Devdutt Pattanaik and Alexander the Great

The ever increasing speed of change and its totality that we are facing today leaves us in need of explanations — more than ever before. In order to keep pace we have to make sense of it all. We have to understand the own position in relation to the processes of globalization, climate change, and conflicts. It might well be a matter of survival — not only on an individual level and not only for people outside the western industrialized nations. Devdutt Pattanaik explains the basic differences between East and West by telling wonderful stories about mythical figures from both worlds.

He tells the story of the two Indian gods Ganesha and Kartikeya and their race three times around the world. Kartikeya surrounded the whole world whereas Ganesha surrounded just his parents, claiming victory: “You went around THE world, I went around MY world. What matters more?” THE world is logical and fact-based, MY world is emotional and based on belief.

“There is my world and there is your world — and my world is always better than your world…” — Devdutt Pattanaik

When Alexander the Great met a Gymnosophist (a naked wise man) at the banks of the river Indus in 326 B.C. they asked each other what they were doing. The Gymnosophist said, I’m experiencing nothingness. Alexander said, I’m conquering the world. And both laughed thinking the other was a fool. Having grown up in the Greek culture, with stories about heroes such us Achilles, Theseus, and Jason, Alexander had only one lifetime to achieve all glory. In the eastern cultures nothing lasts forever, not even death. To them live is an endless chain of reincarnations until “you get the point of it all.” Two different ways — which is the right one?

“Depending on the context, depending on the outcome, choose your paradigm. Paradigms are human constructions, they are cultural creations, not natural phenomena.” — Devdutt Pattanaik

Devdutt Pattanaik is a great storyteller. Presenting in front of an international audience, he uses examples from both worlds to make everybody comfortable and perceptive. He raises his audience’s expectations — and delivers. Highly complex topics such as philosophical matters, religion, and business strategies are embedded in colorful stories that make us understand and remember. This is without doubt the most beautiful presentation about intercultural understanding we’ve come across so far.