Power of Intuition: What Steve Jobs Learned in India

Many of us are familiar with Jobs’ awe-inspiring Stanford speech and the lessons he imparted to us from his legendary career and life-changing experiences.

Here is one small portion of his speech that refers to India or rather, Indian spirituality.

“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. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on.” 

The power of intuition is ultimately what Jobs absorbed when he visited India in his early youth, before Apple Inc, a cumulative product of the erudite mind of Wozniak and the creative engineering and entrepreneurship insight of Jobs, was even conceived. 

The following is a quote from the man himself about his true impression of India as printed in his biography by Walter Isaacson. All rights reserved with the author and publisher.

Coming back to America was, for me, much more of a cultural shock than going to India. The people in the Indian countryside don’t use their intellect like we do, they use their intuition instead, and their intuition is far more developed than in the rest of the world. Intuition is a very powerful thing, more powerful than intellect, in my opinion. That’s had a big impact on my work.”

Though India has suffered its own erosion of enlightenment with unscrupulous leadership and (black market) material gain at the cost of spiritual pursuit, Jobs’s remarkable story has shed light on a critical aspect towards the understanding of the self that can ultimately lead us to achieve our goals – our intuition. 

Even the brilliant Albert Einstein heralded intuition as a priceless gift of mankind, suppressed by rational thought.

Jobs credited his intuitive mind as having a significant impact on his overall work ethic, an understanding he emphasized in his speech about how “you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

Steve’s inspiration to embark on a spiritual quest to India first gained roots from the travels of Robert Friedland, the son of an Auschwitz camp survivor, whom Steve befriended at Reed College. Robert shared his own meaningful experiences of India with Steve, most notably his meeting and eventual adoption of Neem Karoli Baba as his guru, a significant icon of the 1960s hippies movement. For Steve, traveling to India was not just a temporary vacation. Steve’s friend, Daniel Kottke, who accompanied him on the trip to India, suggested that Steve’s need for self-realization stemmed a great deal from his adoption by his biological parents and the void that left in his identity.

In an India Today interview, Daniel Kottke speaks at length about their experiences in India, their wondrous memories, as well as some of their disappointments, such as encountering a few holy gurus who were less than authentic with their supposed psychic abilities. Don’t worry Daniel — Indians know all too well about criminals hiding under the cloak of god-men (*cough* Asaram Bapu.)

Here is one small excerpt of Kottke’s narration of their travels.

What was your impression of India?

We [Steve and I] were very young and had no preconceptions… we wore khadi kurtas and lungis, trying to blend in, but of course it was obvious enough we were foreigners and the swarms of beggars at first was a shock (for example, when getting off the bus in remote villages). But we did learn to appreciate the deep spiritual culture of India and how that enables so many to live richly fulfilling lives in the midst of material poverty.

What did you and Steve take back from India that stayed with you?

It seems in retrospect that we spent a lot of time on endless long hot crowded bus rides from Delhi to Uttar Pradesh and back, then up to Himachal Pradesh and back. We enjoyed our trip to the hill town of Manali, which was burdened with many Tibetan refugees at the time due to the Chinese occupation of Tibet. We visited many temples, especially in Delhi where during the later part of the summer it was too hot to go out during the day but we’d go for long walks at night. I think what stayed with both of us was an appreciation for the rich culture of India and the huge contrast between opulence and poverty to be found there. The most memorable incident was probably when we were making the day-long hike back from the Hariakhan Baba ashram and a violent thunderstorm caught us out in the open with no place to take shelter. We were huddling under our loincloths from the pelting rain, afraid we’d get hit by lightning… happy when we got back to the nearest village that evening.

Read the complete interview at: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/india-visit-gave-a-vision-to-steve-jobs/1/154785.html

In his biography, Jobs narrated about his observations of the extreme display of religious fervor at the Kumbh Mela at Haridwar and the visits to other holy sites up north in the Himalayas. Though he was overwhelmed by large masses of pilgrims and suffered a few water and food borne illnesses along the way, he was dedicated in his goal to experience a stillness of mind by virtue of conscious meditation and adopting a simplistic lifestyle; something one would assume to be a great challenge in the more rational and consumerism driven world of the West. Apart from his deep interest in Eastern spirituality, Jobs was also enamored by the experience of similar, albeit, temporary “synthesized” transcendental states through the use of various drugs in college. 

I will conclude with another powerful quote from Jobs.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

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