Zorba the Buddha: The Beginning of a New Religiousness
Birthday of Indian Sitar Maestro Pandit Ravi Shankar
Born on 7 April 1960, Ravi Shankar was a well-known musician and sitar-virtuoso. He was a brilliant composer and the founder of the National Orchestra of India. His talents were spread across the world and he had an applaudable dexterity for both traditional Indian music and Indian-influenced Western music. He is credited with instituting the Western appreciation of Indian music. He won four Grammys and was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1999.
Ravi Shankar enjoyed a lot of tours in his lifetime, starting as a young dancer with his brother Uday Shankar’s dance troupe. Subsequently, he learned to play the sitar and picked up the strings of this field all his life. He did a series of American and European tours and was associated with artists like Yehudi Menuhin, George Harrison, and the Beatles. Ravi Shankar worked on acclaimed film scores and albums as well and his composition style influenced performers such as John Coltrane and Philip Glass. Along with his thriving music career, he wrote autobiographies named ‘My Life, My Music (1969)’ and ‘Raga Mala (1999)’.
Osho talking about Zorba the Buddha, explains, “My insistence on your organic unity, so that your materialism is no longer opposed to spiritualism, is basically to demolish all religions from the earth. Once your body and soul start moving hand in hand, dancing together, you have become Zorba the Buddha. Then you can enjoy everything of this life, everything that is outside you, and you can also enjoy everything that is within you. In fact, within and without are totally different dimensions; they never come in conflict. But thousands of years of conditioning, that if you want the inner you have to renounce the outer, has taken deep roots in you. Otherwise, it is such an absurd idea…. You are to enjoy the inner — what is the problem in enjoying the outer? The enjoyment is the same; that is the joining link between the inner and the outer.
Listening to beautiful music, or looking at a great painting, or seeing a dancer like Nijinsky — it is outside you, but it is in no way a hindrance for your inner rejoicing. On the contrary, it is a great help. The dance of Nijinsky may bring out the dormant quality of your soul so that it can also dance. The music of a Ravi Shankar may start playing on the strings of your heart. The outer and inner are not divided. It is one energy, two ends of one existence.”
IS THE MEETING OF ZORBA AND THE BUDDHA REALLY POSSIBLE? IF IT IS SO, THEN WHY HAVE OTHER RELIGIOUS LEADERS NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT IT?
The first thing to be understood: I am not a religious leader. A religious leader cannot think, cannot see the way I can — for the simple reason that he has immense investment in religion; I have none.
Religions are necessarily splitting man, creating a duality in the human mind; that is their way of exploiting you. If you are whole, you are beyond their control. If you are cut in fragments, all your strength is destroyed, all your power, your dignity abolished. Then you can be a Christian, a Hindu, a Mohammedan. If you are left just the way you are born — natural, without any interference from the so-called religious leaders, you will be a man of freedom, independence, integrity. You cannot be enslaved. And all your old religions are doing nothing but enslaving you.
To enslave you, they have to create a conflict within you so you start fighting with yourself. And when you are fighting with yourself, two things are bound to happen. First, you will be miserable, because no part of you can ever be victorious, you will be always defeated. Second, a guilt is produced in you that you are not worthy enough to be called a real, authentic human individual.
This is what the religious leaders want. A deep feeling of unworthiness within you makes them leaders of men. You cannot depend on yourself because you know you cannot do anything. You cannot do what your nature wants, because your religions prevent it. You cannot do what your religions want, because your nature is against it. You find yourself in a situation where you cannot do anything; somebody else is needed to take your responsibility. Your physical age goes on growing — your mental age remains retarded, just nearabout thirteen. These retarded people are in great need of somebody to guide them, somebody to lead them to the goal of life, to the meaning of life. They themselves are incapable.
Religious leaders could not have thought of the meeting of Zorba and Buddha, because that would have been the end of their leadership and the end of their so-called religions.
