The ambassador to America in Sri Lanka wrote me a letter saying, “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 a 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 “In the first place, nobody has a 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 from 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: “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 day’s work, he would take his musical instrument and 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 himself, 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. Come with me.” It was a full-moon night.
Kazantzakis objected: “No, no! What are you doing?”