Steve Jobs – A Tribute and A Hope

By: John G Weldon PhD; ©October 2011
Steve Jobs was a one-of-a-kind man who broke the mold; sort of an Edison, Disney, Einstein, and somewhat techno-Francis Collins rolled into one. He literally changed how the world works, inventing and marketing some of the most popular and influential tools the world has known.

Steve Jobs was a one-of-a-kind man who broke the mold; sort of an Edison, Disney, Einstein, and somewhat techno-Francis Collins rolled into one. He literally changed how the world works, inventing and marketing some of the most popular and influential tools the world has known. And the world is less for the loss of his ingenuity. He was, to note his Buddhist faith, a technological bodhisattva (one who brings enlightenment) – truly a gift from God who changed the world for the better. We extend our deepest condolences and heartfelt prayers to the family, friends, and colleagues of Steve Jobs around the world, asking for God’s comfort during this time of tragic loss.

Despite his early death, we were fortunate to have him for the time we did — especially as opposed to not having him at all. Had there been no Steve Jobs there would have been no Apple Computer, Macintosh, iTunes, iPad, or iPhone. He believed passionately that, “You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever…” And, “Sometimes life is going to hit you in the head with a brick; don’t lose faith.… Find what you love,… love what you do… And don’t settle… So keep looking, don’t settle.”[1]

In a commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005, “How to Live Life before You Die,” Jobs provided some words of personal wisdom based on his experiences in life. Somewhat startling, he looked positively upon death as something good. What he said has a lot of truth to it:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked; there is no reason not to follow your heart.”[2]

And, “Death is a destination we all share, no one has ever escaped it, and that is as it should be. Because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent.” To be sure, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it…”

Steve Jobs became a Buddhist in the 1970s and apparently remained committed until his recent death. (His mentor is Buddhist priest Kobun Chino Otogawa.) But given Buddhist faith, his life was something of an anomaly. Why? Because Buddhism teaches that the principal problem of man is suffering caused by desire that can be alleviated by understanding the Buddhist “Four Noble Truths” and following “The Eightfold Path.” Early Buddhism (Theravadin) is atheistic; later Buddhism (Mahayana) is polytheistic. After many “reincarnations” Buddhists believe they will enter “Nirvana,” the final, ultimate impersonal state of “existence” where all desire ceases because no individuality remains and all suffering ceases. Suffering, not sin, is the issue. Sin in the biblical sense is rejected; therefore there is no recognition of the need for a Savior from sin.

Applying Steve Jobs admonitions cited above to his Buddhist faith might prove enlightening. He knew we had to have faith; he believed we had to trust in something, whatever it was. His insight into death was true – “no one has ever escaped it” and in the face of death everything falls away “leaving only what is truly important.” Truly, “Our time is limited, so don’t waste it…”

Ironically however, Buddhist faith is ultimately nihilistic – in the end there is no God, no personhood, no love, no salvation, no immortality, no meaning, and no purpose in life. Yet Steve Jobs was clearly a kind person. He was such because he was created in the image of God, not the Buddha, who rejected persons as illusions based, in part, on the Buddhist law of dependent origination. Steve Jobs certainly loved his family, his life and his job, and he certainly felt that there was meaning and purpose in living his life. Yet such things are ultimately illusions in Buddhism. If Steve Jobs understood and applied Buddhism consistently, this must have presented many points of tension in his spiritual life. In many ways, I think he tended to live more as a non-Buddhist. He actually lived in many ways with a Western worldview more reflective of a Christian worldview rather that a Buddhist worldview.

Jobs’ encouragement to the students at Stanford University was an encouragement to all of us – that we have no choice, we all must face death, we are all naked (especially before God), and that what remains in the face of death should be only that which is truly important. To be sure, finding truth is the most important thing in life, and this is only possible through Jesus Christ who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6) and “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 19:37). Those who carefully read the Gospels realize that no one ever taught and did what Jesus taught and did, and that his physical resurrection from the dead, something no one had ever accomplished, proved the truth of his claims to be God. He either wrongly believed he was God or he was God. The historical evidence points toward Jesus as divine.

Significantly, Buddhism and Christianity represent two very contrasting worldviews. Both can’t be right. After studying comparative religion for 40 years (including writing a master’s thesis on Buddhism) I can say with assurance that biblical Christianity is true and offers everything Steve Jobs truly desired for himself and others, things which Buddhism, unfortunately, could never offer. These include the forgiveness of all sins (past, present and future); a truly intimate and personal relationship with the living God; genuine meaning and purpose in life; more love and joy than one can imagine; eternal life beyond all expectation and a God of infinite perfection whose glory is beyond belief.

Any sincere study of the life of Christ will reveal that Jesus Christ and he alone is what’s truly important in life. Only Jesus has the power to forgive sins and to grant eternal life. The certainly of death stalking us all is indeed a change agent – if we use it properly. “Keep looking and don’t settle.” Don’t settle until you have found the truth that Jesus Christ freely offers.

Assuming I understood him correctly, I guess the only disagreement I might have with Steve Jobs assertions above is that there is nothing to lose in the face of death. To the contrary, Jesus clearly taught that one could actually lose one’s soul: “And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” (Matthew 16:26, NLT).

For those who desire more information on Buddhism in comparison with Christian faith, please see the footnote.[3] For more information on becoming a Christian, please see JAShow.org. [link to becoming a Christian article]

Notes

  1. CP News Briefs, “Steve Jobs Dead: A Buddhist’s Last Speech on ‘How to Live Life’ (VIDEO)” http://global.christianpost.com/news/steve-jobs-dead-a-buddhists-last-speech-on-how-to-live-life-video-57421/
  2. Ibid.
  3. “Buddhism – Info at a Glance” and subsequent articles at: http://www.jashow.org/wiki/index.php/Buddhism

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