It is said about Diogenes, one of the contemporaries of Alexander the Great, that even Alexander the Great became jealous of Diogenes.
He was just a naked fakir: he had nothing. He had renounced everything; he was searching his own inner world. It is said about him that when he renounced the world, he used to carry a small begging bowl. But then one day he saw a dog drinking water from a river. He threw that begging-bowl. He said, “If the dog can do without it, then am I worse than the dog?” He remained naked.
Many stories, rumors, were reaching Alexander that this man had something in him. Finally, fascinated, Alexander went to see him, and he could see that the man had something that he had not. He was just lying down — it was a winter morning, it was cool and the sun was rising. He was lying down by the side of a river, bathing himself in the early sun, naked.
Alexander said, “Can I do something for you, sir? I have much, and whatsoever you desire, I will be happy to do it for you.”
Diogenes laughed and said, “The only thing that you can do is to please stand by the side. Don’t prevent the sun from coming to me. Nothing else do I need. And remember it, because you seem to be dangerous: never stand between the sun and anybody else. Don’t disturb anybody else’s life. That’s enough; nothing else do I want from you — because all that I want is within me.”
And Alexander could feel that the man was true, literally true — the solidity, the crystallized being, the ‘vibe’ of one who has attained, the surround, the climate of the person who is filled with inner light, inner realization, inner riches. He could see it. He bowed down and he said, “If next time I am to come into the world, I would ask God not to make me Alexander, but Diogenes.”
Diogenes laughed and said, “There is no need to wait that long. You can become a Diogenes just now! For what are you struggling and conquering people, and moving continuously and warring? For what?”
Alexander said, “First I want to conquer Middle Asia, then India, then the Far East…”
And Diogenes went on asking, “Then what?”
Finally, when Alexander said he had conquered the whole world, he said he would then like to rest.
Diogenes said, “You look to me almost stupid, because I am resting without conquering the world. You can rest by my side. See, the bank is so big; we can share it. And nobody comes here. You can rest to your heart’s desire. Who is preventing you? And I don’t see the point, one need to conquer the world first just to rest in the end. You can rest any moment.”
In that moment Alexander must have felt his poverty. He said, “You are right. I am mad, but now it is difficult for me to come back. I have to conquer, only then can I come.”
And when he was leaving, Diogenes said, “Remember, nobody can come back unless one is aware. And if you are aware right this moment, the journey stops. If you are not aware, you will never come back.”
And Alexander could never go back. He died before he reached back home.
In modern life, we are caught up in rat race, a race which is an endless, self-defeating, or pointless pursuit. It conjures up the image of the futile efforts of a lab rat trying to escape while running around a maze or in a wheel. In an analogy to the modern city, many rats in a single maze expend a lot of effort running around, but ultimately achieve nothing (meaningful) either collectively or individually. We become rats by choice. Society, friends, and even loved ones, can all unwittingly encourage us to enter the wrong race. You don’t have to do it. Enter the race you’re designed to run, not one that will fail to bring out the best in you and won’t satisfy your soul, even if you come in first.
As Lilly Tomlin has said, “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.”