How practicing Zen Buddhism played a critical role in Steve Jobs’s success?



One of the most spectacular attributes of “Zen Buddhism”, one that clearly distinguishes it from all other spiritual practices is that in Zen there’s no dealing with past or future. As per Zens this moment, this particular moment we are living in defines us. Nothing slightly left or right from that exact moment should bother us. It’s like trying to live in that moment by giving the hundred percent of what you are in it. It’s like living in that exact reality and not being bothered by even a single abrupt thought and emotion. It’s like trying to see the world as it is, to see everything in the existing circumstances.

Believe it or not when you are freed from all the extraneous chaos hampering your decision-making abilities, your concentration and your focus you’ll see the present as it is. It’s similar to standing behind the fence which protects the forests located in the old countryside and feeling the cold wind smoothly grazing your face and not remembering the last time you felt this serenity nurturing within you or that time in distant future when you’ll experience this feeling again.



It’s not rocket science but its authentic subtlety can only be deciphered and simultaneously ingrained through its arduous practice. Its true achievement is no less than a state of the art and like before the completion of any such masterpiece there’s a lot which has to be given in to achieve this feat.

There is “something” going on here, “something” more than a job, family, and career. It’s the same thing that aspire people to become poets instead of bankers. It’s the same thing that urges maestros to continuously reinvent themselves by pursuing a slightly different shade of obscurity thereby discovering a new state of the art. And that “something” cannot be extracted by deeply fathoming about past and distant future. That’s the subtle beauty of it.


If we can give our customers this “something” we have done our jobs. It’s not much what they want or what they visualize, we don’t rely on market research. It’s what they need. As Henry Ford once said “If I’d ask people what they wanted they would have told me- a faster Horse!”


This kind of empathy or intuitive recognitions of the next product cannot be fostered through thinking alone. Jobs mastered this art through practicing meditation rigorously in his 20s. By traveling on a quest of finding oneself Jobs visited India, went to every possible spiritual place, wore Indian cotton robe, dipped in holy rivers (A traditional Indian way for the atonement of one’s sins) but nothing can placate him. He even suffered from dysentery while living in Calcutta and couldn’t get out of his bed for months. When he visited Buddhist monasteries he was somewhat mystified by the situation around him. There were no bhajans, no kirtans, no fragrance of incense sticks, no crushing sounds of a breaking coconut and not even a glimpse of a single ash particle after the cremation of a body.

He was perplexed about how simple everything was, he felt attracted to it. This same attraction towards simplicity propelled him to go through the depths of the complexity of every product Apple ever unveiled out thereby giving it an edge world is going crazy for. All his insecurities, all his fears about being abandoned slowly faded as he immersed himself deeply in meditation experiencing the calm, the newness he had always craved for. Being in that calm allowed him to think- What mattered to him in life?


A question he has asked himself almost million times at the particular stages of his career.

What’s more important-pursuing hatred or insecurity about something he never had or living in this exact moment, extracting a meaning out of it and redefining that moment by huddling through the depths of complexity to an ultimate level of simplicity and sophistication?

We all know he chose the latter one. He implemented the same strategy in designing every product of Apple whether its internal core or simplified though elegant external look.

The western method of relying on logic and properly analyzed data may sure have helped in maintaining the growing economy of its ever expanding market in several countries. But the innovation, the intersection of the technological street with the design may only have been possible by employing the eastern tactics of following the intuition, on following what mind thinks right at a particular instant. Maybe this thing also prevented him from outsourcing Apple’s software to all other hardware stores because he wants to protect his baby-Apple. The same quest of finding oneself streaming within a shabby looking mid 20s guy is continuing to urge a billionaire having a relentless pool of intellectualness to continuously re-innovate of what has been done previously.

WOODSIDE, CA – DECEMBER 15: CEO of Apple Steve Jobs sits at his home in Woodside, CA on December 15, 1982. IMAGE PREVIOUSLY A TIME & LIFE IMAGE. (Photo by Diana Walker/SJ/Contour by Getty Images)


Around the same year he visited India he read “Autobiography of a Yogi” and continued to return to this book year after year, He met Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki and often consulted with him. He also met Kuban Chino another Zen teacher who in later years would conduct the matrimonial ceremony of Steve Jobs.

Kuban described their encounter “I heard a soft knock on my door. I opened the door and saw a shabby looking long haired guy. He asked if they could talk in a nearby cafeteria. Steve was thinking about becoming a monk, to devote himself to absolute austerity and simplicity. I politely explained him that this decision of turning into a monk is not right for him. He has a long way to go. And practicing Zen doesn’t mean becoming an ascetic. It’s about being right there in the moment completely”. Kuban’s advice was right because Steve was so driven, so hungry that he was destined to do much greater things all the way while practicing Zen.


On his memorial service on 16th October 2011 in Stanford’s memorial church, the copy of “Autobiography of a Yogi” is given to every person present there.


A true testament of how he lived and practiced all his life with the exception of turning into a spiritual leader.



  1. This article is a complex yet intuitive testament to Jobs’ legacy. Subliminally constructed with emphasis on balance between Eastern and Western practices, it emits a sense of dignified subtlety which is similar to the original incandescence of Jobs that shaped Apple to be the empire it is today. Beautifully penned!


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