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Death and Taxes
Answer
9/8/17 5:51 AM
Militaries are funded by taxation. Taxes fund violence. Buddhists pay taxes. Everyone pays taxes. Is it impossible to live by the precept of non-violence in the modern world ? Is there some context behind the idea of the original precepts ie., it was understood that the people of the day would also have to pay something towards the warrior caste, like we do now, but that one should avoid being directly involved in any violence so as not to add to the trouble ?
Or does the diffusion of responsibility, by putting taxes into a pool with everyone else's, mean that it's not possible to know whether your funds support violence or support some other peaceful endeavour ?

RE: Death and Taxes
Answer
9/8/17 6:24 AM as a reply to Stickman2.
The Buddha's concern regarding kammic actions was always around cetana, or volition. It's pretty hard to pay taxes with the intention of doing harm. I think the path factor of right livelihood is more concerned with avoiding knowingly involving oneself in doing harm. 

The fact you're even asking such questions suggests you're on the right track anyway ;-)

Metta...

RE: Death and Taxes
Answer
9/8/17 9:41 AM as a reply to Peter S.
Peter S:
The Buddha's concern regarding kammic actions was always around cetana, or volition. It's pretty hard to pay taxes with the intention of doing harm. I think the path factor of right livelihood is more concerned with avoiding knowingly involving oneself in doing harm. 

The fact you're even asking such questions suggests you're on the right track anyway ;-)

Metta...

Hi Peter thanks for the reply. I don't really know what you mean, about intention ? I think it varies. I think many people just don't want to contemplate what they may be paying for because it's too ugly and they are in a position of being forced into a bargain with the state. Maybe the discussion about this is more developed in sociology or political thought where people definitely object to where their taxes go and sometimes are willing to be jailed or stay poor. But the fact that there seem to be plenty of enlightened tax paying citizens, and also unenlightened tax protestors (not just USA style) makes me think it's not cut and dried as an issue. Maybe there is an argument that dedication to a contemplative path compensates in other ways for whatever happens with tax monies. Maybe there's no rational answer and there is a fundamental ambiguity in trying to act with good or bad intentions in the world as it is (without being nihilistic about it). I haven't really explored this and perhaps it's more a sociology question.

RE: Death and Taxes
Answer
9/8/17 11:03 AM as a reply to Stickman2.
Who is doing what to whom?  From a material scientific perspective it is just atoms - or quanta - banging around.  Deeper than that, nothing is happening at all.  Do you worry about what is happening in the Horse Head nebula?  Why is this different, really?   It is a serious question. 

On another level,  how can you know what the long term consequences of paying or not paying taxes will be?  Over the next 100,000 years which will lead to a lower level of suffering for all sentient beings - assuming that is what you care about?  When I look at this, it is obvious my actions - every one of them - have an unknowable consequence stream. Deeper than that, I have no control anyway. 

RE: Death and Taxes
Answer
9/8/17 12:15 PM as a reply to Stickman2.
From a pragmatic standpoint, it seems to me that this question is relevant only if you believe taxes are voluntary (as, for example, the IRS would have us believe). Otherwise, the simpler question is: Can I better fulfill my life's purpose and serve humanity living a prison cell or living free?

RE: Death and Taxes
Answer
9/8/17 1:44 PM as a reply to Stickman2.
Weirdly close to thoughts I've been having lately...

&

I got your study
https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/06/how-do-buddhist-monks-think-about-the-trolley-problem/532092/

& I'm not sold on impermanence (briefly - lack of a permanent memory as a yard stick), myself, but for the sake of argument...

RE: Death and Taxes
Answer
9/9/17 12:29 AM as a reply to Stickman2.
Like others have mentioned I think it's related to intent. There are stories of an elderly buddhist monk achieving enlightenment in the buddhas time, and villagers would then complain that the blind monk was stepping on insects while walking. The villagers were confused that an enlightened being could kill other creatures.

The buddha replied that the blind monk had no ill will left in them, they'd "laid down the rod" and so it wasn't an act of killing, it was accidental. The intent behind an act is much more important than the physical properties of the act itself.

Other religions have similar attitudes, if you're a muslim and you're tricked into eating something haram (prohibited) it's not considered to be your fault and you won't be judged for it. If you were to intentionally eat something forbidden, that would be different.

RE: Death and Taxes
Answer
9/8/17 11:54 PM as a reply to Stickman2.
Hey again

Very thoughtful response. But my point was exactly as it sounded. What is your volition or intention when you allow the government to take a portion of your income? Is it to fund military actions? If it is, then you have something to be concerned about. If it is not, then not. Simple as that.

If I walk along a garden path and step on a bug, killing it, did I break a precept or not? Impossible to know from that description. Why? Because it lacks information regarding my volition. If I intended to step on it, I broke a precept. If I was listening to a Dhamma friend expound on the teachings and wasn't aware of where my feet were landing, then no precept broken. This is all stated in the suttas, and is quite straightforward. 