Zorba the Buddha is the end of all religions. It is the beginning of a new kind of religiousness which needs no labels — Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism. One is simply enjoying oneself, enjoying this immense universe, dancing with the trees, playing on the sea beach with the waves, collecting seashells for no other purpose — just for the sheer joy of it. The salty air, the cool sand, the sun rising, a good jog — what more do you want? To me, this is religion — enjoying the air, enjoying the sea, enjoying the sand, enjoying the sun — because there is no other God than existence itself. Zorba the Buddha, on the one hand, is the end of the old man — his religions, his politics, his nations, his racial discriminations, and all kinds of stupidities. On the other hand, Zorba the Buddha is the beginning of a new man — a man totally free to be himself, allowing his nature to blossom.
There is no conflict between Zorba and Buddha. The conflict has been created by the so-called religions. Is there any conflict between your body and your soul? Is there any conflict between your life and your consciousness? Is there any conflict between your right hand and your left hand? They are all one in an organic unity. Your body is not something to be condemned but something to be grateful for, because it is the greatest thing in existence, the most miraculous; its workings are just unbelievable. All the parts of your body are functioning like an orchestra. Your eyes, your hands, your legs are in some inner communion. It is not that your eyes want to go towards the East and your legs are going towards the West, that you are hungry but your mouth refuses to eat: hunger is in your stomach, what has it to do with the mouth? — the mouth is on strike. No, your body has no conflict. It moves in some inner synchronicity, always together.
And your soul is not something opposed to your body. If your body is the house, the soul is your guest. And there is no need for the guest and the host to continuously fight. But religions could not exist without you fighting with yourself.
My insistence on your organic unity, so that your materialism is no longer opposed to spiritualism, is basically to demolish all religions from the earth. Once your body and soul start moving hand in hand, dancing together, you have become Zorba the Buddha. Then you can enjoy everything of this life, everything that is outside you, and you can also enjoy everything that is within you.
In fact, within and without are totally different dimensions; they never come in conflict. But thousands of years of conditioning, that if you want the inner you have to renounce the outer, has taken deep roots in you. Otherwise, it is such an absurd idea…. You are to enjoy the inner — what is the problem in enjoying the outer? The enjoyment is the same; that is the joining link between the inner and the outer.
Listening to beautiful music, or looking at a great painting, or seeing a dancer like Nijinsky — it is outside you, but it is in no way a hindrance for your inner rejoicing. On the contrary, it is a great help. The dance of Nijinsky may bring out the dormant quality of your soul so that it can also dance. The music of a Ravi Shankar may start playing on the strings of your heart. The outer and inner are not divided. It is one energy, two ends of one existence.
Zorba can become Buddha more easily than can Pope the Polack. There is no possibility for Pope the Polack, no possibility for your so-called saints to become really spiritual. They don’t know even the joys of the body. How can you think they will be able to know the very subtle joys of the spirit?
The body is the school where you learn, in shallow water, to swim. And once you have learned swimming, then it does not matter how deep the water is. Then you can go to the deepest part of the lake; it is all the same to you. And when I say this, I am not simply propagating a philosophy. I am making a statement of my own experience; hence, you can feel the authority in my words. I am not an authoritarian person — you should remember the difference. The authoritarian person imposes his authority on you, he is a power seeker. But when words come out of experience, they have an authority of their own. They are not trying to impose anything on anybody; they are, on the contrary, simply exposing one’s own heart to those who are ready to see the great possibility that materialism and spiritualism are not opposite goals, that Zorba and Buddha are not moving in different directions, that only a Zorba has the guts to become a Buddha. It is possible he may not become, he may get stuck in being a Zorba….
But you must be reminded about Buddha’s life. Up to his twenty-ninth year, he was a pure Zorba. He had the best young girls available in his kingdom, by the dozen. His whole palace was full of music and dance. He had the best food, best clothes, beautiful palaces to live in, great gardens. He lived more deeply than poor Zorba the Greek. Zorba had only one Bubulina — an old, faded woman, a prostitute who had lost all her customers. She had false teeth, false hair — and Zorba was her customer only because he could not afford to pay. You call him Zorba? — and you forget completely the twenty-nine years of Buddha’s life which were far richer. Day in, day out, he was simply living in luxury, surrounded by everything that he could imagine. He was living in a dreamland. It was this experience that turned him into a Buddha. It has not been analyzed this way. Nobody bothers about the first part of his life — which is the very base.
