A World of Desire

Alexander the Great (356-323 BC), the ancient King of Macedon, began his highly successful military campaign at the age of twenty-two, and remained undefeated for the ten years that it lasted. Three years before his death, at the age of thirty-three, he invaded India. He is famously quoted for having said, “A tomb now suffices him for whom the whole world was not sufficient.”

Guruji retold the story of Alexander the Great’s meeting with an Indian saint during a recent Satsang, and it went something like this:

Alexander the Great had a mission to conquer the world. Whilst he was in India, he heard about the mystic people and was curious to meet one himself. He was taken to a saint who lived on the bank of the Indus River in Punjab.

The saint was a beautiful man. His face shone with happiness, and he lay naked on the sand with a lantern, and his companion, a dog. Alexander the Great had heard that this saint never let the light of his lantern extinguish, even in the daytime, and asked about it. The saint replied rather mysteriously that most people in the world wear a mask, and he needed a lantern to see their faces.

Not appearing to pay much attention to the King or his spectacular crown which dazzled with exquisite jewels from Persia, the King asked him if he had not heard of his name or fame. The saint looked smilingly at him and then spoke to his dog. “Are you listening to him? He is asking me if I know who he is, but not even he himself knows who he is!”

“I am Alexander the Great,” replied the King. “I am undefeated in battle. My desire is to conquer lands to the ends of the world!”

“Are you listening to him?” laughed the saint to his dog, “this stupid man wants to conquer the whole world. No one can do this! Time is so short and the world is so big. And he must have an inferiority complex too, for all people who say they are great have this kind of complex!” Then he asked the King directly, “So what do you plan to do once you when you have conquered the world?”

Alexander the Great replied that he would relax; and the retort came that he would die before he had conquered this world. And why, the saint added, did he not find peace in the present moment? The King’s heart melted with love for the saint before him, and he begged him to accompany him to Greece, but the saint only laughed, and reputedly replied, “The whole world is in Me. Greece is in Me.”

The King had never heard anyone speak in such a way, and tried to insist that he accompany him, offering all manner of riches and worldly pleasures. But the saint just laughed and sent him away, telling him that he was a man blocking the sunlight – nothing but an obstacle for him.

Guruji finished this story saying that, although he died a young man, his incredible experience and this encounter with the saint no doubt made Alexander the Great wise beyond his years.

Someone had written a letter to Guruji asking whether or not it was beneficial to find several yoga teachers and learn several meditation techniques. The story about Alexander the Great was his answer to this question, whilst offering a superb example of how even the most ambitious desires imaginable become vacuous when they come before the metaphorical lantern of self-realisation.

‘Many people are like Alexander the Great,’ Guruji said. ‘They want to conquer the world with their endless desires. But it is not possible to fulfil them all. Alexander the Great told his followers before he died that you can never conquer this word, because this world is multi-dimensional. He also said that as long as desires remain in you, you may find your house, but never your home.

‘People hear about spirituality and are curious: they think it would be nice to go ‘shopping’ for some saint. They are tempted by so many different teachers and spiritual practices, perhaps looking for some easy ready-made formula, but they are never satisfied.

‘But how many teachers and practices do you want? Kriya will remove your desires. Kriya is a preparation for true meditation, known as dhyana*. But it is only step by step that you can reach this state.’

*In Patanjali’s 8 steps of yoga, dhyana is known as the 7th step. The final step is Samadhi.