American techpreneur Steve Jobs, who died on October 5 in 2011, became a postmodern poster boy of innovation, mixing his cranky thoughts with Zen-like brevity and inscrutability. Very few know his sources of inspiration. One definite source was a book—the only book he had downloaded on his Apple iPad 2 for frequent browsing—Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda, a Hindu monk who taught Kriya Yoga, a unique form of meditation, to people all over the world. He wrote the book in 1946, and ever since it has been a bestseller.
He was the first to offer westerners an extensive view of Hindu mysticism and life-altering meditational practice which he called “self-realization”. His book recounts in detail his personal experiences with his lineage of saints and is also remarkable for a Hindu interpretation of Jesus Christ.
Marc Benioff, Founder CEO of Salesforce, a prestigious cloud computing company, who had worked with Jobs for years and knew him personally, has narrated a unique incident. When Benioff attended the memorial service after Jobs’ death, the attendees were given a small brown box. This must have been the most important message from Jobs since he wanted them to have just this thing after his death. “I knew that this was a decision he made, and whatever it was, it was the last thing he wanted us all to think about,” Benioff said in an interview to CNET. The box contained a copy of Autobiography of a Yogi.
According to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs, he first read the book as a teenager, then reread it in India and had read it once a year ever since. “If you want to understand Steve, it’s a good idea to dig into it. He was not afraid to take that key journey,” Benioff said.
Nabha Cosley, a follower of Paramhansa Yogananda, remembers the order was placed for this book. “A short time after Steve Jobs passed away, a friend of mine at Crystal Clarity Publishers received a phone call. “We’d like to place an order for 500 copies of Autobiography of a Yogi. Do you have that many?”
It turned out that those books — eventually purchased from Self-Realization Fellowship, who had enough in stock — were needed for the memorial service for Steve Jobs, the famous founder of Apple who was inspired throughout his life by Eastern spirituality. In 1974, Jobs traveled to India with a friend after reading Be Here Now and Paramhansa Yogananda’s Autobiography of a Yogi. The trip turned out to be a disappointment. Jobs later said that he realized “we weren’t going to find a place where we could go for a month to become enlightened.” Though he regularly attended a zen meditation group on his return, his work life eventually became a higher priority,” writes Cosley.
“That was his message,” Benioff said in an interview. “Actualize yourself. He had this incredible realization that his intuition was his greatest gift, and he needed to look at the world from inside out.”
From what Isaacson has written about Jobs, it seems he considered himself a mystic no less: “At the root of his reality distortion was his belief that the rules did not apply to him. He had evidence for this, in his childhood, he had often been able to bend reality to his desires. He had a sense that he was a chosen one. He thinks that there are a few people who are special like Einstein and Gandhi and the gurus he met in India – and he’s one of them.”
“At the root of his reality distortion was his belief that the rules did not apply to him. He had evidence for this, in his childhood, he had often been able to bend reality to his desires. He had a sense that he was a chosen one.”
Benioff too said Jobs was really a guru. We don’t know if Jobs had indeed the wisdom and powers that are generally associated with mystics, but he was able to turn himself into one of the biggest brands. We don’t even know how much Paramhansa Yogananda would have endorsed his thoughts. But what is certain is that the Indian yogi had a remarkable capacity to influence all kinds of people with his inspirational teachings as well as secret methods. Dipping into his autobiography must be an enlightening experience for a lot of people.
What the Kriya Yogi said
The kingdom of God is not in the clouds, in some designated point of space; it is right behind the darkness that you perceive with closed eyes. God is Consciousness; God is absolute Existence; God is ever new Joy. This Joy is omnipresent. Feel your oneness with that Joy. It resides within you; and it encompasses infinity. Beyond the gross vibratory boundaries of matter, the Immutable Infinite reigns in all His majesty and vastness. Endlessness—that is the kingdom of God; conscious Bliss, eternal and boundless. When your soul has expanded and feels its presence everywhere, then you are united with Spirit.
When modern science will discover how to go deep into the subtle electromagnetic constitution of man, it will be able to correct almost any medical condition in ways that would seem almost miraculous today. In the future, healing will be effected more and more by use of various types of light rays. Light is what we are made of—not gross physical light, but the finer spiritualized light of prana, intelligent life energy. That light is the real essence of everything. This earth is not “earth” as you see it; it is light. But you cannot perceive that until you know the underlying astral world.
Since all effects or seeds of our past actions, our karma, can be destroyed by roasting them in the fire of meditation, concentration, the light of superconsciousness, and right actions, there is no such thing as fate. You make your own destiny. God has given you independence, and you are free to shut out His power or let it in.
Thoughts are universally and not individually rooted; a truth cannot be created, but only perceived. Any erroneous thought of man is a result of an imperfection, large or small, in his discernment. The goal of yoga science is to calm the mind, that without distortion
it may hear the infallible counsel of the Inner Voice.
Material things cannot be owned by anybody, for at death they must be left behind & given to others. We are only allowed the use of things. It shows lack of wisdom to be ‘possessed’ by material things. Just pray to be given the use of things that you need and to be given the power to create at will what you need. Do not allow your happiness to be conditioned by what you have or do not have.
Intuition is the bridge between the soul and the ego’s thoughts and sensations. If one can for a sufficient length of time remain unidentified with thoughts and sensations, and without being unconscious, he will know through the development of intuition the nature of the soul.
(This story was carried in the print edition dated October 1.)