Osho on Greek Emperor Alexander
Alexander the Great (July 356 BC – June 323 BC) is a well-known war figure owing to his life-long expedition to Western Asia and Northeastern Africa in his innate desire to conquer the world. He ascended over the throne of Macedonia at the age of 20 and had created one of the largest empires by the time he was 30. Alexander was under the tutelage of Aristotle till the age of 16 and went on to explore philosophy and spirituality throughout his life of war. He died in 323 BC in Babylon on his way back to Macedonia – one defeat he could not shake.
Alexander started his conquest from the Persian empire in 334 BC and continued till 325 BC, turning back at the Beas River in India. He founded over twenty cities – all with his name, the most notable being Alexandria in Egypt. Alexander’s expedition led to cultural diffusion and syncretism – a blend of beliefs – in more ways than one. He is a prominent classical hero and is considered the greatest and most successful military commander in the world due to his unprecedented victory in all his battles; his tactics are still taught in various military academies around the world.
Osho narrates one of the most famous stories of Alexander, “…And Alexander died within six hours. Before he died, he asked for one thing only.
He said, “When you take me towards the cemetery, let my hands hang outside the casket.”
“Why?” asked his generals. “It has never been done, it is not conventional. Why this eccentric idea?”
Alexander said, “For a simple reason. I would like people to know that I am going empty-handed. I am dying like a dog. Let people know. I lived with the idea that I am great, that I am the world conqueror. But all that I have managed to do is waste my life. My whole kingdom is not capable of purchasing even a few minutes for me.”
Death is so powerful, but one thing it cannot take away from you, that is meditation. If you can become rooted in your being, alert, conscious, watchful, you will see that you are not the body, and you are not the mind, and you are not the heart. You are simply the witnessing soul, and that witnessing will go with you. Then you can witness even death. That witnessing is the source of all religion. Those who have attained to that source are the enlightened ones, are the buddhas.
In life, whatever you are doing, whatsoever it is, is wrong if it is not leading you towards meditation.”
Peace means a state of inner health, a state of inner wholeness, where you are not torturing others, not torturing yourself, where you are neither interested in happiness nor in unhappiness. You are simply interested in being absolutely silent, calm, quiet, collected, integrated.
Yes, when the mind is dropped… and mind means your whole past and all that you know and all that you have accumulated. Mind is your subtle treasure, your subtle possession. When all that mind has been dropped and you have entered into a state of no-mind, a great peace descends. It is silence, it is full of bliss, but Buddha avoids the word. I don’t avoid it.
Buddha had to avoid it, because in Buddha’s days bliss was talked about too much. The Upanishads were talking about it, Mahavira was talking about it, the whole Hindu tradition was talking about it. SAT-CHIT-ANAND — God is truth, consciousness, bliss, but the ultimate quality is bliss. Too much talk about bliss. Buddha must have felt that it is better not to use that word. That word has become too orthodox, too conventional, too conformist. And because it has been used so much it has lost its meaning, its savor, its salt, it has lost its beauty. But now it can be revived again; now nobody is talking about bliss.
But whether you call it peace or bliss is irrelevant. Just understand one thing: that it takes you beyond all dualities. Day and night, summer and winter, life and death, pain and pleasure — it takes you beyond all dualities — love and hate. It takes you beyond all dual phenomena. It takes you to the one. Hence Buddha says: ONE WORD. It is a simple, melodious, harmonious state of your inner health, inner sanity. One word is enough, far more significant. BETTER THAN A THOUSAND HOLLOW WORDS….
BETTER THAN A THOUSAND HOLLOW VERSES IS ONE VERSE THAT BRINGS PEACE.
There are poets and poets. There are two kinds of poets in the world. One is the poet who is a dreamer, who is very clever in imagination, in fantasy. He creates works of art, he creates sculpture, music, poetry, but all that remains dream stuff. It may entertain you for the time being, but it cannot give you any insight into reality. It may be a consolation, a solace, a lullaby; it may have a tranquilizing effect on you. Yes, that’s exactly what it does. All that is called aesthetics, art… has a tranquilizing effect on you. Listening to classical music you fall into a totally different kind of state. Everything becomes tranquil, still, but it is momentary; it is only a dream world that the musician creates around you. Listening to poetry or looking at great sculpture, for a moment you are dazed, stunned. The mind stops as if you are transported for a moment to some other world, but again you are back in the same old world, in the same old rut.
