As a Buddhist looking for perfecting his Right Livelihood: finding a Livelihood which is so perfect and Right that it not only avoids bad-karma-making (killing, stealing, intoxication, etc.) but even furthers the level of Dharma in the world (healing, love, connectedness, self-understanding)... seeing people involved in these kinds of work truly brings me joy.

What kind of information technology careers do you think most easily contribute to the Dharma and how? If you are involved in IT and are Buddhist, how do you connect the two (other than through donating to Buddhist causes)?

  • Here is a Reddit post where I asked the same question and people with personal anecdotes.
    – Ahmed
    Feb 3, 2015 at 23:00
  • I have always considered Tech Support to be a karma positive part of IT.
    – JasonJ
    Sep 28, 2015 at 20:51
  • Data centers can be big polluters. The electricity needed to cool them is tremendous. Then again Google claims to be carbon neutral for many years now. I guess it depends on the data center
    – pmagunia
    Apr 9, 2023 at 17:54

5 Answers 5


I have a slightly less orthodox view on right livelihood than others might. I think for practical purposes right livelihood is

  1. Your means of living doesn't harm others and accords with Buddhist ethics
  2. Your means of living leaves you with enough time and energy to practice the dharma

So I was originally a teacher which is good on point 1 but exhausted me so no Buddhist practice was possible. So it was only when I moved into IT that a practice became possible so really a programmer was more right livelihood than teaching for me with is rather counterintuitive.

That said as things go on then point 2 becomes important. My last job had a big defence contract which although I never worked on it never sat right with me. So I've moved into healthcare computing which I feel is more in keeping with both aspects of right livelihood.

Generally IT is a neutral thing. It's a tool and it is the use that that tool is put to that gives it its ethical dimension. Healthcare, education and charity IT probably good. Gambling, poronography and activities that increase peoples suffering probably not such good uses of IT.

  • Yep! I agree. In the end, it is that 2nd part that is very important. On retrospect, my question is actually silly... IT is the best field! There are many jobs that cause harm to others and also leave you with little time or energy to Practice during the day and when the workday is done.
    – Ahmed
    Jan 31, 2015 at 16:14
  • 1
    I would add gaming in general. I'm a game developer myself so I know that even the most complex games are just skinner boxes in a fancy disguise. Of course games are just a medium like books or movies but there is a very little number of ones that will not increase your suffering. Online genres are even causing serious addiction and deaths sometimes.
    – user5716
    Nov 26, 2015 at 18:40

From the Mahayana Avatamsaka Sutra, which encourages people-- lay and monastic-- to work towards the enlightenment of all beings, says:

"Bodhisattvas, thus engaged in the development of sentient beings ... practice whatever in the world would benefit sentient beings, such as writing, teaching, mathematics, sciences of various realms or elements; medical sciences; prevention of consumption, epilepsy and possession (schizophrenia), warding off poison, zombies (hey even the CDC is watching out for this one!) and witchcraft; song and dance, drama, music, story telling and entertainment; the construction of villages, cities, ..., canals, reservoirs, ponds abounding in lotuses, groves producing flowers, fruits and medicines; the discovery of gold, jewels and other precious substances; methods of pointing out the signs of the sun, moon, planets stars, constellations, movements of the earth, omens, dreams, ...; points of the cultivation of discipline, meditation, mystic knowledge, the immeasurable and formeless states-- and whatever else is not harmful or injurious, that which is conducive to the benefit and well-being of all creatures, that the enlightening beings undertake, guided by compassion, to establish them in the way of the buddha."

So at least in context of the Bodhisattva project, mathematics, (and programming is just applied logic and mathematics), is exactly the sort of thing we should be doing.

This is from Chapter 26, the Ten Stages, aka, Daśabhūmika.


IT is a tool. It's all about how you use it. If you're helping others and doing good, then you're in the right job. If you're in a job where it's used badly and harming others then that's a big no, for me.

I work in IT for a mapping company. We provide mapping for emergency services among others (no military mapping). So as far as I'm concerned it's a good job to have as a Buddhist.

As I always put it to myself "If you're not helping; what are you doing?!"


Right occupation is a limited term, it is meant to steer one clear of the most toxic professions, where just by association, one can accumulate negative karma.

Most occupations including the sciences are neutral in this regard.

A monk would sooner walk among mother tigers than tread the path of fame and fortune. ~Ryokan (Zen Master)

Most high profile occupations today are about more than putting food on the table. Fame and fortune are definitely ingredients of ambition.

In places like Silicon Valley the ambitious and busy pursuit of wealth, power and fame are considered unquestionable virtues. Of course many try to balance it out with a focus on charity, or by building meditation rooms in the workplace. Often they approach these activities too with the busy mind, of trying to get somewhere, be something, and that defeats the purpose. If one is truly dedicated to Dharma this isn't enough.

Unless we are very clear about why we don't want only these values of material success, of more becoming for ourselves, these goals will soon become dear to us by being around materialists. At that point it can edge out thoughts of just being, co-existence, compassion and letting go.

Thus choosing right co-workers and objectives is a more important aid to the holy life than just choosing an occupation.

Often this decision will come at the cost of some material success and busyness, since wealth tends to accumulate faster when ethics are thin and people are busy doing things.

"Man's mind is filled with dangers; the mind of the Way is subtle; make your mind pure and dedicated and adhere to the Mean."


I was a telecom and system developer for a lot of my career -- which I figure was ethically neutral.

I always avoided applying for jobs with companies in defence industries.

Now I work with software for medical device data in hospitals, which I'm glad of -- it seemed to me more worth-while than working in Fintech, which was another option at the time and better-paid.

If you are involved in IT and are Buddhist, how do you connect the two (other than through donating to Buddhist causes)?

Well I think it's a job, a bit like others, I mean it's not like teaching the Dhamma, or peace of mind.

But I feel no remorse about seeking medical care for family who need it, I think it's a right thing to do, and writing software which assists the medical profession isn't a bad thing either, I don't know better.

Since you ask, providing medical care may be just about the only "work" that the Buddha told monks to perform (for other monks, who have no other family), which I guess goes to show something.

Also when my wife was telling me what I should say at her funeral, she said, "First of all, I'd like to thank the doctors for saving my life." So there's an element of that for me -- gratitude, and paying it forward.

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