An important point I see is how one furthers death and lying. Through working, you are taxed, and taxes fund the breaking of the precepts. Taxes fund war and espionage, so killing and stealing are definitely two which you break just by earning income.

If one abstains from paying taxes, then your wage will be held. So nothing is really achieved here, since you are just laying the karmic burden on another person, which is arguably worse.

Also, just being a consumer, even if say you make less then the taxable amount in your country, then you still fund abusive working conditions and abusive companies and practices. You fund massive amounts of suffering, since the money you pay goes into the company and then into warfare/espionage funding through the company's taxes.

So, to leave such a life would really upset my relatives. My question is, is it more important to not cause suffering to my mother and father, and am I just being over reactive about this issue?

Because the way I see it, I am certainly breaking the precepts of killing and stealing through proxy, yet if I were to leave, I would cause a massive amount of suffering to some of the most important people in my life. Also it may cause people who know me to really disrespect Buddhism, thinking "oh what a lazy/crazy person". Yet I cannot help but feel that contributing to the death of millions of people is less compassionate.

Any thoughts please! This is a difficult situation.

I am practicing Mahayana and am currently adapting the Bodhisattva vows.

  • What exactly do you mean when you say "leave such a life"? Thanks for clarifying.
    – Robin111
    Commented Mar 17, 2015 at 13:06

4 Answers 4


Firstly, does your profession fulfill the requirements of Right Livelihood? If your work or business is not in weapons, human trading, meat, intoxicants, poison or anything in the spirit thereof, then it is fulfilling Right Livelihood. For now, I assume yes.

Secondly, although your profession fulfills Right Livelihood, the State requires and compels you to pay tax. So here, you do not have the intention to willingly contribute money to the government, but you do so because you are forced to and because you are a law-abiding citizen.

Thirdly, you have the opportunity to influence how your tax money is spent through the elections. So, here I assume that you have voted in the past at the ballot box (assuming that you are eligible to do so). It doesn't matter who got elected, as long as you have done your part.

Fourthly, you still have the opportunity to vote using your feet and move or migrate to another place.

However, the main point in my opinion is that, what the government does with the tax money, is not caused by your intentions and you did not pay tax with the intention of contributing towards warfare etc. Rather, you paid tax because you were compelled to do so.

The commentary on the story of the hunter's wife from Dhammapada 124 is relevant here.

The monks began to discuss the matter, saying, “So Kukkuṭamitta has a wife, and when she was a mere girl she obtained the Fruit of Conversion; yet she married this hunter and by him had seven sons. Furthermore, during all this time, whenever her husband said to her, ‘Bring me my bow, bring me my arrows, bring me my hunting-knife, bring me my net,’ she obeyed him and gave him what he asked for. And her husband, taking what she had given him, went and took life. Is it possible that those who have obtained the Fruit of Conversion take life?” Just then the Teacher approached and asked, “Monks, what is it that you are sitting here now talking about?” When they told him, he said, “Monks, of course those that have obtained the Fruit of Conversion do not take life. Kukkuṭamitta’s wife did what she did because she was actuated by the thought, ‘I will obey the commands of my husband.’ It never occurred to her to think, ‘He will take what I give him and go hence and take life.’ If a man’s hand be free from wounds, even though he take poison into his hand, yet the poison will not harm him. Precisely so, a man who harbors no thoughts of wrong and who commits no evil, may take down bows and other similar objects and present them to another, and yet be guiltless of sin.” So saying, he joined the connection, and preaching the Law, pronounced the following Stanza,

  1. If in his hand there be no wound, A man may carry poison in his hand. Poison cannot harm him who is free from wounds. No evil befalls him who does no evil.

Also, the commentary on the story of Ven. Chakkhupala, the blind arahant, from Dhammapada 1, is relevant here:

While residing at the Jetavana monastery in Savatthi, the Buddha uttered Verse (1) of this book, with reference to Cakkhupala, a blind thera.

