Alexander never could attain to being the conqueror of the whole world. He could not reach to the very end of India; he could not reach to Japan, to China, to Australia, and of course America was not known. He turned back from the Punjab. He was only thirty-three, but the ambition and the continuous struggle to fulfill it had made him so tired and spent, like a used cartridge. He was only thirty-three, at the prime of his youth, but in his inner world he had become old and was ready to die. Somehow, perhaps in death, there would be rest.
And Diogenes’ shadow was always following him: “You will not be able to conquer the world.” He turned back, and before reaching Athens, his capital – just twenty-four hours more…
Sometimes small incidents become so symbolic and so meaningful. Just twenty-four hours more and he would have at least been back in his capital, in his home – not in the real home that Diogenes was pointing at, but at least in the house which we all try to make a home.
The home is inside. Outside there are only houses. But he could not even reach the outside house. He died twenty-four hours before reaching Athens.
A strange coincidence: the day Alexander died, Diogenes also died. In Greek mythology, like many other mythologies… The same is the case in Indian mythology: before entering the other world you have to pass through a river, the Vaitarani. In Greek mythology also you have to cross a river; that river is the boundary line of this world and that world.
Up to now, whatever I have said is historical fact. But after the death of Diogenes and Alexander, this story became prevalent all over Greece. It is very significant. It cannot be historical, but it is very close to truth. It is not factual.
That’s how I make the difference between facts and truth: a thing may be factual, but still untrue; a thing may be non-factual, but still true. A story may be just a myth – not history, but of immense significance because it indicates towards truth.
It is said that Diogenes died a few minutes after the death of Alexander. They met while crossing the river – Alexander was ahead, Diogenes was coming behind. Hearing the sound Alexander looked back. It was an even more embarrassing encounter than the first one, because at that time at least Alexander was not naked; this time he was also naked.
But people try to rationalize, try to hide their embarrassment. So just to hide his embarrassment he said, “Hello, Diogenes. Perhaps this may be the first time in the whole history of existence that a great emperor and a naked beggar are crossing the river together.”
Diogenes said, “It is, but you are not clear about who is the emperor and who is the beggar. The emperor is behind the beggar. You wasted your life; still you are stubborn! Where is your empire? I have not lost anything because I had nothing, only that lamp. That too I had found by the side of the road – I don’t know to whom it belongs – and I have left it by the side of the road. I had gone into the world naked, I am coming from the world naked.”