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Alexander and the thief

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Srimad-Bhagavatam Lectures

Lecture on SB 1.16.17 -- Los Angeles, January 12, 1974:

So there is division, the kṣatriyas, they are supposed to be in the mode of passion, a desire for controlling, ruling. That is kṣatriya's spirit, ruling. Therefore one kṣatriya king used to attack another kṣatriya king. The idea is not to take possession of other's property. The idea was that "This king is not ruling nicely." Just like in your country, you want to change the president, but forcibly he is sitting in his position, so as you want good government or good man as president, similarly, formerly, although there was fight between the two kings, the objective was different, not to occupy one's property, not to become a big thief.

You know the story of Alexander the Great and the thief. Alexander the Great arrested one thief, and he was going to punish him. The thief pleaded, "Sir, you are going to punish me, but what is the difference between you and me? I am a small thief, you are a great thief. That's all. (laughter) You are by force occupying other's kingdom, and you have no right. But because you are strong, or some way or other, you have got the opportunity, and you are conquering country after country, country after... So I am also doing the same thing. So what is the difference between you and me?" So Alexander considered that "Yes, I am nothing but a big thief, that's all." So he released him, "Yes, I am no better than you." Just like dacoits. Nowadays there are many thieves who steal scientifically, legally. There are many lawyers, many scientists. They do harm, but legally. Legal murderer, legal cheaters, so many things. We have got experience, every one of us. If you can protect yourself under the cover of law and you cheat others, then it is nice. But you cannot cheat the supervision of the Supreme. That you cannot do. A thief may steal secretly, but there is no secret. There is no secrecy for God. It is said in the Bhagavad-gītā, sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭaḥ: (BG 15.15) "I am sitting in everyone's heart." So suppose you are planning to do something, mischievous activity. You can cheat the man-made law or the man-made police, but how you can cheat Kṛṣṇa? He is sitting within your heart. Sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭaḥ: "I am sitting in everyone's heart." So whatever you're thinking, feeling, and willing, it is immediately being observed and noted, "This rascal wants to do this." Besides that... This is inside. Then outside, there is sun, there is moon, there is day, there is night. Everyone, there are eight kinds of witnesses, whatever you are doing. And karmaṇā daiva-netreṇa (SB 3.31.1). Just like a man is punished according to his gravity of criminality, similarly, whatever you are doing... Here everything is criminal, in this material world. Everything is criminal.

Lecture on SB 3.25.32 -- Bombay, December 2, 1974:

Here all activities are done for some material profit. Nobody is... Even the so-called political leaders sacrifice everything. That's all right. But everything is for material benefit. Even in our country a big man like Mahatma Gandhi, he sacrificed everything—his family, his profession. And many other leaders... But what for they were working? They were working for some material benefits, that's all, not for any spiritual benefit. So that is not transcendental activities. That is material activities, expanded material thoughts. Somebody is working for his family or somebody is working for himself, like animals, the cats and dogs. They work for himself. And human being, they're little advanced. They work for family, for wife, children, or, further extended, for society, for community, for nation. You can expand. Even international. They are all material activities, nimittā, simply expanded, expanded. Suppose if you steal for yourself and if you steal for your family or if you steal for your community, that stealing is there. Because you are stealing for greater family, that does not mean that you are not a thief.

There was a story, Alexander and the thief. The Alexander arrested one thief, big dacoit, plunderer. So when he explained, "My dear sir, Alexander, so what is the difference between you and me? I am also plunderer; you are also plunderer. I am a small plunderer; you are a big plunderer. So where is the difference in quality?" So Alexander the Great, he was very sensible. He released him: "Yes, there is no difference." So to become a big thief, big plunderer, does not mean that he is advanced. Similarly, our sense, for personal sense gratification or my family's sense gratification or for my nation's sense gratification—that is sense gratification. That is not spiritual activity. That is material activity.

Nectar of Devotion Lectures

The Nectar of Devotion -- Calcutta, January 29, 1973:

Everything belongs to Kṛṣṇa. Why you are claiming yourself, as nation or individual or community? That's not proper. Just like pickpocket and a gang, gangsters, organized rogues, thieves. It does not change the quality. There was some talk, you know, between Alexander the Great and the robber. The robber proved that "You are a greater robber. That's all. Why you are trying to punish me?" Alexander the Great arrested one robber, and he was going to punish him. So the robber explained that "Why you are punishing me? You are also a robber. You are going under the name of conqueror, and because I am not as great as you are, therefore you are trying to punish me. So why you are...?" So Alexander the Great, he was very, mean, highly advanced in... He immediately released him. "Yes. I am also a robber. Why shall I punish you?"

Philosophy Discussions

Philosophy Discussion on Jean-Paul Sartre:

Prabhupāda: Alexander. Alexander and the robber. There is a story that a robber was arrested by Alexander and there was talk between Alexander and the robber: "You proved that you are big robber, that's all. Why you are going to punish me?" And he was released: "Yes. I'm a big robber. I have no difference between you and me."

Conversations and Morning Walks

1968 Conversations and Morning Walks

Morning Walk at Stow Lake -- March 23, 1968, San Francisco:

Mālatī: So these... If you do not take to Kṛṣṇa conscious, you are a dog.

