Alexander was asked by a sannyasin…because Alexander wanted to take a sannyasin with him to Athens. His master, Aristotle, had asked him to bring back a sannyasin. He had heard so much about these people, and they seemed to be of a totally different quality. “So bring back at least one sannyasin.” Aristotle was interested to know what kind of vibe a sannyasin has, what it was that was keeping the whole East on a different wavelength.
The sannyasin was naked, standing by the side of a river, and Alexander introduced himself: “I am Alexander the Great, who has conquered the whole world.”
The sannyasin laughed. He said, “Don’t be foolish. Just answer me one question: have you conquered yourself?”
Alexander had never thought about it. It was so alien, so foreign a thought; it had never occurred to him that one has to conquer oneself.
And the sannyasin said, “You have some nerve. Without conquering yourself, you started conquering the whole world. Be ashamed! First conquer yourself; that is the only true victory.”
I am reminded of a small story which Western historians never mention.
When Alexander invaded India, he was camping on the bank of the river Sindhu, which was the boundary line of an Indian empire. The king of that empire was Poras. It was the rainy season, and the river Sindhu was almost like an ocean. It is a very big river, but in times of rain it becomes hundreds of times bigger. Alexander and his forces were waiting so that when the water subsided they could manage to cross it.
But one boat from Alexander’s camp was sent across the river, and the boat was carrying Alexander’s wife. It was the month of shravan. In India, in the month of shravan, the women tie a thread on their brother’s wrist – it is called rakshabandhan – and the brother promises that he will protect the sister even if he has to lose his life.
The wife of Alexander was received with great warmth and taken to the palace. Poras asked, “Why have you come? You could have called me, informed me, and I could have come to your camp. It was dangerous to cross the river.”
But Alexander’s wife said, “I had to come…because it is the month of shravan. I don’t have a brother and I want to make you my brother.”
Poras said, “This is a great coincidence – I don’t have a sister. I am immensely happy to have you as a sister.” She tied a thread on his wrist, and he promised that he would protect her even if he had to lose his life.
She said, “I trust your word. Just remember, soon you will be fighting with my husband. Remember that he is your sister’s husband and don’t make me a widow.”
The time came when the river subsided, and Poras and Alexander faced each other, fought. There came a moment…because Poras was sitting on his elephant – in India the elephant was used in wars – while Alexander was sitting on his horse…a moment came when Poras killed the horse. Alexander was down flat on the earth, and Poras was just going to kill him with his spear.