How should citizens respond when they don’t agree with the government?

Dear Friends

Were there any stories or teachings on how Buddha advised people on what they can do when they do not agree with the polices of the government?



Searching for law, I found:

Whether Realized Ones arise or not, this law of nature persists, this regularity of natural principles, this invariance of natural principles:

all things are not-self.

A Realized One understands this and comprehends it,

Therefore I would say that one should act freely within the confines of precepts as inspired by limitless love, compassion, rejoicing and equanimity. I.e., I see “government” as simply a human law of nature. And I haven’t seen any society where all the citizens all agree with the government. The role of government is to mediate resources individually and collectively. Given that resources are limited, dissatisfaction arises even for those in government.

Searching for government, I found the story of Ugga, a government minister in AN7.7:

“But Ugga, how rich is he?”
“He has a hundred thousand gold coins, not to mention the silver!”
“Well, Ugga, that is wealth, I can’t deny it.
But fire, water, rulers, thieves, and unloved heirs all take a share of that wealth.

Now that is a government minister unhappy with his own association with government. Notice that the Buddha didn’t mention taxes. :smile:

He did tell Ugga:

So let the wise devote themselves to faith, ethical behavior, confidence, and insight into the teaching, remembering the instructions of the Buddhas.”

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“rulers… take a share” — Is that not a description of taxes?


Sn 2.4 the Maha-Mangala sutta directed at lay disciples contains the words “living in a civilized land”. This has been interpreted as follows:

“Residence in a place inhabited by quarrelsome and trouble-making citizens, where one is bossed about by a dictatorial and corrupt government, where the climate is inimical with frequent ravages by floods, famines, earthquakes and epidemics, where the air is charged with hatred and mutual suspicion, and where freedom of thought and action are reduced to a minimum: in brief, residence in a place having many factors and conditions obstructive to the practice of Dhamma and not conducive to physical, moral and spiritual well-being, is just the opposite of what is meant by a suitable environment.”—Khantipalo


There’s only two options I can think of:

  • Seek seclusion
  • Move to another country

There is a sutta where a monk purposely goes to a dangerous land and the Buddha questions him if he is ready and what would he do, basically he looks at the positive in every scenario. Of course this isn’t expected of every disciple. Even the Buddha himself left crowded monestaries to seek seclusion and pleasant abiding instead of having a “deal with it” or “must accept everything” nihilistic mentality.

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I think the Buddhist approach is not too different from Confucian proper order:

“The illustrious ancients, when they wished to make clear and to propagate the highest virtues in the world, put their states in proper order. Before putting their states in proper order, they regulated their families. Before regulating their families, they cultivated their own selves. Before cultivating their own selves, they perfected their souls. Before perfecting their souls, they tried to be sincere in their thoughts. Before trying to be sincere in their thoughts, they extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such investigation of knowledge lay in the investigation of things, and in seeing them as they really were. When things were thus investigated, knowledge became complete. When knowledge was complete, their thoughts became sincere. When their thoughts were sincere, their souls became perfect. When their souls were perfect, their own selves became cultivated. When their selves were cultivated, their families became regulated. When their families were regulated, their states came to be put into proper order. When their states were in proper order, then the whole world became peaceful and happy.”

SN35.88 With Puṇṇa

“But if they do take your life with a sharp knife, what will you think of them then?”
“If they take my life with a sharp knife, I’ll think:
‘There are disciples of the Buddha who looked for someone to assist with slitting their wrists because they were horrified, repelled, and disgusted with the body and with life. And I have found this without looking!’


Hi there @benlim, I dont think this threat belongs to Q&A category as it is not a specific question for which there is a specific answer. Could we move it to Discussion or even Watercooler maybe?