Steve Jobs and Hinduism

The Hidden Spiritual Side of the Late Apple CEO

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Apple buffs mourn the death of Steve Jobs. Getty Images

It happened in the Fall of 2011. Apple co-founder and legendary business leader Steve Jobs had passed away on October 5 of that year. At the memorial service of Jobs, hundreds of influential leaders from all walks of life were introduced to Hindu spiritual guru Paramahansa Yogananda and his seminal book Autobiography of a Yogi.

It was one of Jobs’ last wishes that everyone who comes to his memorial services leaves with a copy of the book.

Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff in an interview revealed this to share what he saw as Jobs’ “deep, though sometimes hidden, spirituality.”

Autobiography of a Yogi: Last Gift of Steve Jobs

Benioff shared his story of opening the brown box that was given to every guest at Jobs’ memorial service. Read on to find out what was inside and how its lasting message should impact today's entrepreneurs. Below is the complete transcript of Benitoff’s TechCrunch video interview.

“There was a memorial service for Steve and I was fortunate to be invited to it. It was at Stanford. I realized it was going to be special because Steve was very mindful and conscious about everything that he did, and I knew that he had planned this and everything in the program. It was a phenomenal program and I was there when Larry Ellison and his family spoke. Bono and The Edge played, Yo-Yo Ma played.

Then there was this reception afterwards and when we were all leaving, on the way out, they handed us a small brown box.

I received the box and I said “this is good going to be good.” Because I knew that this was a decision that he made and that everyone was going to get this. So, whatever this was, was the last thing he wanted us all to think about. I waited until I got to my car and I opened the box. What is the box?

What is in this brown box? It was a copy of Yogananda’s book. Do you know who Yogananda is? Yogananda was a Hindu guru who had this book on self-realization and that was the message – to actualize yourself!

If you could look back at the history of Steve; that early trip that he went to India to go to the ashram of Maharishi, he had this incredible realization that it was his intuition, his greatest gift, and that he needed to look at the world from the inside out. His last message to us was here is Yogananda’s book. I spoke to someone who was responsible for acquiring all the books and it was a hard time even finding all the books. We really had a hard time finding the books and wrapping them up!

I look at Steve as a very spiritual person especially as he relates to our industry and that he, in many ways, is the guru. In my work at Salesforce, when I really had a problem, I would call him or I would go down to Apple and I would say what should I do? That's how I saw him. When I look at that, I look at it with extreme gratitude and that level of generosity, I remember his thought that we need to be working on actualizing ourselves.

That book, which is called , if you haven't read it and if you want to understand Steve Jobs, it's a good idea to get into that because I it gives a tremendous insight into who he was and why he was successful - which is he was not afraid to take that key journey.

And that is for entrepreneurs, and for people who want to be successful in our industry … a message the we need to embrace and invest ourselves in.”

Jobs’ Affinity for Hindu Spirituality

Jobs’ Hindu leanings can be traced back to his early life when he got himself admitted into college with all his parents’ hard-earned money and finally dropped out. As he admits in his Stanford University commencement address in 2005:

“It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it.”

ISKCON or Krishna consciousness stoked Jobs’ interest in Eastern spirituality. In 1973, he traveled to India to study Hindu philosophy under the popular guru Neem Karoli Baba.

Ultimately, as we know, Jobs turned to Buddhism for spiritual succor.

However, Yogananda’s remained his companion for most Jobs’ life. Walter Isaacson, his biographer writes: “Jobs first read it as a teenager, then reread it in India and had read it once a year ever since.”