Sunday 28 December 2014

How the Thais Lost Laos

Although Thailand may have more freedom of speech than any of the countries it shares a border with, it nevertheless lacks freedom of speech.  Some aspects of the political history of the country are very, very difficult to talk about, within the bounds of what's permissible (I've just seen a few statements on Wikipedia that would be punishable in Thailand).

The feelings of the Thais toward Laos are too intense to be changed by facts.  Is there anything I can compare this to in contemporary Europe?  The English don't care nearly so much about the Scottish, nor do the Spanish have any such feeling toward the Portuguese, despite the long histories of war and rivalry in both cases.  Perhaps the only comparison would be the feelings that Russians have toward Crimea, in now claiming the latter as a province: more than just a claim that in the future they should form one-and-the-same country, the attitude is based on a presumption that the smaller country never had a right to exist, and that the border separating them only came about by trickery.  The sense that --somehow-- both sides were cheated out of their national destiny is strong in Thailand; it would make more sense if this sentiment were paired with the notion that the Thai and Lao are "one race" (as the Russians consider themselves the same race as Crimean Russians --although not the same as the Crimean Tatars) but, instead, it is juxtaposed to the very fundamental belief that the Thai and Lao are two separate races, and, unsurprisingly, the Thais consider themselves racially superior to the Lao.

An old book that I recently rediscovered on (link below) provides a reminder of a terrible truth that is inconvenient to both sides, as they now write the 19th century's history.

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Mason's Pali Grammar, New for 2015

If a whole mess of historical anecdotes, grammatical tables, and etymological theories (about a dead language!) sounds like your idea of fun… then, well… this is the Pali textbook for you!

Mason's Pali Grammar was book that faced technical challenges at every stage, and ended up having several fonts created especially for it (at my demand!).  It is finally available for download from Google Books, about ten years after I completed my work on it… and almost 150 years after its first author began work on it, I suppose.

Admittedly, it's not for everyone…

Monday 22 December 2014

Following up with Prof. Erick White (Buddhism and/or/as/vs. Politics)

Did you read about this in the J.I.A.B.S.? No? In any other academic journal?

There are two messages below: the second one is much more amusing than the first one, so you might as well just skip to it.  The first message  shows that I tried to be reasonable and somewhat polite (even finding something to apologize for, in a message that really isn't shouldn't contain an apology) --and then the second message is a bit more brutal.

The photo at the top (with its caption) sums up my feeling on the matter: real political history is unfolding in Theravāda Asia, and Buddhism is deeply involved, and if you can read about it anywhere it won't be in academic journals connected to Buddhism (so far as I know, it isn't covered in any academic journals at all!).  I do think that we have a real problem in that the journals who could be engaging with these issues have the attitude of either (i) no politics please, we're Buddhist, or else (ii) no Buddhism, please, we're political/historical/some-other-discipline.  Honestly, however, the most frequent obstacle I encounter is, (iii) "No Cambodia, please, we're Asian Studies" --and "Asia" is so often implicitly defined as "China plus Japan" (even if they do not say "East Asia" overtly).

Thursday 18 December 2014

The Brutality of the Cultural Revolution (a Small Reminder)

Translation by "Nomfood":
"One day, while everyone was working in the fields, a class enemy disregarded others and tried to attack them. Jin walked over and beat him up nicely, and immediately set up a criticism meeting. The poor farmers lauded the criticism meeting, saying that it raised the spirits of the revolutionary proletariats, and defeated the self-prestige of the class enemy."

Another Buddhist Publication Steals Another One of My Articles

These guys took the time to create an original illustration to accompany the article they stole (i.e., a time-consuming effort, even if inspired by the pastiche I made myself).  It would have taken much less time for them to send me an e-mail, asking for permission to re-publish the article.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

When Budgets Run Into the Millions

Britain's House of Lords has been having difficulty reducing its catering budget (ca. 1.3 million pounds); part of the problem, it was revealed, is their consumption of Champagne, amounting to 17,000 bottles from 2010 to some point in (mid?) 2014.*

The House of Lords has 790 members (not all of whom participate regularly, but we leave that aside).  The budget seems to allow for more than six bottles of Champagne per member, per annum.

Last year, here at the University of Victoria, more than $5.3 million dollars were spent on office supplies in a single year.  I do not know if that number includes Champagne.  Don't believe me?  See the screenshot [below], or check the numbers yourself (they're publicly available, as with the accounting for any charity registered in Canada).

