Story: Alexander and Diogenese (Source: Internet)
Alexander’s army was marching toward India when he heard of a Greek man, Diogenese, who was said to have found true contentment living in Corinth without a single possession. ”I would like to meet such a man,” Alexander said, curious as to how such a thing could be possible.
After a little searching Alexander came to a man lying naked in the sun beside a river. ”Are you Diogenese,” Alexander asked. ”Who wants to know,” the man answered without so much as opening his eyes. ”I am Alexander the Great.” The sunbather gave no sign of recognition. ”Do you not know who I am? I have come a long way to see you. Some men would think it an honour.” Diogenese smiled but said nothing. ”I have heard,” Alexander continued, “that you have found true happiness and yet you do not possess a single thing, no clothes, not even so much as a begging bowl. Is this true? Have you found supreme joy?”
Reclining peacefully, his eyes remaining closed, Diogenese made no effort to answer. Alexander studied Diogenese, waiting for a response, admiring the relaxed calmness in his presence. Indeed, the man seemed to be totally at ease. ”Can you teach me what you have found?” he asked the naked man at his feet.
“Where are you going, Alexander the Great?”
“I am off to India.”
“Such a long way to travel, and for what? What will you do there?”
“I will conquer it.”
And then what shall you do, Alexander?”
“I will move on to conquer the next country.”
“And how long will this campaign continue,” Diogenese asked.
“Until I have conquered all the countries.”
“And when you are through with that?”
“Then I will celebrate as emperor of the world,” Alexander said. ”Then I should like to rest like you.”
Diogenese laughed, a loud chaotic bray that seemed out of place by the peaceful river. Alexander noted that Diogenese’ eyes were a deep blue and utterly without greed. Instead of being angered by the Greek’s laughter, Alexander found himself intrigued.
“Why do you laugh?” Alexander asked. He had never seen such serene eyes.
“Tell me, is your father alive?” Diogenese asked, closing his eyes again at the emperor’s feet. This time it was Alexander’s turn to remain silent. Diogenese continued: ”Would you recognize his bones from the bones of this beggar?”
Alexander closed his own eyes and thought. He had seen many bones. Countless battles had taught him that all men’s skulls looked the same. ”Why did you laugh?” Alexander asked again.
“Because your bones are on a fruitless journey, the same journey as the bones inside my skin.”
“Being emperor of the world is a fruitless journey?” Alexander asked, incredulous.
“In the end, it makes no difference what you and your army have conquered. What you are seeking is right here and available to you now. So why do all those things before you rest and find contentment? If rest is what you are ultimately looking for, then do what I did and give yourself what you are seeking now. Let go of this fool’s journey and you can rest right here and now.”
Alexander laughed uneasily. He had never considered stopping his war. For the first time, he questioned the nature of his quest and his mind rebelled in protest. To be Emperor of the World was his whole life! How could a man give up such a thing? In contrast to his inner turmoil, he could see the bronze skin of Diogenese relaxed and glowing, ribs filing and releasing simple breaths into a cloudless sky.
“Sir, your words do have a faint air of truth about them, but how could I give up my life’s ambition? And yet I know it is strange to say, but your life here now is so beautiful to me. Perhaps instead there is something I could do for you? I am an emperor and you may ask for anything, any riches or title your mind could imagine. Consider for a moment and let me know.”
Diogenese closed his eyes and waved Alexander off. ”Only step aside,” he said. ”You are blocking my light.”
“Nothing more?” Alexander asked.
Alexander turned to walk away. ”Goodbye Diogenese,” Alexander said. ”I am off to finish my journey.”
“No one ever finishes their journey,” Diogenese called out from his resting spot on the warm sand.
“And why is that?” Alexander asked.
“Because everyone dies along the way.”
And so it was that a short time later in the Middle East, while planning to conquer India, Alexander died along the way. His generals pulled his once vast empire apart like wolves tearing at a carcass. Soon Alexander’s Empire went the way of all empires and was gone.
WHAT IS CONTENTMENT?
Contentment means whatever the situation is, you accept it without any complaint. In fact, you not only accept it without complaint, but you also rejoice in it with deep gratefulness. This moment is perfect.
Most of us have been taught to believe that happiness is linked to our accomplishments. We think, “I’ll be happy when I get married” or “I’ll be more satisfied at work when I get a promotion.” We are convinced we’ll find joy when we finally run a marathon or buy that luxury car. The truth is that we can create a feeling of happiness right now, regardless of our circumstances.
