Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Zorba’s Wisdom

Happiness is as simple as “a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea.”  The Buddha is not required for arriving at enlightenment.  In fact, the kind of enlightenment brought by the Buddha can be anti-life.  The Buddha can be a demon within.  

Zorba is the antithesis of the Buddha.  Zorba is the protagonist of Nikos Kazantzakis’s classical novel, Zorba the Greek.  The narrator of the novel is a young intellectual who has decided to bid goodbye to books for a while and take up active life.  He wants to be with people.  Zorba, an elderly man with boundless and unconstrained passion for life, becomes the narrator’s companion.  No, not just companion but his Buddha.

A scene from the movie Zorba the Greek
However, the kind of enlightenment that Zorba brings differs totally from what the Buddha had brought.  If life was “sorrow” for the Buddha, it is “trouble” for Zorba.  The highest point you can arrive at in life is not knowledge or virtue or goodness or victory but Sacred Awe.  The intellect does not take us to that Awe.  You need some madness for that, says Zorba.  Life is not to be understood intellectually; it is to be lived passionately. 

Zorba the Greek does not have a traditional plot that grows to a climax.  It is a book of meditation rather than a novel.  You need to put it down again and again in order to contemplate the wisdom that each page contains.

“No. I don't believe in anything,” Zorba tells the narrator. “How many times must I tell you that? I don't believe in anything or anyone; only in Zorba. Not because Zorba is better than the others; not at all, not a little bit! He's a brute like the rest! But I believe in Zorba because he's the only being I have in my power, the only one I know. All the rest are guts. All the rest are ghosts, I tell you. When I die, everything'll die. The whole Zorbatic world will go to the bottom!” 

The novel is an eloquent illustration of that Zorbatic world.  A fascinating world.  A bewitching world.  An enlightening world.

PS. Written for Indispire Edition 114: #MyFavouriteFictionWriter


  1. Replies
    1. Glad to hear that. The novel is one of my favourite ones as is the author.

  2. ' If life is sorrow for the Buddha...' is not the depiction of Buddha. He went beyond sorrow to find a solution - bliss.

    1. Yes, he found a solution. But life was perceived as sorrow caused by desire.

  3. I love the novel 'Zorba the greek '! .. and I agree that it is more of a book of meditation than a novel ...not seen the movie though....

    1. The author, Kazantzakis, underwent certain spiritual tribulations and Zorba is a result. The novel comes from some deep understanding of life.


My India

“Where the king goes, the realm follows,” says a character in Game of Thrones .   It is the leader who shapes the country.   A visiona...