“I saw a deep pool with sloping banks overgrown with lotuses. From all directions, a wide variety of animals came to drink. Strangely, the deep water in the middle was terribly muddy. Yet the water at the edges, where all the thirsty creatures descended into the pool, was unaccountably clear and sparkling. This was my ninth dream. What does it mean?”
“This dream will come to pass in the future, when rulers grow increasingly corrupt. Ruling according to their own whim and pleasure, they will not make judgments according to what is right. Being greedy, they will grow fat on lucrative bribes. Not showing mercy or compassion to their subjects, they will be fierce and cruel. These rulers will amass wealth by crushing their subjects like stalks of sugar cane in a mill and by taxing them to the last penny.
“Unable to pay the oppressive taxes, the citizens will abandon their villages, towns, and cities, and will flee like refugees to the borders. The heart of the country will be a wilderness, while the remote areas along the borders will teem with people. The country will be just like the pool, muddy in the middle and clear at the edges." More
In the Acts of the Buddha 2:43, the Buddhist philosopher-poet Asvaghosa (circa 80-150 CE, north India) praises the Buddha's father, King Suddhodana:
43 He did not wish to raise inordinate taxes,he did not with to take what belonged to others [theft],he did not wish to reveal his foes' [non-]dharma,he did not wish to carry anger in his heart.
Two things jump out immediately. First, Asvaghosa equates wishing to raise inordinate taxes with wishing to take what belongs to others -- in other words, theft. Second, taking inordinate taxes/theft appears alongside the much more obvious -- and, many of us might think, much more serious -- transgressions of defamation and hatred....
While it's uncertain what role greed plays in Asvaghosa's objection to excessive taxes, the Mahayana Buddhist scripture "Requested by Surata" is painfully obvious. In the following excerpt, the Bodhisattva Surata upbraids the corrupt king of Sravasti (more here):Your Majesty, you levy harsh taxesAnd punish the innocent for no reason.Infatuated with your sovereignty,You never heedThe future effects of your karmas [deeds].
Surata obviously objects to the king's high taxes because they are a result of his greed -- for power and for money -- and also because they hurt Sravasti's citizens.
Here Nagarjuna isn't just concerned about taxes' financial effects, but also their emotional ones....
The renowned Nyingma [Tibetan] Buddhist philosopher and teacher Jü Mipham Gyatso (1846-1912, Derge, eastern Tibet) nicely sums up all of these sentiments in his Advice on the Way of the King, saying,Forcefully taking a reasonable tax from the wealthy,even when they haven't offered it,is like being compensated.This is not “taking what hasn't been given.”
Forcefully taking from the poorcan be either a wrongdoing or not a wrongdoing:In order to prevent gamblers and prostitutesfrom wasting the wealth obtained illicitly,if you take from them,it is said to benefit both and is not a wrong-doing.When someone has lost property through fire, etc.,tax them lightly.
If one doesn't care for the sentient beingswho haven't any means, this is a wrong-doing. More