Zorba is only the Beginning

Birthday of Greek Writer Nikos Kazantzakis

Born on 18th February 1883 in Ottoman Empire, now Greece, Nikos Kazantzakis was a Greek writer whose prolific output and wide variety of work represent a major contribution to modern Greek literature. Widely considered a giant of modern Greek literature, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in nine different years.

Kazantzakis’ novels included Zorba the Greek (published 1946 as Life and Times of Alexis Zorbas), Christ Recrucified (1948), Captain Michallis (1950, translated Freedom or Death), and The Last Temptation of Christ (1955). He also wrote plays, travel books, memoirs and philosophical essays such as The Saviours of Gods : Spiritual Exercises.  His fame spread in the English-speaking world due to cinematic adaptations of Zorba the Greek (1964) and The Last Temptation of Christ (1988). He translated also a number of notable works into Modern Greek, such as the Divine ComedyThus Spoke ZarathustraOn the Origins Of Species, the Iliad and the Odyssey.

Osho talks about Kazantzakis and says, “Nikos Kazantzakis represents you — each human being. He was a rare man, but a victim of the whole past. He was a very sensitive man — that’s why the split became very clear; a very intelligent man, he could see he was divided. That created great inner torture for him. To be divided against yourself is hell, fighting with yourself is continuous torture. You want to do something — that is one part of you — and the second part says, “No, you cannot do it. It is sin.” How can you be at peace with yourself? And one who is not at peace with himself cannot be at peace with society, with culture, and finally with existence. The individual is the very brick of the whole existence…The greatest guilt Nikos feels is against his own life. Whatever he does is wrong. If he follow his materialist tendencies, the Christian is there to condemn him, to send him to hell. If he tries to be a Christian, his Greek heritage is against it. He cannot do anything, he is in a fix. A sensitive man, an intelligent man is bound to feel guilty, that he is wasting his life fighting with himself. The man of guilt is of course obsessed with death — because he is not living and death is coming closer and closer every moment. Perhaps he may not be able to live — and death will finish him. A man who is living totally never bothers about death. His life is so full, death cannot even touch him. Death will come only to the body, not to him. He knows his inner organic consciousness.”

One great poet has written, “East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.” And this man, Lord Kipling, was very much interested in the East. He lived in India for years, he was in the government service. But seeing the difference… that the whole Eastern consciousness moves inwards and the Western consciousness moves outwards — how could they meet? My whole work is just to prove Lord Kipling wrong.

I would like to say — neither West is West nor East is East, and the twain have already met.

What do you mean by `East’? In Bombay, Calcutta is east; in Calcutta, Bombay is west. This is nonsense, these words are relative words. You cannot say that a certain place is east and a certain place is west; they are all relative. For the people of Calcutta, Tokyo is east — and that’s what the Japanese think. They call their land “the land of sunrise” and they call their king “the only begotten son of the sun god.” The sun god is the real god, and Hirohito, the king of Japan, is his only son. In fact, in the second world war when the Japanese were defeated, they could not believe it. Thousands of soldiers committed suicide just out of shame — “How can it happen that God’s son should be defeated? Now there is no point in living, everything has gone wrong.” They believe that they are the real East.

Nobody is East and nobody is West. But the attitudes can be understood, and they are very prominent. And my whole approach is to bring a bridge into each individual, so that you are one whole. Don’t be against your body; it is your home. Don’t be against your consciousness, because without consciousness your house may be very decorated but it won’t have any master, it will be empty. Together they create a beauty, a fuller life. Symbolically, I have chosen Zorba for the body and Buddha for the soul.

Your question is that when I was in Greece I was talking more about Zorba, and here in India the atmosphere seems to be closer to Buddha. Your observation is true. In Greece I was talking about Zorba. Still they deported me. If I had been talking about Buddha, you would not have seen me again! I was talking about Zorba because that is the foundation. But I was making it clear that Zorba alone is only the foundation of the house, it is not the house itself. In India I am talking about Buddha, but I have not forgotten Zorba. Each statement that I make — whether it is about Zorba or about Buddha — implies the other automatically, because to me they are inseparable. It is only a question of emphasis. To make the Greek mind understand, I emphasized Zorba.

