Kevin Dolak and Susan Donaldson James report:
Steve Jobs’ final words, “Oh wow, oh wow, oh wow,” might have been a Tibetan experience “more powerful than orgasm,” according to Columbia University’s Robert Thurman, who is chairman of Buddhist studies and translator of the “The Tibetan Book of the Dead.”
The repetition of words “sounds like a beautiful moment, when he is indeed moving toward the light,” said Thurman, who met Jobs and his “Tibetan buddies” Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and actor Richard Gere in the 1980s in San Francisco.
He said the computer innovator was strongly influenced by Buddhism after a journey to India after he dropped out of Reed College. “Bravo for Steve,” Thurman said.
Jobs’ sister, Mona Simpson shared her brother’s deathbed experience in a eulogy she delivered at the late Apple CEO’s memorial service Oct. 16. In the intimate eulogy, which was printed in The New York Times Sunday, Simpson described Jobs’ final days and moments in a Palo Alto hospital, which was spent surrounded by his family as his breathing gradually became shorter.
His breath, she said, “indicated an arduous journey, some steep path, altitude.”
Tibetans describe the eight stages of dissolution of mind-body connection and the immersion in four levels of light. The belief is based, “supposedly [on] reportage by yogi adepts who died consciously and remembered the process in later lives and described it in detail,” Thurman said.
“The subject undergoing this, if clear-minded at the time, not struggling too hard on staying with the ‘coarse’ body, experiences the emergence of the subtle and extremely subtle mind process in a body of pure luminous energy as an enormous release,” he said. “And quite soon gets beyond fear and attachment to the flesh and blood embodiment and flies free, beyond merely losing habitual senses’ consciousness. Hence, ‘Oh, wow, oh wow, oh wow.”
Although it might be difficult for “secular materialists” to envision, the Tibetans believe that “after some time of enjoying the freedom of vast sky, the temporarily liberated, subtle mind-bodied being begins to move around the universe and seeks a new rebirth,” he said.
That rebirth could be similar to Jobs’ previous existence, especially if he was deeply in love with others and was in close proximity to family and friends,” Thurman said. “This is of course a very complex process and mostly involuntarily based on attractions, unless the being is highly evolved and consciously aware of deep impulses usually unconscious in less developed beings.”
Jobs’ eulogy was delivered at Stanford Memorial Church. Simpson, an accomplished novelist, began by describing her initial meeting of her brother when she was in her mid-20s. Simpson was born in 1957, two years after Jobs, who was given up for adoption as an infant.
“Even as a feminist, my whole life I’d been waiting for a man to love, who could love me. For decades, I’d thought that man would be my father. When I was 25, I met that man and he was my brother,” Simpson said.
Simpson went on to describe her strong relationship with the man now known for revolutionizing the computer world, while explaining Jobs’ work ethic and capacity for love — particularly for wife Laurene and as a doting father to their three children.
“Steve was like a girl in the amount of time he spent talking about love. Love was his supreme virtue, his god of gods. He tracked and worried about the romantic lives of the people working with him,” she said.
In describing his illness from pancreatic cancer, with which Jobs was diagnosed in October 2003, Simpson paints a picture of Jobs as an enduring, “intensely emotional man.”
She concluded her eulogy by sharing Jobs’ final moments, which were spent staring lovingly at his family, and his final three monosyllabic words as he stared into the distance past their shoulders: “OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.”
Simpson is a professor of English at the University of California-Los Angeles and was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. She has written five novels, and won the Whiting Prize for her debut, “Anywhere But Here.”