125. A Green Chrolite Fragment of a Relief Showing a Man in a Yogic Posture

Gandhara, 2nd–1st century BC
Size: 8.5 × 9 cm

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When Alexander the Great arrived in the Taxila valley in 326 BC, the thing that interested him most were the yogis he encountered there. He realised that they represented an ancient tradition of knowledge, one that was largely absent elsewhere in the world, which could provide the key to spiritual enlightenment. This is one of the most graphic illustrations of that ancient tradition.

‘How can a man become a god?’ So enquired Alexander the Great of the Brahmin sages of India. And how did they reply? ‘By doing what it is impossible for a man to do.’ While this may seem a useless piece of advice to most people, it may also provide the answer to what many pretend to look for. It mirrors exactly Bahauddin Naqshband’s saying that the answer to everything comes from doing what one does not want to do, in ways that one does not want to do it.

When Alexander turned for home he was accompanied by a yogi from Taxila called Kalanos. He committed suicide by self-immolation in Susa in front of Alexander and his generals. His last words to Alexander were ‘We will meet in Babylon.’ This was taken as a prediction of Alexander’s death there.