This first ever translation of Jamgön Mipham’s Treatise on Ethics for Kings is a substantial and historic contribution to the field of Buddhist ethics. The text consists of a set of verses advising the king of Dergé in Tibet on how to ethically behave in accordance with Buddhist principles. It is perhaps the longest premodern work of its kind and is designed as a code of conduct for anyone to follow, not just kings. Mipham speaks of how to rule with compassion, to abstain from taking life, of fair taxation, environmental sustainability, aiding the poor, and the importance of freedom of religion. He also warns that leaders must be weary of close associates who are easily corruptible, and that in order to govern one must have measured emotions and always consider the law of karma, cause and effect, in making decisions.
José Cabezón, a renowned scholar of Buddhism, introduces us to the only known work on ethical kingship coming from Tibet. He points out to the reader that Mipham repeatedly mirrors many ethical treatises from classical India, but deviates when presenting a distinctly Buddhist perspective that emphasizes impermanence, karma, and compassion. Throughout the text Cabezón provides valuable commentary that helps transport the reader to the Buddhist world of nineteenth-century Eastern Tibet, where monks and kings relied on one another and the primary role of the king was to protect his people from physical, mental, and even spiritual harm.