On one occasion, Thera Cakkhupala came to pay homage to the Buddha at the Jetavana monastery. One night, while pacing up and down in meditation, the thera accidentally stepped on some insects. In the morning, some bhikkhus visiting the thera found the dead insects. They thought ill of the thera and reported the matter to the Buddha. The Buddha asked them whether they had seen the thera killing the insects. When they answered in the negative, the Buddha said, "Just as you had not seen him killing, so also he had not seen those living insects. Besides, as the thera had already attained arahatship he could have no intention of killing and so was quite innocent." On being asked why Cakkhupala was blind although he was an arahat, the Buddha told the following story:

Cakkhupala was a physician in one of his past existences. Once, he had deliberately made a woman patient blind. That woman had promised him to become his slave, together with her children, if her eyes were completely cured. Fearing that she and her children would have to become slaves, she lied to the physician. She told him that her eyes were getting worse when, in fact, they were perfectly cured. The physician knew she was deceiving him, so in revenge, he gave her another ointment, which made her totally blind. As a result of this evil deed the physician lost his eyesight many times in his later existences.

Then the Buddha spoke in verse as follows:
Verse 1: All mental phenomena have mind as their forerunner; they have mind as their chief; they are mind-made. If one speaks or acts with an evil mind, 'dukkha' follows him just as the wheel follows the hoofprint of the ox that draws the cart.

  • I don't think meat-at-a-supermarket is very good analogy (meat-at-a-supermarket a separate topic, a topic on which mahayana might disagree with theravada, a topic that's arguable): because two characteristics of taxes are a) paying taxes is involuntary i.e. coerced by the government b) choosing what to spend the tax money on is decided by the government. Similarly when a monk begs then they are not the decision-makers. But when you spend money at a supermarket, that's not coerced and you do decide what to spend money on. IOW I think this would be a better answer if you deleted the end of ...
    – ChrisW
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 15:42
  • ... it, starting with "This is similar to".
    – ChrisW
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 15:42
  • @ChrisW Agreed. Though it would be nice to find a good analogy from the suttas on the importance of intentions for karma.
    – ruben2020
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 15:54
  • 4
    A good analogy would be paying the rent to the landlord. It aint your fault, if the landlord takes that money to a bar and gets drunk! Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 16:07
  • That is a very complicated point. depending on how you see it, almost every work for big corporation could be wrong livelihood! Hard to find a big corporation that works with good products, ethical conduct, it is not involved in tax evasion, bribe or other scandal... so I try to focus more on what YOU do in your work, not what the company does!
    – konrad01
    Commented Mar 13, 2015 at 18:13

i dont think you are causing suffering to your family by going forth. That suffering is triggered by the perceived expected result of the actions performed by another but is ultimately "caused" by delusional state of the afflicted stream of consciousness.

I think you are definitely overthinking it in regards to taxes but honestly i am not sure how to address it.

Society is more or less crazy, it is to be expected that they would have some political and juridical system in place that is upside-down. If you pay taxes it is more of a compromise and getting along with community for the time being, than actually making some contribution.

Getting along is very important because for a monk to sustain life without killing, stealing or farming, they are 100% dependent on alms.

A hand that has no wound can carry poison- Dhp. Seems to apply here.


Anton A. Zabirko,

You are giving, paying tax, as an agreement, even with joy, as a contribution for your community. Such does not require unskilful thoughts, ordering and approving possible unskillful deeds.

As for what somebody else, later in charge of it, might do with it, that does not really lies in the givers sphere.

In regard of suffering of certain partners of relations. That falls somehow into the sphere of breaking promises, which is generally "ok" if it is really for a more skilful way and of course one needs to bear the effects.

If thinking on renouncing the live as a householder, if wishing to become a full ordained disciple, it's required to have no debts and one needs the permission of ones parents to leave the live of a householder.

Losing wealth, relations, honor... is of course no match for as if you lose wisdom, conncentation, virtue and goodness: Kalyāṇamittādivaggo: Good companionship and others

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma and not meant for commerzial purpose or other low wordily gains by trade and exchange.]


Depending on where you live, paying taxes also pays for schools, libraries, hospitals, the police, the fire brigade, social services, street cleaners and a million other things. Think how many people would die if we didn't pay our taxes. Probably a lot more than die in wars.

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