He became fed up. He tasted every joy of the outside; now he wanted something more, something deeper, which was not available in the outside world. For the deeper you have to jump in. At the age of twenty-nine he left the palace in the night in search of the inner. It is Zorba going in search of the buddha. Zorba the Greek never became a buddha for the simple reason that his zorbahood is incomplete. He is a beautiful man, full of zest, but a poor man. He wants to live life in its intensity, but he has no opportunity to live it. He dances, he sings, but he does not know the higher nuances of music. He does not know the dance where the dancer disappears. The Zorba in Buddha knew the highest and the deepest parts of the outside world. Knowing it all, now he was ready to go on an inner search. The world is good, but not good enough; something more is needed. It gives momentary glimpses; the Buddha wants something eternal. And all these joys will be finished by death. He wants to know something which cannot be finished by death.
If I have to write Gautam Buddha’s life, I will start it from Zorba. And when he is completely acquainted with the outer and whatever the outside can give, and still finds the meaning missing, he goes in search — because that is the only direction that he has not looked in. He never looks back — there is no reason to look back, he has lived it all! And he is not just a religious seeker who has not known the outer at all. He is a Zorba — he goes towards the inner with the same zest, with the same strength, the same power. And, obviously, he finds in his innermost being the contentment, the fulfillment, the meaning, the benediction that he has been seeking.
It is possible you can be a Zorba and stop there. It is possible you may not be a Zorba and start looking for the buddha — you will not find him.
Only Zorba can find the buddha; otherwise, you don’t have the strength: you have not lived in the outside world, you have avoided it. You are an escapist. To me, to be a Zorba is the beginning of the journey, and to become a buddha is reaching the goal. And it can happen in the same individual — it can only happen in the same individual. That’s why I am insisting continuously: don’t create any split in your life, don’t condemn anything of the body. Live it — not unwillingly — live it totally, intensely. That very living will make you capable of another search. That’s why I don’t say my sannyasins have to be ascetics, that my sannyasins have to leave their wives, their husbands, their children. All that nonsense has been taught for centuries, and how many people — out of millions of monks and nuns — how many people have blossomed? Not even a single one. I want you to live life undivided. And first comes the body, first comes your outer world.
The moment the child is born he opens his eyes, and the first thing he sees is the whole panorama of existence around him. He sees everything except himself — that is for more experienced people. That is for those who have seen everything of the outside, lived it, and are freed from it. Freedom from the outside does not come by escaping. Freedom from the outside comes by living it totally, and then there is nowhere to go. Only one dimension remains, and it is natural that you would like to search in that remaining dimension. And there is your buddha, your enlightenment.
You are saying, “Is it possible that Zorba and Buddha can meet?” That is the only possibility. Without Zorba there is no Buddha. Zorba, of course, is not a full stop. He is the preparation for the Buddha. He is the roots; Buddha is the flowering. Don’t destroy the roots; otherwise there is not going to be any flowering. Those roots continuously supply the juice to the flowers. All the color in the flowers comes from the roots, and all the fragrance in the flower comes from the roots.
All the dance of the flowers in the wind comes from the roots. Do not divide. Roots and flowers are two ends of one phenomenon.
This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune.
Discourse Series: From Bondage to Freedom
Chapter title: Without Zorba there is no Buddha
24 October 1985 am in Rajneeshmandir
Osho has spoken extensively on ‘art, music, painting, poetry, dance,’ and creative geniuses like Picasso, Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Salvador Dali, Bach, Beethoven, Vivaldi, Mozart, Wagner, Pt. Ravi Shankar, Taansen, Byron, Bhavabhuti, Coleridge, Dinkar, D.H. Lawrence, Ghalib, John Ruskin, Kalidas, Kahlil Gibran, Keats, Milton, Nijinsky, Omar Khayyam, Shelley, Tagore, Yeats and many more in the course of His talks. More on this subject can be referred to in the following books/discourse titles:
- Ah This
- Be Still and Know
- Beyond Psychology
- Come Follow to You Vol.1-4
- The Guest
- Going All the Way
- This Is It
- The Book of Wisdom
- The Path of the Mystic
- A Sudden Clash of Thunder
- The Last Testament, Vol 2
- From Personality to Individuality
- Zarathustra: A God That Can Dance
- The Dhammapada: The Way of the Buddha, Vol 10
- From Bondage to Freedom