For example, software/code/algorithms themselves can be very complex, dense, cryptic (often without value), overly detailed, stressful to understand intent (sometimes), generation of new abstractions that generate new problems... and requires more cognitive strain for advanced theory and implementations.

Zen type practices seem very opposite - simplicity, clarity, open space, non-judging, non-solving, higher non-thinking intelligence, beauty, expansiveness, ease, flow and lightness of mind/thought.

Does computer science really fit on this path...or are we trying to shove it in based on others expectations and financial wealth?

(Then of course the physical environments and people environments that tend to correlate with each).

  • Yes computer is dumb just like zen
    – blue_ego
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 18:53

3 Answers 3


After user16788's answer answer about Zen rock gardens, the answers to topics like these might be relevant to your question :

In Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance (whose preface says it should "in no way be associated with that great body of factual information relating to orthodox Zen Buddhist practice" ), the author who according to the story had been a technical writer says:

"What I wanted to say," I finally get in, "is that I’ve a set of instructions at home which open up great realms for the improvement of technical writing. They begin, ‘Assembly of Japanese bicycle require great peace of mind.’"

That's similar to developing software -- I find it can be done only with peace of mind, concentration without distraction -- there might even be "unity" described in the topics on calligraphy, e.g. software runs correctly on the computer if it previously ran correctly in the mind.

A long while ago I read this about writing code ...

'Experts' write code that computers can understand -- 'gurus' write code that people can understand.

... so you try to write code that people (fellow-programmers) can understand -- with clear design, comments, and so on.

Learning new stuff can be stressful though, I guess. I try to learn enough to do what I need to do.

Also, ethics -- avoid lying, keep your promises, don't hide things from your team, etc. -- e.g. "cryptic" doesn't sound ideal, it sounds like either that's not well- and carefully-written and -explained (to be understood by other people), or it's obfuscated (which I think is generally unethical, i.e. if it's code which you're supposed to be reading then the author shouldn't have tried to obfuscate it).

Conversely the other properties you mentioned -- i.e. "simplicity, clarity, open space, non-judging, non-solving, higher non-thinking intelligence, beauty, expansiveness, ease, flow and lightness of mind/thought" -- all seem to me to be more-or-less what well-written or well-understood software is like.

  • this is true, it does require a certain state of mind and body. I guess I am trying to still find this mythical well-written software base but never too late to change it...
    – P.S.
    Commented Aug 18, 2019 at 19:50
  • As an experienced software developer I fully agree with this comment. Software development, when practiced correctly, is much closer to Zen than it may look like at the first sight.
    – Nikola
    Commented Nov 14, 2022 at 22:52

Look at a Zen rock garden and look at well crafted code and then tell me the two aren't compatible.


On the theoretical side of computer science, there is clear correspondence between the idea put forward by the Incompleteness Theorems and that of kōans, Śūnyatā, etc. in Zen Buddhism. The main concept being that there exist inherent contradictions in all formal systems, and yet we can "overcome" these by stepping outside of that system; in Zen terms, by Non-Thinking. These sorts of things are written about in books by Hofstadter (Godel, Escher, Bach), and Raymond Smullyan (The Tao is Silent, Forever Undecided).

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