Kobun Chino Otogawa, Steve Jobs' Zen teacher. Courtesy kobun-sama.org.
At PLOS, Steve Silberman goes in depth into the influence that Steve's Buddhist teachers had on Apple's mission and its products.
"I found myself in a unique position to write it, since I knew Jobs' teacher Kobun Chino, and studied at Zen Center around the same time that Steve did," Silberman tells Boing Boing. "I include a quote from a never-published interview with Steve at the end."
As a young seeker in the ’70s, Jobs didn’t just dabble in Zen, appropriating its elliptical aesthetic as a kind of exotic cologne. He turns out to have been a serious, diligent practitioner who undertook lengthy meditation retreats at Tassajara — the first Zen monastery in America, located at the end of a twisting dirt road in the mountains above Carmel — spending weeks on end “facing the wall,” as Zen students say, to observe the activity of his own mind.
Why would a former phone phreak who perseverated over the design of motherboards be interested in doing that? Using the mind to watch the mind, and ultimately to change how the mind works, is known in cognitive psychology as metacognition. Beneath the poetic cultural trappings of Buddhism, what intensive meditation offers to long-term practitioners is a kind of metacognitive hack of the human operating system (a metaphor that probably crossed Jobs’ mind at some point.) Sitting zazen offered Jobs a practical technique for upgrading the motherboard in his head.