But there are different kinds of poets, painters, sculptors too: the Buddhas. A single verse from them may transform you forever. Listening to a Buddha is listening to divine music. Listening to a Buddha is listening to God himself. A Buddha is God visible, a Buddha is God available. A Buddha is a window into God, an invitation from the beyond. Shakespeare, Milton, Kalidas, Bhavabhuti, and thousands of others — these are the dreamers, great dreamers; beautiful are their dreams, but they are not the poets who can transform your being. Mohammed can do it, Christ can do it, Krishna can do it, Buddha can do it, Kabir, Nanak, Farid, yes, these people can do it.
What is the difference between the poetry of a Kabir and a Shakespeare? As far as poetry is concerned, Shakespeare is far more poetic, remember, than Kabir. Kabir knows nothing of the art. Shakespeare is very sophisticated; but still a single verse from Kabir is far more valuable than all the collected works of Shakespeare — because a single word from Kabir comes from insight, not from fantasy. That is the difference. Kabir has clarity, he has eyes which can see into the beyond. Shakespeare is as blind as you are. Of course, he is very efficient in bringing his fantasy into words. That’s art, worthy of respect, but at the most it can entertain you. It can keep you occupied beautifully, but there is no possibility of transformation happening through it. Even Shakespeare is not a transformed being, how can he transform you?
Only a buddha, only one who is awakened, can wake you up. Shakespeare is as fast asleep as you are, or maybe even deeper asleep than you are, because he is having such beautiful dreams. His sleep is bound to be deep, because he is not only having dreams, he is singing his dreams. He is bringing his dreams to expression — and still his sleep is not broken. Buddha is one who is awakened. Only one who is awake can wake you up.
BETTER THAN A THOUSAND HOLLOW VERSES IS ONE VERSE THAT BRINGS PEACE. And how will you know that you are around a buddha? His very presence will bring transcendental peace to you. So a buddha from the past cannot be of much help, because his words will again be hollow words; he will not be present in them. It will only be a beautiful cage, a golden cage studded with diamonds, but the bird has left the cage long ago. A Buddha is significant only when he is alive, because only his aliveness can trigger a process in you which will lead you ultimately to awakening.
BETTER THAN A HUNDRED HOLLOW LINES
IS ONE LINE OF THE LAW, BRINGING PEACE.
By law, Buddha does not mean any moral, social, political law. By law Buddha means dhamma: AES DHAMMO SANANTANO — the ultimate law, the eternal law, the law that makes this universe a cosmos instead of a chaos, the law that runs the whole universe in such tremendous harmony. BETTER THAN A THOUSAND HOLLOW LINES…. “Lines” is not really a good translation. The original word is SUTRA: sutra literally means thread. And
in the East the greatest statements of the masters have been called sutras, threads, for a certain reason. A man is born as a heap of flowers, just as a heap. Unless threads are used and the thread runs through the flowers, the heap will remain a heap and will never become a garland. And you can be offered to God only when you have become a garland. A heap is a chaos, a garland is a cosmos — although in the garland you also only see the flowers, the thread is invisible. The sayings of the masters are called sutras, threads, because they can make out of you a garland.
And only when you are a garland you can become an offering to God, only when you have become a cosmos, a harmony, a song. Right now you are just gibberish. You can write down… sit in a room, close the door and start writing on a paper whatsoever comes to your mind. Don’t edit it, don’t delete anything, don’t add anything, because you are not going to show it to anybody. Keep a matchbox by the side so once you have written it you can burn it immediately, so that you can be authentic. Just write whatsoever comes to your mind and you will be surprised: just a ten minutes’ exercise and you will understand what I mean when I say that you are just gibberish. It is really a great revelation to see how your mind goes on jumping from here to there, from one thing to another thing, accidentally, for no reason at all. What nonsense thoughts go on running inside you, with no relevance, no consistency. Just a sheer wastage, a leakage of energy!
