After just one semester in college Steve Jobs dropped out. He believed that the education he was getting was not worth spending his parents entire savings on. He continued to live on campus for another 18 months, sleeping on the floor in his friend’s room, and dropping in classes that took his fancy. He collected and sold coke bottles to get money and ate free meals served at the local Hare Krishna temple on Sundays. One class that he dropped into was to prove crucial for the future. This was a class on Calligraphy and gave him insight into typefaces and fonts.
He was profoundly impacted by the counter culture movement of the 60s and he saved up money to go to India. His objective was to gain spiritual insights and enlightenment. He sought to meet the Guru of Ramdass (Richard Alpert), Neem Karoli Baba. However the guru just passed away before they could meet. After some misadventures in the Himalayas and Tibet he returned back to the US.
Steve was disillusioned with the poverty he encountered in India and found it hard to reconcile this with the high spiritual ideals of the country. He had a burning desire to help the masses but he gained insight during his trip that the way out of poverty was not through socialism or spirituality but through technology and capitalism. He later said, “Thomas Edison did a lot more to improve the world than Karl Marx or Neem Karoli Baba.” He agreed with Gandhi’s maxim that “Poverty was the worst kind of violence.” There is a saying in India that goes, “You cannot sing the praises of the Lord on an empty stomach.” And without the love of the Lord in one’s heart, humans cause immense damage to one another and the environment. There is no nobleness in poverty: only heartbreak, humiliation, and misery.
Steve Jobs now understood that the best way for him to transform society and help the masses was by creating value. He would turn into an entrepreneur and a businessman. But his deep and inner motivation was always a deeper love for humanity and a desire to help. This is the essence of Karma Yoga. To understand Apple and Steve Jobs you have to understand that this was not about technology, or simplicity, or design, or beauty. It is about access. In its very essence its driven by a desire to make technology accessible to the masses and this came from a deeper sense of love and a desire to transform society for the better. Like all of us Steve was a complex human being and like most yogic journeys Steve’s journey was neither linear nor simple. But his interest in an yogic life can be inferred from the fact that one of his most prized possession was the “Autobiography of a Yogi” by Yogananda that he read multiple times.
Through his efforts spanning 3 decades, Steve Jobs created millions of jobs and created immense wealth and prosperity that spread far and wide. The innovations that he and his company created, and other imitated, made technology accessible to Billions of people. This did more to empower and democratize society than what he or anybody else could have ever achieved through philanthropic activities. If this is not the result of a deeper yogic movement within then what is?
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