It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.
There are just a few very significant events in the life of Alexander the Great. One is the meeting with the great mystic, Diogenes. Diogenes was lying naked on the bank of a river talking a sunbath. It was early morning…and the early sun and the beautiful riverbank and the cool sand. And Alexander was passing by; he was coming to India.
Somebody told him, “Diogenes is just close by—and you have always been inquiring about Diogenes”—because Alexander had heard many stories. Diogenes was really a man worth calling a man! Even Alexander, deep down, was jealous of him.
He went to see him. He was impressed by his beauty-naked, undecorated, with no ornaments. Alexander himself was covered in ornaments, decorated in every possible way, but he looked very poor before Diogenes. And he said to Diogenes, “I feel jealous of you. I look poor compared to you—and you have nothing! What is your richness”?
Diogenes said, “I don’t desire anything—desirelessness is my treasure. I am a master because I don’t possess anything—non possessiveness is my mastery, and I have conquered the world because I have conquered myself. And my victory is going with me, and your victory will be taken away by death.”
And when Alexander was dying he remembered Diogenes, his laugher, his peace, his joy. He remembered that Diogenes had something that goes beyond death, and he realized, “I have nothing.” He wept, tears came to his eyes, and he said to his ministers, “When I die and you carry my body to the cemetery, let me hands hang out of the casket.”
The ministers asked, “But this is not tradition! Why? Why such a strange request?”
Alexander said, “I would like people to see that I came empty—handed and I am going empty—handed, and all my life has been a waste. Let my hands hang out of the casket so everybody can see—even Alexander the Great is going empty-handed.”