Alexander and the Sage
The legendary philosopher Aristotle had many famous disciples like Theophrastus and Aristoxenus. One of them was the world conqueror Alexander the Great. Crushing the world under his steps, Alexander, with his unstoppable army, arrived on the borders of India about 2300 years ago.
Apart from the Kings, their messengers, commoners, and generals, he had an audience with many Indian sages, ascetics, Sadhus, and Gurus, as he was keenly interested in philosophy. This is the story of one of such encounters which made a long-lasting mark on the life of the world conqueror.
Aristotle, the guide and teacher of Alexander, has taught him that India is not just another land to conquer, but it’s also the centre of knowledge and wisdom. Aristotle has told Alexander that he must not miss the opportunity to meet the mystical, magical, intellectual beings called Yogis. And if possible, bring a few of them to Greece, along with him.
In 326, during his invasion of India, King Omphis (Ambhi) of Taxila surrendered to him. The world conqueror won the kingdom of Taxila without shedding a drop of blood. During those times, Taxila was known for the world-famous universities, where students from all corners of the world arrived, seeking knowledge. In this city, Alexander came to know about one sage named Danda Swami (Dandamis, as per the Greek accounts), living in the dense forest. Immediately, the King got interested in him.
Alexander sent Onesicritus, the Greek historian and philosopher, to summon the sage to his court. Making way through the dense forest, Onesicritus reached Dandamis, who was lying on the bed of dried leaves. Onesicritus announced that Alexander the Great, the son of Zeus, ordered him to come to his courts. The King wants to have a dialogue with him, and he shall give the gold of his weight. If the order is not followed, he will cut the head of the sage.
Listening to this, Dandamis started laughing. Without even lifting his finger, he asked Onesicritus to get lost. “Your mortal King lusts for violence. He cannot possibly be the god. God is the true King, who supports life by providing air, light, food, and water.” The arrogant sage replied. Onesicritus returned to his master, telling him what happened in the jungle.
Listening to the reply of Dandamis, Alexander, the world conqueror himself, went to meet this sage. It was morning when Alexander reached the tree under which this sage was meditating. Soldiers announced that the great alexander had arrived. Being irritated, Dandamis opened his eyes and asked the King to get aside, as the King was blocking the warm sun rays falling on him.
Instead of welcoming the King, this thin to the bones human being was insulting him. Amused by his arrogance, Alexander laughed, as until now, no one ever dared to insult that world-conquering emperor. “Sage, do you know who I am?” Roared the Alexander. “I am not sure even you know who you are,” the sage replied calmly.
Now, feeling insulted, Alexander unsheathed his legendary sword and swung at the sage, stopping just before it touched the neck of Dandamis, roaring, “I am Alexander, the conqueror of the world. You are meditating on my land. Submit to me; otherwise, be prepared to meet your creator.”
Seeing the sword, Dandamis chuckled and replied, “The land belongs to no one, O’ King. Before you, thousands had the same claim. They are nowhere to be found. And after you, there will be many others who will claim it. You may have a temporary claim on this piece of land, but your hands are full of innocent blood, and your soul is eternally damaged by their screams.”
Hearing these pointy words, uncomfortable, Alexander lowered his sword. Until now, no one ever had the courage or the clarity to show him a true mirror. Calmly, he replied, “Whole world belongs to me, Dandamis. I have conquered the earth. History will remember me as the greatest King ever lived. My men are ready to die for me, on my word. This is the true power, O wise sage.”
Hearing this, Dandamis asked the King to pick up the roll of dried animal skin lying beside him. Alexander picked up the skin roll and, tired, flattened it out. But as he was trying to flatten out the one end, the other end-use to roll. After a few tries, the King gave up and looked at the smiling sage. Sage said, “O’ mighty King, this is the future of your conquered world. When you invade the new land, the people you conquered before will revolt, and they shall rise again.”
“Soon, your men will grow tired of the bloodshed, giving up on you. Besides, why do you have an urge to conquer the whole word? In the end, all you will need is a place, two-year-long and a tow yard deep.” Replied Dandamis.
Hearing this, Alexander sheathed the sword, sat beside the great thinker Dandamis, and had a long conversation with him. After the lengthy discourse, Alexander the Great bowed his head before Dandamis and left. A significant section of Alexander’s army mutinied within a few months, putting a brake on his world-winning campaign. Three years later, the great conqueror died on his way to his homeland Greece. As per his wish, his fists were kept open to send the message that this man departed from the mortal world with empty hands even after conquering the world.
Even though Alexander was the world conqueror, his power and prestige could not stop the sage Dandamis from telling the harsh truth. Why? Because spirituality makes the practitioner fearless from the bottom of your heart. It helps you see things better, with reason and objectively. It makes you realise that you are not limited to this body, but something far more significant, helping you overcome limitations and fears. Alexander experienced this when he had a conversation with the Dandamis.