Of course, as you imply, it gets more complex when you know where your tax money is going. But do you have a choice? Not really. You could evade tax, but then you'd be breaking the law of the land, which the Buddha was clear in encouraging his followers to respect. Evading tax would also break the precept on right speech - you'd have to misrepresent figures, or not report them at all.

I don't pretend to confidently have all the answers. But if you look at your volition, it helps to clarify the rightness or wrongness of a course of action.

Metta...

RE: Death and Taxes
Answer
9/9/17 3:14 AM as a reply to Peter S.
60% of healthcare in the US is paid for by taxes. Thus, as my salary is generated by healthcare dollars, and as I pay for the DhO, about 60% of the DhO is paid for by US taxes, and really even more of it, as defense contractors for the US government make up a large portion of the insurance revenues that are collected at the hospitals that employ me here in Huntsville, AL, the world center for high tech weapons, defense, and space development.

Taxes pay for schools, roads, retirement, social services, the EPA, NASA, NOA, the FDA (God help them), OSA, DHR, and many other useful and necessary government agencies.

Big science, the sort of science that saves lives, develops new and amazing treatments and medications and makes breakthroughs in cancer and all sorts of other areas wouldn't exist without taxes.

Fusion energy will likely result from very large tax dollars.

It is true that taxes pay for some truly horrible things, like bombing children in Yemen and many other places and many other real crimes against humanity, but the vast majority of tax money isn't slaughtering innocents and destabilizing villages and societies, though that does happen also.

I very much wish that the US government and other governments only did things that were clearly ethical and justified in ways that don't require elaborate mental gymnastics to wrap your twisted mind around, but that is not the case. Still, most taxes are not funding those things.

RE: Death and Taxes
Answer
9/9/17 4:09 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
60% of healthcare in the US is paid for by taxes. Thus, as my salary is generated by healthcare dollars, and as I pay for the DhO, about 60% of the DhO is paid for by US taxes, and really even more of it, as defense contractors for the US government make up a large portion of the insurance revenues that are collected at the hospitals that employ me here in Huntsville, AL, the world center for high tech weapons, defense, and space development.

Taxes pay for schools, roads, retirement, social services, the EPA, NASA, NOA, the FDA (God help them), OSA, DHR, and many other useful and necessary government agencies.

Big science, the sort of science that saves lives, develops new and amazing treatments and medications and makes breakthroughs in cancer and all sorts of other areas wouldn't exist without taxes.

Fusion energy will likely result from very large tax dollars.

It is true that taxes pay for some truly horrible things, like bombing children in Yemen and many other places and many other real crimes against humanity, but the vast majority of tax money isn't slaughtering innocents and destabilizing villages and societies, though that does happen also.

I very much wish that the US government and other governments only did things that were clearly ethical and justified in ways that don't require elaborate mental gymnastics to wrap your twisted mind around, but that is not the case. Still, most taxes are not funding those things.


Hi Dan, that's the trouble, the supply chain for everything we (I'm UK so it's very similar) have is so complicated, even for the nice things, that we often simply don't know what is being done to acquire the resources for it - except for obvious ones like oil and the occasional sweat-shop disaster that gets in the news. It's a massive area of debate around the ethics of resource acquisition, fair trade, conflict free minerals, intellectual property and all the things that go into even the most benevolent medical equipment.
For example I take asthma meds, and I have no idea how my inhalor is made and what had to be done to get it. It's mostly pigmented plastic and steel, so there's oil, gas, possibly nuclear power in the making of it. Maybe a fair deal was cut to get all those things from around the world, maybe not - even the manufacturer may not know. There's transportation, there's storage at the pharmacy, there's transportation for the pharmacist, there's a bewilderingly complex network that gets it to me with the military at the edges of it. Asthma is aggravated by burned fossil fuels, so that network helps make medication even more necessary and is certainly doing violence to my lungs. It all sounds like an over complex house of cards based on doing things which people object to, and it is.
Even a military that isn't doing anything is still a brutal organisation, just by virtue of day to day conduct (my Dad was in the army) and they aren't running on voluntary contributions. Military budgets and deep investigative journalism about how they are spent are now a click away, so it's easy to get an idea of where the money goes.
Trade and industry in Buddha's time were likely quite complex, Silk Road network and all that, but nothing like what we have now.

Yet amongst all that people are still getting enlightened, which is a head spinner it's true.
(I did take note of what you said about marching soldiers and A&P, BTW - do we really know what is going on with people?)

RE: Death and Taxes
Answer
9/9/17 8:42 AM as a reply to Peter S.
Why was the buddha keen to encourage his followers to obey the law, because the law was wise and just, or because it was brutal ?

RE: Death and Taxes
Answer
9/9/17 8:49 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I may point out that, aside from of all the moral complexities of our industrial society, I am happy to pay my NHS taxes knowing that it is an absolute bargain compared to many other health care systems.