Is Life Only the Choice Between Hedonism and Austerity?

A friend just shared this story:
Two close boyhood friends grow up and go their separate ways. One becomes a humble monk, the other a rich and powerful minister to the king. Years later they meet. As they catch up, the minister (in his fine robes) takes pity on the thin, shabby monk.
Seeking to help, he says: ”You know, if you could learn to cater to the king you wouldn’t have to live on rice and beans.”
To which the monk replies: ”If you could learn to live on rice and beans you wouldn’t have to cater to the king.”

While I enjoy the story’s play with words, I also find it supporting misconceptions of being “spiritual” and “worldly.” It goes like this: if you are spiritual, you renounce the worldly things, wear shabby clothes and eat rice and beans. Otherwise, you become caught in the material world, wear fine clothes, eat rich food, but ultimately live a vacuous life, as you work and spend your time catering to those in power.

The Indian mystic Osho has given us another choice that makes the most sense to me! He says become Zorba the Buddha!

Zorba knows how to live in this material world. He eats well, drinks wine, dances and sings on the beach, and makes love all night! But he doesn’t know the silence within himself.

Buddha knows how to go to the deepest levels of his being, into the silence and stillness. But he doesn’t know how to live in the material world. Can you imagine Buddha dancing and singing and drinking and making love??!!

So it is the SYNTHESIS of these two – Zorba the Buddha – that gives us the best of both worlds. Being IN the world, but not OF it! Enjoying all the gifts that life can offer, but not caught up in them and distracted from the stillness inside. Then we live a life that truly makes the heart sing!

And that makes a great deal of sense to me!