, is frightening. That means sooner or later you will have to encounter him; sooner or later you will have to face him. That makes people very much afraid. They start trembling – the very idea: facing God! Then what are you doing? Is it worth it? Will you be able to say to God that this is what you have been doing? This is what you have wasted your life in? That you were a prime minister? That you were so stupid as to waste your whole life for power-politics? That you were a rich man; that you wasted your whole life in collecting rubbish? Will you be able to face God?

And all that you attained in life will be left here. You will not be able to carry your money or your power. You will be standing naked, utterly ashamed.

There is a beautiful story:

When Alexander the Great was coming to India, he met one strange man, Diogenes, on the way. Diogenes is one of the rare flowerings of human consciousness. Alexander was interested in the man; he had heard many stories about him. He was afraid to go to him. It was below him, it was against his ego. But when he was coming to India, on the way he heard that he was living just by the side of the river. Then he could not resist the temptation and he said, “Nobody will know back home that I had gone to see Diogenes. And I can always say that I was just passing and I met him by accident.”

He went to see Diogenes. It was a winter morning, a cool breeze was blowing and Diogenes was lying on the river-bank, on the sand, taking a sunbath naked. He was a beautiful man. When there is a beautiful soul, a beauty arises which is not of this world – which is illogical.

If Alexander looks beautiful, it is logical, remember, because he has all that you think one should have. He has power, money; he has all that one can think or imagine to have. His beauty is that of possessions.

Now, here was a man lying naked, with nothing – he had nothing, not even a begging-bowl. Buddha at least had a begging-bowl. Diogenes didn’t have a begging-bowl, because one day when he was walking and going towards the river with his begging-bowl to get some water to drink, he saw a dog rushing to the river. Of course the dog reached first and the dog jumped in the river and drank. Diogenes laughed and he said, “This dog has taught me a lesson. If he can live without a begging-bowl, then why can’t I?” He threw the begging-bowl, he also jumped like the dog in the river and drank. Since then he had had nothing. And this dog must have felt something for Diogenes, because they became friends; they lived together.

Alexander came. He could not believe the grace of the man. He had never seen such a graceful man, such utter beauty, something from the unknown, something illogical… because there is no reason! You cannot pin it down, where it is coming from. He was in awe and he said, “Sir…” He had not said “Sir” to anybody in his life.

He said, “Sir, I am immensely impressed by your being and I would like to do something for you. Is there something that I can do for you?”

Diogenes said, “Just stand to the side, because you are preventing the sun – that’s all. Nothing else do I need.”

Alexander said, “If I have another chance to come to the earth, I will ask God, instead of making me Alexander again, to make me Diogenes.”

Diogenes laughed and he said, “That you won’t ask for, because who is preventing you right now? You can become Diogenes. Where are you going? For months I have seen armies moving and moving – where are you going? and for what?”

And Alexander said, “I am going to India to conquer the whole world.”

“And then what are you going to do?” Diogenes asked.

And Alexander said, “Then I will rest.”

And Diogenes laughed again and he said, “You are mad – because I am resting now; and I have not conquered the world. I don’t see the necessity of it. If just in the end you want to rest and relax, why not now? How are they related? Who has told you that before resting, you have to conquer the world? And I tell you: if you don’t rest now, then never. You will never be able to conquer the world, because something or other will always remain to be conquered… and life is short and time is fleeting. You will die in the middle of your journey – everybody dies in the middle of the journey.”

Alexander said, “I will keep it always in mind, but right now I cannot do it. But many many thanks for your advice.”

And Alexander died in the middle. He never reached back home, he died on the way. When he was moving back from India, he died on the way. And that day he remembered Diogenes. Only Diogenes was in his mind – he could never rest in his life… and that man rested.

And then a strange story has been known down the ages, that Diogenes also died on the same day. And they met on the way towards God, just crossing the border river. Alexander was ahead, a few feet ahead, when he heard somebody behind. He looked back and he was surprised – surprised and ashamed.

It was Diogenes, the same beautiful man.

Alexander tried to hide his shame. He said, “So again, again we are meeting, the emperor and the beggar.”

And Diogenes said, “That is true. But you misunderstand one thing: you don’t know who is the beggar and who is the emperor. You are the beggar, I am the emperor, because I lived my life totally, I enjoyed it.

“And I can go to God, I can face him. You will not be able to face him, because I can see: you cannot even face me! You are trembling, you are ashamed. You cannot look into my eyes – what will happen to you when you have to face God? Your whole life has been a wastage.”

Excerpt from Osho, Take It Easy – Talks on Zen Buddhism Vol 1, Ch 4, Q 2

Series compiled by Shanti, a regular contributor to Osho News
All excerpts of this series can be found in: 1001 Tales

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