The ambassador of Sri Lanka to America wrote me a letter saying that “Your followers around the world are making restaurants, discos, and calling them ZORBA THE BUDDHA. It is very insulting to Buddha. And if you do such thing in a country like Sri Lanka, there can be violence. I advise you to drop this name.” I told my secretary to write to him, that “In the first place, nobody has the monopoly on Zorba or on Buddha. Secondly, we are not concerned with Gautam the Buddha; `Buddha’ is not a personal name, it is a quality. It means the awakened one. Anyone who is awakened can be called the Buddha. Gautam Buddha is only one of the millions of Buddhas who have happened and who will happen. And you cannot prevent Zorba becoming a buddha. In fact, you should help me to make zorbas into buddhas, because that is the only real revolution — that a materialist, a zorba, who knows nothing of higher consciousness, becomes a buddha.” He never replied.

Zorba has his own beauty. And the island in Greece where I was staying is the place where Kazantzakis, the novelist who created the novel ZORBA THE GREEK…. Zorba is a fictitious name, he is not a historical person. But the island where I was staying was the island where Kazantzakis was born. And

Kazantzakis is one of the best novelists of this century, and he suffered tremendously at the hands of the church. Finally, when he wrote ZORBA THE GREEK he was expelled from the church. By writing ZORBA he was forced: “You withdraw your book ZORBA; otherwise you will be expelled.” Because he did not withdraw the book, he was expelled from Christianity and condemned to hell. Zorba is really Kazantzakis’ own individuality, which Christianity had repressed, which he could not live, which he wanted to live. He expressed that whole unlived part of his life in the name of Zorba. Zorba is a beautiful man — no fear of hell, no greed for heaven, living moment to moment, enjoying small things… food, drink, women. After the whole day’s work, he will take his musical instrument and will dance on the beach for hours.

And the other part of Kazantzakis which he lived in ZORBA THE GREEK…Zorba is the servant. The other part is the master who employed Zorba as his servant. He is always sad and sitting in his office, doing his files, never laughing, never enjoying, never going out and always feeling deep down jealous of Zorba because he earns a little, not much, but he lives like an emperor, not thinking of tomorrow, of what will happen. He eats well, he drinks well, he sings well, he dances well. And his master, who is very rich, is just sitting there sad, tense, in anguish, in misery, suffering.

One day Zorba says to his master — which is Kazantzakis himself — “Master, there is only one thing wrong with you: you think too much. You come with me.” It was a full-moon night.

Kazantzakis tried — “No, no. What are you doing?”

But Zorba pulled him out to the beach and he started dancing, playing his instrument. And he told Kazantzakis, “Try. Jump! If you cannot dance, do SOMETHING.” And with Zorba’s energy and his vibe, Kazantzakis also started dancing. For the first time in his life he felt that he was alive.

Zorba is the unlived part of every so-called religious person.

And why was the church so much against it when ZORBA was published? It was just a novel; there was nothing for the church to be worried about. But it was so clear that it is the unlived Christian in every Christian, this book could be a dangerous book. And it is a dangerous book. But Zorba is tremendously beautiful. Kazantzakis sends him to purchase some things from the city, and he forgets all. He drinks and goes to the prostitutes and enjoys, and once in a while he remembers that it seems many days have passed but still, the money is with him. Unless all the money is finished, how can he return? The master will be very angry, but nothing can be done about it — it is his problem. And after three weeks he comes back — and he had gone only for three days — and he does not bring anything that he was sent for. And he comes with all the stories — “What a great journey it was, you should have been there. I met such beautiful bubalinas… and such good wine.”

And the master said, “But what about the things? For three weeks I have been sitting here boiling.”

He said, “When there are so many beautiful things available, who bothers about such small things? You can cut my salary every week, by and by, slowly, and take your money back. I am sorry I could not come earlier. And you should be happy that I have come — because the money was finished I had to come. But next time when I go, I will bring all the things.”

He said, “You will never go again. I will send somebody else.”

Zorba’s whole life is a life of simple, physical enjoyment, but without any anxiety, without any guilt, without any botheration about sin and virtue and….I would like this man Zorba to be alive in everybody, because it is your natural inheritance. But you should not stop at Zorba. Zorba is only the beginning. Sooner or later, if you allow your Zorba full expression, you are bound to think of something better, higher, greater. It will not come out of thinking; it will come out of your experiences — because those small experiences will become boring. Buddha himself had come to be Buddha because he had lived the life of a zorba.

