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I work as a software engineer. I've been working at this workplace for around 2 years. But, I don't find the work challenging enough (just boring bugfixes only). Given that I spend 8 hours at my workplace, I probably do just around 3 hours of productive work. I think I am wasting my time. Is it bad if I want better work ? Should I consider this as my aversion and just continue with my work ?

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All Buddhism is going to tell you on this issue is that you do not have to suffer your way through it. You have a number of attachments:

  • An attachment to your job, which may be due to loyalty, fear, a sense of personal responsibility, etc
  • An attachment to having challenging (meaningful, fulfilling) work
  • A set of self-identification attachments, in which you envision yourself as more successful and productive than you actually are

There is nothing wrong with you staying in this job and continuing to do this work. There is nothing wrong with you deciding to advance yourself (either by finding a different job or by working for advancement within this company). The only problematic thing would sitting in this state of dissatisfaction because you cannot resolve these competing attachments. So, contemplate these attachments a bit to try to get at their root; meditate a bit to clear your head. Then make a choice, and trust it's the right one.

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Examine feelings to understand inclination and motivation. In particular, pay attention to neutral feelings, which yield to ignorance for the unaware. Neutral feelings are very subtle and seductive.

MN44:27.2: “The underlying tendency to greed should be given up when it comes to pleasant feeling. The underlying tendency to repulsion should be given up when it comes to painful feeling. The underlying tendency to ignorance should be given up when it comes to neutral feeling.”

Fixing bugs does not happen in a vacuum. The bugs are part of larger problems and contexts that need to be addressed. People are always involved. Take an interest in the larger purpose of your work, its impact on the world and how you might work with others to apply your skills in a broader context. To do so requires an open heart.

MN43:31.2: Firstly, a mendicant meditates spreading a heart full of love to one direction, and to the second, and to the third, and to the fourth. In the same way above, below, across, everywhere, all around, they spread a heart full of love to the whole world—abundant, expansive, limitless, free of enmity and ill will.

Write open source code and talk more with people to understand their needs. Live and work with your heart.

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I work as a software developer myself and I can relate to that ,I used to get attached to making better features and also thought that I wasn't productive enough ,like spaced out ,this is perfectly normal ,and according to dependent origination everything happens for a reason ,including the feelings you are having towards the subject ,maybe you felt burnout from prior constant work .

What I learned is that I was a perfectionist and there was a desire to showoff or prove myself as I was a junior dev ,and this over time lead to burnout ,I figured out I was too concerned about it ,actually all feelings are possible ,any work situation is possible ,bugs can always be there ,even if it was long time since they showed up ,basically don't narrow yourself to what you should always do to fix life,life is not code.

If you don't know what to do ,then thats the case ,you don't know what to do ,you don't need to constantly know what to do,its not natural to always know what to do.

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I think Buddhist doctrine is just that work (or anything else for that matter) isn't going to be perpetual bliss, if what you're looking for is:

  • Constant novelty
  • Permanence
  • Praise
  • Comfort
  • Ever-increasing wealth, leisure, power, fame, etc.

According to the canon isn't it better to become a monk instead, and to practice that full-time?

And if you want to evaluate the work you do, evaluate it on the basis of, "What is right, what is ethical? What course of action may 'benefit self and others'? What will I not regret, what is it that will cause 'no remorse'?"

This answer referenced some of the kind of advice there is about lay livelihood in the canon.


Is it bad if I want better work ?

Not necessarily.

There may be a distinction between "craving" (which is always unwholesome) versus "desire" -- which is sometimes wholesome, especially if desire for something "virtuous" (like enlightened behaviour).

See https://buddhism.stackexchange.com/search?q=chanda

As well as whether it's virtuous (e.g. compassionate) people might also distinguish between whether it's "skilful".

So a "skilful" kind of desire might actually do the things that would be necessary to arrive there, to achieve that ("achieve" is perhaps also known as "finish" or "to have accomplished, completed").


What "matters", possibly, is the inter-personal relationships ... the people you work with.

You phrased this as a question about desire/aversion which can seem very internal/solitary.

And software engineering can seem impersonal: working only with machines.

But it's people who we work with and for, people we benefit, people we're kind to or not kind to, people who'd consider us a co-worker or not, people whose lives are affected (or not) somehow.

Does work benefit someone -- are they glad you do it?

Does the work give an opportunity to live -- and to live peacefully?

Is it an unethical waste, not just of what you want to be doing, but of what you might and should be doing?

Maybe that's a slightly broader question to ask.

If you continue to do it then will you experience "remorse", i.e., "I 'should not' have done that, it was morally wrong"?

Another thing that matters is, who are you with? Are you with good people, bad people? Because -- both from personal experience and because the suttas say so repeatedly -- I think that you become a better person if you spend time with good people (and, unless you're enlightened, worse if you spend time with bad people). So I think it's probably judged fine and proper to want to find and keep "good company", to develop "good" friendship.

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As always, Ted Wrigley's answer is brilliant and a great starting point for mine ;)

In the final perspective, there is not much difference between suppressing your aversion on one hand, and leaving in hope of finding a better place, on the other. Both are the actions of samsaric mind - called "monkey mind" or "hunting dog mind" in Zen.

What really matters is being true. Until you learn to be true, you will keep recreating these situations, over and over again.

Being true is what's called "finding your true self" in Zen, or "Mahamudra" in Kagyu.

When you master being true, you no longer make these half-choices that create these situations of conflict between "should" and "can". You are 100% authentic. If you leave - you leave 100%. If you stay, you stay 100%. First of all, in your own mind.

More importantly, when you are true every step along the way, these kinds of situations do not arise.

  • "True" has two meanings that I know of: a) not lying; b) something like as used in the phrase "No true Scotsman". And I think I didn't used to find the latter kind of usage really precise enough, to be understandable and reliable guidance, when I tried to understand Buddhism via modern authors' paraphrases. And I mix with that the idea of sunyata, of things being or not being true (their true selves, real). So I didn't used to find this kind of answer helpful: too pointy-at-the-moon perhaps, insufficiently grounded possibly. – ChrisW Dec 12 '19 at 7:36
  • Not lying to oneself. In sync with things-as-they-are. With no hindrance in the mind. – Andrei Volkov Dec 13 '19 at 3:28
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If you have been there two years then you are still probably considered a "junior developer". Next time you have a review with your boss, ask for a more active role. You probably have a good understanding of how the code works. Suffering is not about being bored, it is about wanting to do something else AND not doing anything about it.

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