Alexander said, “That is very simple.” But in those days the Vedas were not printed. Hindus resisted printing them for hundreds of years after the printing press was invented; they never wanted their sources of wisdom to be printed and sold in the market. Knowledge cannot be sold, and you cannot purchase wisdom. And purchasing the four Vedas from a bookstall, you will be deceiving yourself – those words are dead.
Alexander inquired because he was thinking he could get them easily, but it was difficult. Very few prominent brahmin families had copies of the Vedas, and that was their whole treasure. But finally he found one old brahmin…people said, “He has one of the most authentic copies of the Vedas. And he is old; you can get them from him.”
Alexander went to the old man. The old man said, “There is no problem, but traditionally we can give the Vedas only when the sun is rising. You have come at the wrong time – the sun is setting. Come tomorrow morning, just before sunrise. As the sun is rising I will hand over all the four Vedas to you.”
Alexander said, “I was not thinking that it is going to be so simple. You don’t ask anything in return?”
He said, “No, this is enough, that you will be taking the Vedas to the wide world. Come early in the morning.” But that old man was really clever….
The whole night he and his four sons remained awake sitting around a fire. He told the sons, “Read one page of the book that I have given to you.” He distributed the four Vedas to the four sons, according to their age. The eldest got the Rigveda, the oldest scripture. “You read aloud one page so I can hear that you are reading it rightly, and then remember it and drop it into the fire. By the morning all four Vedas have to be burned, and by the morning all you four have to become my four Vedas. I am going to present you to Alexander the Great.”
In ancient India memory was particularly trained. Still, all universities, and colleges’ educational systems depend on cultivating memory. They deceive you and themselves, thinking that this is intelligence. Memory is not intelligence, because memory can be part of a computer – which has no consciousness, which has no intelligence. Your mind is also a natural bio-computer. Memory is simply remembering, but not understanding; understanding is totally different. Memory needs a very mechanical mind, and understanding needs a very non-mechanical mind. In fact the ways are diametrically opposite.
In the morning when Alexander appeared, he was stunned. All the four Vedas were burned, and the old man said, “Now you can take my four sons. They have perfect memory. They will repeat the Vedas exactly. I could not give you the Vedas – that is never done – but I can give my sons to you. My whole life I have trained them in memorizing. You just have to repeat something one time and it remains in their memory, as if written on a stone.”
Alexander was defeated by the old man. He could not take those four sons because they didn’t know the meaning of what they were saying; they could not explain anything. The language was different, and they could not translate it – they didn’t know Greek. What purpose would be served by taking these people?