Celebrity Buddhists – Steve Jobs (Part 1)

by Jaya

Steve JobsWhen we presented the story of Aung San Suu Kyi , we predicted that you’ll feel wowed to know more of the Celebrity Buddhists & their success stories. It was indeed very popular considering that the article was one of the very first to be published in this space. As promised you before, we bring you another icon to you who converted himself to be a good Buddhist practitioner. We hope that you will be inspired & enjoy our segment on famous Celebrity Buddhists too.

Though we would like to introduce you the celebrities who are living today, it will also be important to know those who passed away making a significant difference in the lives of society in various ways. Our celebrity today is one of tech giants and an exceptional conceptualist. A man who started from the scratch and climbed to the top spot of the world tech industry. A man with a great vision and undying determination. A man with a wealth that one time exceeded the total debt of the US economy. He is none other than the all time great Steve Jobbs, the founder of Apple inc.

All of you may wonder how he got attached to a philosophy like Buddhism considering his background in which capitalism hailed. His being was decidedly Zen Buddhist. Zen teacher, Kobun Chino Otogawa, was the teacher of Jobbs who was also appointed by Jobs as the spiritual advisor at the corporation. Kobun died in 2002. He dedicated his life to Soto Zen Buddhist meditation practice. There were four themes from the life of Steve Jobs that had the influence of Buddhist virtue as applied in economic development. First was the theme of non-duality, which is evidenced by Job’s combining of the humanities and engineering or design with hardware and software. Second is removing excess thought. This was evident in Job’s focus and the products that Apple produced under Jobs’ leadership. Most recently these are the iPod, the iPhone, and the iPad. Third is the theme of simple living. Living simply was a trait of the teacher Kobun Chino Otogawa and of Steve Jobs. Kobun and Steve brought living simply to their sense of design and aesthetics. Steve Jobs, although a very wealthy man, chose to live simply. His life was not overburdened by things such as furniture. The simple living led to simple design aesthetics, which he loved. The fourth theme is self-reliance, which was also a theme of Steve Jobs’ 2005 commencement address at Stanford University. Jobs was self-reliant so much so that he didn’t even believe in marketing surveys. He questioned how people could know what they liked until they have seen it from Apple. Anyone interested in how Buddhist virtues can lead to economic development could learn from Steve Jobs’ practice of Buddhism.

Steve Jobs, who died on October 5, 2011 at 56 years of age, was a practicing Buddhist in Soto Zen Buddhist meditation.

After Jobs knew Kobun for 17 years he performed a marriage ceremony for Jobs and his wife, Laurene Powell. Over the years, Steve and Kobun often meditated together. At one time, Steve asked Kobun if he should give up business for meditation. Kobun answered that Steve should stay in business and the benefits of meditation would accrue naturally. Jobs was undoubtedly close to his teacher who died a year before Jobs found out that he himself had pancreatic cancer.

Let’s look at how he faced life with a cancer in the next article. Until we meet with the part 2 of Steve Jobbs’s life as a Buddhist, we wish you the Blessings of Triple Gem.