He had a great sense of humor. To me, that is one of the most important qualities of a genuine religious man. While he was dying, he still kept his lamp by his side. Somebody asked Diogenes, “You are dying. Let us know about the man you were searching for. Your life is ending; have you been successful in finding the authentic man?”
He was almost on the verge of death, but he opened his eyes and said, “No, I could not find the authentic man. But I am happy that nobody has stolen my lamp yet – because all around there are thieves, criminals, all kinds of robbers, and I am a naked, unprotected man. This gives me great hope: I carried the lamp my whole life and nobody has stolen it yet. This gives me great hope that someday the man will be born whom I have been looking for; perhaps I have come too soon.” And he died.
So Alexander had heard and had loved many stories about him. He said, “I would like to go.” 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 Alexander the Great.”
Diogenes said, “My God.” And he looked at the dog and said, “Did you hear?” – that was his constant habit, to refer to the dog: “Did you hear? This man thinks himself the greatest man in the world. And 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… What have you come here for?”
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 a man…certainly strange, but in a way immensely beautiful. I am just going to conquer the world, and I heard that you are just residing here. I could not resist the temptation to come and see.”