That thing has not been noticed by the East — that for twenty-nine years Buddha lived as no Zorba could ever live. Zorba was so poor. Gautam Buddha’s father had arranged for all the beautiful girls to be picked from the whole kingdom for Buddha’s enjoyment. He made three beautiful palaces in three different places for different seasons. He had beautiful gardens and lakes. Buddha’s whole life was just luxury, pure luxury. But he got bored.

One of the most significant experiences that he comes across was when one night beautiful girls were dancing… he was drinking, they were drinking, and then everybody fell asleep drunk. In the middle of the night he woke up and looked around, and he was shocked; and that shock was one of the turning points in his life. Some girl was snoring — she was a beautiful girl, but her mouth open and snoring… she looked so ugly, the saliva was coming out… somebody’s nose was flowing. And he said, “My God, this is what beauty is!” He was finished. Those girls were dispersed the next morning. “I don’t want any girls in my palaces. Enough is enough.” In fact, it was too much. In twenty-nine years he lived almost the equivalent to four or five lives of an ordinary man. With all that luxury, soon he found himself tired and bored, and a question became very prominent in his mind: Is this all? Then what am I going to live tomorrow for? Life must mean something more; otherwise, it is meaningless.

It was out of the zorba that the search, for Buddha, started. Not everybody becomes a buddha; and the basic reason is that the zorba remains unlived. Do you see my argument? My argument is: live Zorba fully, and you will naturally enter into the life of a Buddha. Kazantzakis has written ZORBA THE GREEK. He’s dead. If he had been allowed to live more…. He was sick, he was very tense, he remained very miserable because he was always afraid of sin. And then when he was expelled from the Christian church — that means condemned to hell; only Christians can go to paradise — that was such a shock that he could not survive. He was really killed by the Christian church expelling him. If he were alive, I would have told him: “Your book is half. You need to write another book, ZORBA THE BUDDHA. Then it will be a complete phenomenon. But you can write the other book only if you live your zorba. You have not even lived zorba; how can you live the buddha?” Enjoy your body, enjoy your physical existence. There is no sin in it. Hidden behind it is your spiritual growing, is your spiritual blissfulness. When you are tired of physical pleasures, only then will you ask, “Is there something more?” And this question cannot be only intellectual, it has to be existential: “Is there something more?”

And when the question is existential, you will find within yourself something more. There is something much more.

Zorba is only the beginning. Once the buddha, the awakened soul, takes possession of you, then you will know that pleasure was not even a shadow. There is so much bliss…. That bliss is not against pleasure. In fact, it is pleasure which has brought you to bliss.

There is no fight between Zorba and Buddha. Zorba is the arrow — if you follow it rightly, you will reach the Buddha.

Certainly in Greece there is an atmosphere different from India. The Greek personality has remained materialistic. In India, the basic and the essential atmosphere is that of the awakened soul. Whether you go on sleeping, it doesn’t matter, but the atmosphere around you is that of the sunrise. The birds are singing, the flowers are blossoming, and from everywhere the indication is for you to wake up. I will go to Greece again because I have been enjoying all these deportations. And next time I have to talk about Buddha — because I have talked only about Zorba, and I never leave anything incomplete.


This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune. 

Discourse Series: Beyond Enlightenment

Chapter #7

Chapter title: Zorba and Buddha: Their split is your social disease

9 October 1986 pm in


Osho has spoken on eminent poets and writers like Byron, Coleridge, D.H. Lawrence, Ghalib, Heinrich Heine, John Ruskin, Kahlil Gibran, Kalidas, Keats, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Milton, Oscar Wilde, Rabindranath Tagore, Ramdhari Singh Dinkar, Rumi, Rudyard Kipling, Shakespeare, Shelley, William Blake, Kazantzakis, Wordsworth and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. The Book of Wisdom
  2. The Sword and The Lotus
  3. Returning to the Source
  4. Light on the Path
  5. The Secret
  6. The Hidden Splendour
  7. The New Dawn
  8. Beyond Enlightenment
  9. Come Follow To You, Vol 1
  10. Beyond Enlightenment
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1 Comment

  • Someshwar
    Posted February 20, 2022 3:25 am 0Likes

    ಥ್ಯಾಂಕ್ಯೂ ಮಾಸ್ಟರ್

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