alexander the great and yogi

When great meets the greatness: A tale of Alexander and the yogi

Many people in modern world do not dwell into tales of the past and this is why they keep making mistakes. The eternal truths have been revealed to us and stand as much true today as they did in the ancient world, for once upon a time even the ancients thought that they live in a modern world. What we call modern today will become ancient to others in a thousand years time.

An important tale i would like to share is perhaps of that person who the western world calls as the greatest emperor that rose from amongst them. There is a lot to be learnt from this so do read with full awareness.

alexander the great and yogi
alexander the great and yogi

As Alexander pushed for new glories, he encountered the gymnosophists (the Greek word for yogi). Ten yogis were captured and brought to Taxila. As had been informed to them about their intellect capabilities, he decided to test them. He thought of playing a game with them. He declared that he would ask each of them a question, and put to death the one who had the worst answer.

1-Who are the majority the dead or the leaving?

• The yogi answered the living cause the dead does not exist anymore.

My answer- The dead, because the living can be counted, but the dead can’t.

2- Which is the most cunning animal?

• The yogi said the one that human still could not find.

My answer- the one who doesn’t reveal a……………………………………………………..!

3- What is more powerful? Life or death?

• The yogis said Life, because life cause life beings more illnesses

My answer- Easy, Death. In life you go away from god, in death you go back to god.

4- How can a human be more loved?

• The yogi answered, by being powerful without promoting fear

My answer- By not listening to the voice in his own mind.

5- Which is bigger the day or the night?

• The yogi answered the day. It is bigger by one day than the night as it came earlier.

My answer- Day because the moment it appears, darkness of the night runs away.

6- Where do the biggest animals exist? On the land or in the sea?

• The yogi said on the land, because the sea is part of the land.

My answer- In The swords of those who are uncivilised and don’t have morals.

7- How can anyone be a god ?

• The yogi said by doing something a human can not achieve.

My answer- Yoga says give up the ego and you are god. Capitalism says earn money and you are god. Poltics says win elections and you are god. I say the moment you see the spark of divinity within yourself you become a god.

8- the next question was related to Alexander’s conquest. Alexander asked why you asked your king to revolt against me?

• The yogi said because I want him to live as a royal or die as a royal.

My answer- Because nobody likes the neighbour (stranger) to become the father to your child.

9- For how long is it good for one human to live?

• Until death becomes more desirable than life.

My answer- As long as history doesn’t turn him into a villain.

So, then, turning to the judge, Alexander bade him give his opinion. The judge declared that they had answered one worse than another. “Well, then,” said Alexander, “thou shalt die first for giving such a verdict.” “That cannot be, O King,” said the judge, “unless thou falsely saidst that thou wouldst put to death first him who answered worst.” These philosophers, then, he dismissed with gifts…

⁃ Plutarch, “Life of Alexander”, Paralell Lives, 64-65

alexander the great and yogi
alexander the great and yogi

Alexander tried to persuade a yogi to stay with him as one of his teachers. Alexander even hinted use of force to take him to his country, to which the yogi replied philosophically, that “what shall I be worth to you, Alexander, for exhibiting to the Greeks if I am compelled to do what I do not wish to do?”.

But Alexander did succeed in taking a yogi back home or atleast it seemed that way. The yogi lived as a teacher to Alexander and represented “eastern honesty and freedom”. The Greeks called this yogi “Kalanos”, which might either be a reference to kalyan or Kali. As the yogi accompanied Alexander to Persia, he wanted to give up his life as the body was not holding up and he knew his time to go had come. Being a yogi he wanted to go on his terms by entering a samadhi while sitting on a funeral pyre. This happened in the full view of the whole Macedonian army. The soldiers observed that the yogi had no fear of pain or death, and who never once moved from his position as his flesh was consumed by the flames. He was seventy-three years of age at time of his death and the city where this immolation took place was Susa in the year 323 BC.

Interestingly, as he left for his final moments, the yogi said to Alexander:

“I shall see you soon in Babylon.” even though at the time of death of Kalanos, Alexander did not have any plans to go to Babylon. Alexander left Persia, and died a year later in Babylon.

A letter written by Kalanos to Alexander is preserved by Philo. A painting c. 1672 by Jean Baptiste de Champaigne depicts “Alexander the Great receiving the news of the death by immolation of the gymnosophist Calanus” is displayed at Chateau de Versailles et de Trianon, Versailles.

Diogenes Laërtius (fl. 3rd century AD) refers to the yogis, and reports that Pyrrho of Ellis was influenced by the gymnosophists while in India with Alexander the Great, and on his return to Ellis, imitated their habits of life and caused him to found the Hellenistic philosophy of Pyrrhonism.

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