Prabhupāda: Yes, equal to dog. Because he has no other conception except those four principles, eating, sleeping, mating and defending. That is there in the animals. Don't you see the swans? They are enjoying sex life. So what is the difference between man... A man also does like that. So long one is not above these four principles of animal demands, he's as good as animal. To meet animal demands in a polished way is not civilization. One must be above the animal demands. That is civilization. You have read that poetry, "Alexander and the Robber"? Have you read?

Mālatī: I don't think so. Say again?

Devotee (2): "Alexander and the Rabbit"?

Mālatī: No.

Prabhupāda: Alexander the Great, you have heard the name?

Mālatī: Yes.

Prabhupāda: He conquered all over the world almost. He went to India also. So he met one robber. So he arrested, Alexander. He was king. The robber said, "Why you have arrested me?" "Because you are robber." "Oh, you are also great robber." When Alexander was charging him that, "You have done this," oh, he charges, "You have done this. I have entered a private house; you have entered a private state. So you are a big robber." Then he released him, "Yes, what is the difference between robber and me?" And Alexander, from that day, he stopped his conquering propaganda. (End of audio). "Alexander and the Robber." The robber proved that "You are a big robber only. But because you are big robber, therefore you are called 'Alexander the Great.' But my business is the same as yours-encroaching upon others' property. Why do you think that I am culprit and you are innocent? You are also culprit. If I had power, I could have punished you. And you have now power, you are trying to punish me." So Alexander the Great was convinced by robber.

1974 Conversations and Morning Walks

Morning Walk -- May 28, 1974, Rome:

Satsvarūpa: "You are calling us animals?"

Prabhupāda: Yes, they are animals. Yes. If they are sensible, they can understand, now, what is the difference. A dog is thinking, "I am very stout and strong dog." He has, on the basis of his body. And another man, a big American, thinks, "We are very big nation, powerful nation." So what is the difference between these? The basic principle is there, the bodily consciousness. Therefore it is animalism. Is it not? The basic principle has not changed. Suppose a pickpocket... The same story, Alexander the Great and the thief. He was arrested, and when he convinced him that "What is the difference between you and me? You have got good military strength. You are conquering. And I have got my knife and another thing. I am just going and plundering. So you are also plundering, I am plundering. Why you have caught me? What right you have got to punish me? Because we are the same. You are doing in a larger scale, I am doing in a small scale. That is the difference." So he was set free, "Yes." Alexander the Great, he was sensible man, "Yes, what I am doing? The same thing in a bigger scale that's all." So these rascal, actually, they are animals, but they are declaring advancement. What advancement? The same thing: eating, sleeping, sex and defending. That is animal... The dogs also do like that. They also eat, they also sleep, they have sex life. Now they are coming to the dog's life. A dog, just like street, they have sex life. They are coming, advance. This is advancement, that "We have become now pure dog. So long it was hidden, now we are open." This is the civilization, animal civilization.

1975 Conversations and Morning Walks

Room Conversation with Two Lawyers and Guest -- May 22, 1975, Melbourne:

Amogha: "Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness, courage in battle, generosity, and leadership..."

Prabhupāda: Generosity.

Guest 2: So he hasn't got generosity.

Guest 3: No, he's got another one, insanity. (laughter)

Prabhupāda: Not insanity.

Guest 1: You can't substitute.

Prabhupāda: Yes. Everything is there. He must be at the same time... Although he is hero, he must be generous. Just like Alexander the Great. Perhaps you know the story. He arrested one thief. So when he was arrested and he was being judged by Alexander, the thief pleaded that "What is the difference between you and me? You are a great thief. I am a small thief." (laughter) So Alexander understood it and got him released, "Yes." (laughter) This is generosity. He must agree to the principle.

1976 Conversations and Morning Walks

Morning Walk -- April 24, 1976, Melbourne:

Prabhupāda: Not karma. You are working sincerely, that's all.

Guru-kṛpā: We are expert cheaters also. That's how we get the money.

Prabhupāda: Yes. You are big cheaters. You don't cheat two rupees, three rupees. Two millions. (laughs) That is accusation, Alexander and the thief. The thief accused Alexander the Great that "What is the difference between you and me? I am a small thief; you are a big thief. That's all. Why you are punishing me? You are a big thief. You are doing same thing." Then he was let loose. "Yes, what is difference? (laughs) I am a big thief." (break) ...means Alexander the Great, actually he was great. Otherwise he is the emperor, and ordinary thief is accusing him and he said, "Yes, I am thief." He admitted. That is greatness. That is greatness. If he was not great, then he would have hanged him or punished him: "Oh, you are so.... You are accusing me?" But no, he accepted. That is greatness. Mistake is one fault, but to accept that "I have done mistake," that is greatness.

Room Conversation -- December 31, 1976, Bombay:

Prabhupāda: He has expanded his āsakti from family to the whole nation. Expanded āsakti is not anāsakti. I'm thinking only of my family, and if I think of the whole nation, that does not mean anāsakti. That means āsakti expanded. I am a pickpocket. If I become a great plunderer, that does not mean I am not a thief. You cannot say pickpocket is thief and a great plunderer is a hero. The quality is there.

Hari-śauri: There's that story about Alexander and the thief.

Prabhupāda: Ah, Alexander and the thief. The thief convinced him, "Alexander, what is the difference between you and me? I'm a small thief, you are a big thief, that's all."