The Power of a Sabbatical (pic: Steve Jobs on a Sabbatical in India)
Sabbatical is an often misunderstood word. Let us first understand it’s meaning and then rediscover what understanding this word can give to us.
this is what the various dictionaries give us
sab·bat·i·cal (sə-băt′ĭ-kəl) also sab·bat·ic (-ĭk)
1. Relating to a sabbatical year.
2. Sabbatical also Sabbatic Relating or appropriate to the Sabbath as the day of rest.
A sabbatical year.
[From Late Latin sabbaticus, from Greek sabbatikos, from sabbaton, Sabbath; see Sabbath.]
1. (Protestantism) of, relating to, or appropriate to the Sabbath as a day of rest and religious observance
2. (Bible) short for sabbatical year
1. (Education) denoting a period of leave granted to university staff, teachers, etc, esp approximately every seventh year: a sabbatical year; sabbatical leave.
2. (Education) denoting a post that renders the holder eligible for such leave
3. (Education) any sabbatical period
[C16: from Greek sabbatikos; see Sabbath]
sab•bat•i•cal (səˈbæt ɪ kəl) also sab•bat′ic,
1. (cap.) of or appropriate to the Sabbath.
2. pertaining to a sabbatical year.
3. sabbatical year.
4. any extended period of leave from one’s customary work.
Wikipedia is a little better:
In recent times, “sabbatical” has come to mean any extended absence in the career of an individual in order to achieve something. In the modern sense, one takes sabbatical typically to fulfill some goal, e.g., writing a book or travelling extensively for research. Some universities and other institutional employers of scientists, physicians, and academics offer the opportunity to qualify for paid sabbatical as an employee benefit, called sabbatical leave. Some companies offer unpaid sabbatical for people wanting to take career breaks; this is a growing trend in the United Kingdom, with 20% of companies having a career break policy, and a further 10% considering introducing one
Well, to come back to our discussion, what no dictionary gives us is what this word has come to mean. It means breaking away from your routine and rediscovering yourself. Adding another dimension to your being and finding a perspective you never new. Once you move away and try to live a different life you tend to find new ways reconnect the dots that life has given you. For e.g. the often quoted sabbatical of Steve Jobs in India that was the result of him living a miserable existence having no money to pay for food and his existence. He discover that the Hare Krishna temple offered free food, and he also came across new friends who were into the hippy movement spreading around. He also heard about godmen in India who could give an answer to his miseries about his existence, and his problems.
The following year, in 1974, Steve desperately needed some money and he got himself a job at Atari. Atari was arguably the first video game company: it was created by Nolan Bushnell in 1972, and one of its first employees was Al Acorn, the inventor of Pong. Steve was hired although he would often call his co-workers names and smell pretty bad. That’s why he was soon moved to the night shift.
Later, as he was working as a technician in Atari, he convinced the company to give him a sabbatical right after an official visit for console maintenance (1974) to Germany (half way around the world). Well, he did reach India and tried to find a Godman (Neem Karoli Baba) that he was told about, though he went through a miserable experience all through this search.
Jobs (image shows Ashton Kutcher playing Steve Jobs) flew into New Delhi in April 1974, booked into a cheap hotel and came down with dysentery almost immediately. As soon as he was well enough he travelled to Haridwar in western India for the great Hindu festival known as the Kumbh Mela. From there he took a train and a bus to Kainchi in the foothills of the Himalayas to the ashram of Neem Karoli Baba. He rented a room with a mattress on the floor from a local family who fed him vegetarian meals. But he had arrived too late. Maharaj-ji was no longer present, having attained Mahasamadhi (left his body) the previous September.
Well although he came to know that the Godman had died the previous year (1973), it’s not about that. It’s not about Godmen, but about the perspective that the India stay gave him. He knew how other people in the world lived, and also how happiness can be found by people who are miserable. He also learnt that if God is with you you do not need anyone (as mentioned to Krishna Dass/ Jeffrey Kagel). This article is not about God either, but about finding peace with yourself, since, abandoned at an early age by his parents, Steve was obsessed with finding them out. This learning put him at peace and he found a new mission which to some account did change the world.
Being in India, also made Steve aware about Gandhi and his influence on Indian way of thinking. Gandhi was a puritanical form of Indian thought process. A connect with nature that Indians had, also became a part of his awareness and influenced his thought process hereafter. Simplification, is also something that he learnt from India. It is not that he may acknowledge India (that is not our Steve) at any juncture, but then that’s what the Indian Philosophy espouses.
Again, this article is not about Steve Jobs, but about what a sabbatical can bring to your life. Many people would look at what they earn during a sabbatical, but then that is self defeating since if it was about earning, they would be better off continuing where they were, in the job they were doing.
A mid life break is about learning. A Sabbatical can give that one chance to take another hard look at oneself, test one’s philosophies in another world where no one is there to prove you right, when you’re wrong, no one to guard your vanity, or other falsehoods you’ve made about yourself. Not even the vain goals you had set to engage yourself (like Steve wanting to know why his parents abandoned him). There are many other stories like this, for e.g. Beatles visiting India, Gandhi in Africa, and so on. All of these demonstrate how clarity arrives when you remove all other constants from your life.
I just hope that this rant was a tad bit useful to some of you. If it was, do like it and share it with others who may find this of use.
my previous rant was the English Translation of Bazeecha-e-Atfal by Mirza Ghalib
to read my earlier rants please click here
Interesting just about a week after this post, Mark Zuckerberg mentioned about Steve Jobs advise to visit Neem Karori Baba’s ashram to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. So I must add Zuckerberg’s Sabbatical to this list.