The sayings of the buddhas are called sutras. Here the translator has used the word ‘line’ for sutra. Linguistically it is okay, but these are not linguistic matters. That is one of the great problems: to translate statements of Buddha, Christ, Krishna, is really almost an impossible job. And those who translate them are not awakened people themselves; they are great orientalists, linguists, grammarians. They know the original language, but they only know the language — and language is not the real point, it is only the garment. So remember: BETTER THAN A HUNDRED HOLLOW LINES means BETTER THAN A HUNDRED HOLLOW SUTRAS — logical, philosophical, proposed by great philosophers and thinkers, but they are hollow because they don’t contain the experience…. IS ONE LINE OF THE LAW — a single sutra of the law.
Who can assert the sutra of the law? Only one who has become awakened, only one who has become one with the ultimate law, only one who has himself become the dhamma. Not a religious person but one who himself has become religion itself. And how will you judge? — the same criterion continues: it brings peace.
Why are you here with me? Be here only if my presence brings peace to you. Be here only if listening to me a chord starts vibrating in you which brings peace. Be here only if your love for me helps you to transcend the world of dualities; otherwise being here is of no use. My presence cannot be for all; it can be only for the chosen few, only for those who have really come thirsty, inquiring, who really want to risk all to know God, who are ready to die for truth, who are ready to become sacrifices.
IT IS BETTER TO CONQUER YOURSELF
THAN TO WIN A THOUSAND BATTLES.
And in peace is victory. When peace surrounds you within and without, you are overflowing with peace, you have come home, you have conquered yourself, you are a master. IT IS BETTER TO CONQUER YOURSELF THAN TO WIN A THOUSAND BATTLES. One Buddha is far more significant and valuable than a million Adolf Hitlers. And this victory is something which is a real victory, because all other victories will be taken away from you. Alexander the Great dies like any beggar dies; he cannot take anything with him. He has conquered the whole world, and now going as a beggar….
It is said: there are three instances in Alexander’s life which are significant. One is the meeting with the great mystic, Diogenes. Diogenes was laying naked on the bank of a river taking a sunbath. It was early morning… and the early sun and the beautiful riverbank and the cool sand. And Alexander was passing by; he was coming to India.
Somebody told him, “Diogenes is just close by and you have always been inquiring about Diogenes” — because he had heard many stories about the man. He was really a man worth calling a man! Even Alexander, deep down, was jealous of Diogenes.
He went to see him. He was impressed by his beauty — naked, undecorated, with no ornaments. And he himself was full of ornaments, decorated in every possible way, but he looked very poor before Diogenes. And he said to Diogenes, “I feel jealous of you. I look poor compared to you — and you have nothing! What is your richness?”
And Diogenes said, “I don’t desire anything — desirelessness is my treasure. I am a master because I don’t possess anything — nonpossessiveness is my mastery, and I have conquered the world because I have conquered myself. And my victory is going with me, and your victory will be taken away by death.”
And the second story: When he was going back from India…. His teacher had told him, “When you come back from India, bring a Sannyasin, because that is the greatest contribution of India to the world.”
The phenomenon of a Sannyasin is uniquely Indian. Nowhere else has the idea of transcending the world totally captured the minds of people as it has in this country.
Aristotle was the teacher of Alexander. Aristotle had asked him, “Bring a Sannyasin when you come back. I would like to see what a Sannyasin is like, what it is all about.”
After conquering India, when he was going back he remembered. He inquired where to find a Sannyasin. People said, “Sannyasins are many but real sannyasins are very few. We know one.”
In Alexandrian reports his name is given as Dandamesh — it may be a Greek form of some Indian name. Alexander went to see the man — again the same beauty as Diogenes, the same peace. Whenever awakening happens it brings something similar. Around every Buddha you will find the same spring, the same fragrance, the same peace. Again, as he entered into the energy field of Dandamesh, he was tremendously affected, as if he had entered into a perfumed garden. He remembered Diogenes immediately. He asked Dandamesh, “I have come to invite you — come with me. You will be our royal guest, every comfort will be provided for, but you have to come with me to Athens.”