Contentment means to be happy with what you have, who you are, and where you are. It is respecting the reality of the present. It is appreciating what you do have and where you are in life. Contentment does not mean the absence of desire; it just means you are satisfied with your present, and you trust that the turns your life takes will be for the best.
At times we are competing with others as we have set some social benchmarks of success, such as, “I don’t have as much as my brother, who is a multimillionaire,” or, “My neighbour just told me that she owns three houses,” or, “My former classmate is now a YouTube sensation.” This way of viewing the world convinces us that we have not achieved our dreams.
We are being told that we should not feel contentment, otherwise we might be too happy and become lazy. Then our lives will succumb to inertia, preventing economic development and stagnating social progress. But this idea does not hold true: greed is not a required element for personal success or economic advancement for any nation or culture. Individuals or Societies can also become prosperous and modern based on the enlightened principles of love, compassion, and generosity. Around you, you can find many people who are exceedingly successful yet at the same time not greedy.
The ship needs water to sail. But when the same water enters the ship, the ship sinks!
Similarly, we need money to lead our life but when money becomes our life, it is a problem!
Our objective should not be to work for happiness but we should work happily.
Contentment comes with success whereby one feels happy with their current situation in life.
THE ABSENCE OF CONTENTMENT
Many people today think life is a race where you must be the best at everything. We might want a fancier car, a bigger house, a better-earning job, or more views/likes on Social media like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc. The moment we achieve one thing, the race for the next thing starts. Rarely do many individuals spare a minute to just sit back, relax, and be grateful for all they have achieved. Instead of looking back at the distance, they have covered, they stretch themselves to cover the distance that remains. And in some cases, this is when ambition becomes greed.
There is often a fine line between ambition and greed. People may think that when they have achieved all they need for their dream lifestyle, they will be satisfied with what they have—but this is rarely the case. Even after you have ticked off all the achievements from your bucket list, you still don’t feel at ease. There may remain an uneasy feeling that something is still missing. Do you know what that missing thing is? It’s contentment.
Happiness is inside you, but you are looking for it in money and foreign goods. The entire sea is inside you, but still, you are looking for water outside with a spoon. Money or property is important in life, but happiness cannot be bought only with money.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CONTENTMENT
It’s almost impossible to stress enough how important it is to be content. The importance of contentment is outlined below. Some benefits of contentment include:
Peace of Mind
Contentment does not mean you can’t have dreams and aspirations. You can accept the present and still wish for a better future. Contentment only means to be at peace with the present, not complacent.
Contentment promotes happiness. Therefore, when you accept your situation, you are allowing yourself to be happy. Being grateful for everything you do have instead of spending most of your time thinking about what you can’t have could make life a lot more beautiful.
The benefits of contentment are not limited to your own well-being; they can also encompass relationships with others. Accepting others, including their flaws, and being content with the present may fuel feelings of happiness and prosperity in relationships, making them stronger.
Distinguishing Wants and Needs
Contentment can help you distinguish between wants and needs. When you are content, you may not desire anything more than what you need. The abundance of the present is enough to lead a happy and healthy life. Contentment often leads to the realization that joy doesn’t come from material things. Instead, joy comes from deep within.
Instead of wanting your possessions to grow, you start working on personal growth. Because at the end of the day, inner peace fueled by contentment may matter more than the car you drive or even the house you live in.
HOW TO BE CONTENTED
Happiness can be sustained by making some conscious choices. Here are some tips for cultivating contentment in your life.
- Stop buying stuff you don’t need
- Show people, you appreciate them
- Practice gratitude
- Learn to enjoy simple things that don’t cost money
- Live in the moment
Happiness gained through success or materialism is only temporary. Remind yourself that the grass is always greener on the other side, and virtually every person you think has everything likely doesn’t feel the same about themselves. Even people who seem like they have it all often don’t find contentment. Why? They are always driven to want more and are unhappy with themselves. Now, it’s important to clarify that contentment does not preclude ambition. It does not mean that you will not want more. Contentment is simply gratitude, appreciation, and acceptance for the way things are right now. So, take that first step toward happiness. Doing so will be a gift that keep giving back to you for the rest of your life.
The art of contentment is the art of fulfillment. It is the experience of finding what you are seeking in the present moment and becoming rich in what you thought you were lacking, so rich that you can give what you were formally lacking.