Dandamesh said, “I have dropped all coming, all going.” He was talking of something else; Alexander could not understand immediately. He was saying that, “Now there is no more coming in the world and no more going out of the world. I have transcended all coming and going.” What in the East we call AVAGAMAN — coming and going; coming into the womb and then going into death.
Alexander said, “But this is a commandment — I command you! You have to follow. This is the order from the great Alexander!”
Dandamesh laughed. The same laughter — again Alexander remembered Diogenes — the same laughter. Dandamesh said, “Nobody can command me, not even death.”
Alexander said, “You don’t understand — I am a dangerous man!” He pulled out his sword and he said, “Either you will come with me or I will cut off your head.”
Dandamesh said, “Do it, cut off the head — because what you are going to do now, I have done years before. When the head falls, you will see it falling on the earth and I will also see it falling on the earth.”
Alexander said, “How will you see it? You will be dead!”
Dandamesh said, “That is the point: I cannot die anymore, I have become a witness. I will witness my death as much as you will witness. It will happen between us two — you will be seeing, I will be seeing. And my purpose in the body is fulfilled: I have attained. There is no need for the body to exist anymore. Cut off the head!”
Alexander had to put his sword back in the sheath — you cannot kill such a man.
And the third story is:
When Alexander was dying he remembered both Diogenes and Dandamesh, and he remembered their laughter, their peace, their joy.
And he remembered that they had something that goes beyond death, “And I have nothing.”
He wept, tears came to his eyes, and he said to his ministers, “When I die and you carry my body to the cemetery, let my hands hang out of the casket.”
The ministers asked, “But this is not the tradition! Why? Why such a strange request?”
Alexander said, “I would like people to see that I came empty-handed and I am going empty-handed, and all my life has been a wastage. Let my hands hang out of the casket so everybody can see — even Alexander the Great is going empty-handed.”
These stories are worth meditating on.
Buddha says: IT IS BETTER TO CONQUER YOURSELF THAN TO WIN A THOUSAND BATTLES THEN THE VICTORY IS YOURS.
No other victory is yours. It can’t be taken from you — that’s why it is yours.
IT CANNOT BE TAKEN FROM YOU,
NOT BY ANGELS OR BY DEMONS,
HEAVEN OR HELL.
Nobody can take it away from you.
Remember, only that which cannot be taken away from you is yours. Anything that can be taken away from you is not yours. Don’t cling to it, because the clinging will bring misery to you. Do not be possessive of anything that can be taken away from you because your possessiveness will create anguish for you. Abide with that which is really yours, which nobody can take away from you. It cannot be stolen, you cannot be robbed of it, you cannot go bankrupt as far as it is concerned. Even death cannot take it.
Krishna says: NAINAM CHHINDANTI SHASTRANI — you cannot cut it by weapons, swords cannot penetrate it, arrows cannot reach to it, bullets are absolutely powerless as far as it is concerned. NAINAM DAHATI PAVAKAH — neither fire can burn it.
When on a funeral pyre your body will be burned, YOU will not be burned — if you have known yourself, if you have understood what this consciousness is within you. If you have conquered your consciousness, then the body will be burned, turned to ashes, but you will not be burned, you will not be touched even. You will remain forever — you are eternal. But this eternity can be known only when you become a master on your own. Don’t waste your time in mastering others, in conquering power, prestige, in conquering the world. Conquer yourself. The only thing worth conquering is your own being.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol 3
Chapter title: A small candle
20 August 1979 am in Buddha Hall
Osho has spoken on many politicians and rulers like Abraham Lincoln, Lenin, Mao Tse Tung, Jawaharlal Nehru, Kennedy, Stalin, Churchill, Roosevelt, Alexander, Napoleon, Machiavelli and more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:
- From Bondage to Freedom
- From Ignorance to Innocence
- The Path of the Mystic
- From False to Truth
- From Misery to Enlightenment
- Zen: Zest, Zip, Zap, Zing
- Beyond Psychology
- Live Zen
- The Invitation
- Communism and Zen Fire, Zen Wind
- The Book of Wisdom
- The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol 3
- Sufis: The People of the Path, Vol 2