Monday 15 December 2014

Buddhism and/or/as/vs. Politics (Discussion)

A very short, informal article (and my first time posting to New Mandala in a few years, I suppose):

On Youtube: Kang Youwei's Utopia & Mao's Revolution

大同書: Kang Youwei's Utopia & Mao's Revolution (康有為 & 毛澤東)

What was the philosophy of Datong (大同) anyway?  Kang Youwei (康有為) was both an important influence on Communists and anti-Communists in China's 20th Century.

On Youtube:

Read more if you want to know more:

Sunday 14 December 2014

The Dream is Dead, The Dreamer Remains

One of the peculiar but pervasive effects of Google on my life is this: I use some turn-of-phrase and then wonder if I'm quoting someone without realizing it.  Here, in response to the question of what motivated my past work on Buddhism, I conclude with the quip, "That dream is dead.  The dreamer remains."
Was I remembering a line from some other source?  Was I saying something that ten different authors have said before?  According to Google, no, it's original.  I'm left with the feeling that Google can't be trusted (somebody must have said it somewhere, after all).

The article the stranger was responding to happened to be this one (Mind and the Material Elements, in large part a critique of Richard Gombrich & Alex Wynne).

Saturday 13 December 2014

Putting my own name into Google Books search

The complete Chinese translation of "Canon and Reason" remains difficult to find online, so I decided to reformat it and to try uploading it to Google Books (as a mere 50 page "book", for free download, of course). [Update: click here for the finished product.]

It still is available from Medium, but that website changed the way that one story links to another, and so you'd now need to be able to find the following page (within this blog) in order to really read the thing:

Every so often, I do see indications that people are (still) reading and responding to that essay, but I also notice that they seem to be sharing old PDF versions of it (apparently unaware of the other formats, still using an incomplete Chinese translation… and who can blame them?).

So, Google Books will be an experiment, perhaps resulting in an easier-to-find (and easier to use) format, perhaps not.

As the thing is now supposedly available online under the title 南傳佛教研究中的“經典”與“理性”問題, I tried searching Google Books to find it.  No salient results (yet).  So, I then tried searching for my own name.

Friday 12 December 2014

On the Ostensible Sources of Mao Zedong's Utopia: Kang Youwei & Saneatsu Mushanokoji

The Young Mao was influenced by Kang Youwei's The Great Harmony and the Japanese warrior Mushanokoji Saneatsu's New Village (Atarashikimura) Movement.  Mao had joined with others to plan a "New Village" in Yuelushan where thinkers could work and study together and share their assets and the fruits of their labor.  He had never had the opportunity to put that plan into practice.

In 1958, Mao believed the time had finally come.  He had written "When Kang Youwei wrote The Great Harmony, he had not and could not have found a road to that Great Harmony."  Mao believed he had found that road in the communes [of the Great Leap Forward].
(Yang, 2012, p. 170–171)

This essay provides a simple exploration of some of the ostensible sources of Mao Zedong's (毛澤東) ideology, following the cue provided by Yang Jisheng's (楊繼繩) Tombstone (quoted above).

The first and most general discovery is that the connection between Maoism and the sources discussed in this essay has attracted very little attention in the English-language evaluation of Maoist Communism.  Chinese and Japanese sources are outside of the scope of this essay, but, in English at least, it seems that remarkably little attention has been paid to this aspect of the legacies of Mushanokoji (武者小路 實篤, also writ Mushakoji) and Kang Youwei (康有為, also writ K'ang Yu-Wei).   Both names remain famous, but their significance for Maoism --specifically-- seems to have escaped notice in English.

Wednesday 10 December 2014

The Era of Unpaid Authorship

A newspaper office in Bangor, Maine, 1920.
Eisel: everything you say is true, except the last sentence. We know so many people who continue to find ways to make a living out of writing, including people your age.

For instance, try sending short stories to The New Yorker, which pays well. They feature one in each issue, and once a year have an all-fiction issue. Your kind of writing is very close to what they print. Alice Munro and Mavis Gallant first made a living out of writing by selling short stories to them, then book publishers wanted to collect their stories etc. I know that's a previous generation, but new writers are constantly appearing, some in books, some online, most in multiple formats.



That world is over.

That economy no longer exists.

Alice Munro was born in 1931.  Mavis Gallant was born in 1922.

I met an American in Yunnan (who was not particularly sagacious) who remarked to me, "Given the circumstances I was born into, it would have been relatively easy to become a lawyer, but difficult to become a drug-dealer".  Somebody else, born and raised just a few blocks away, would have been in the reverse scenario: easily able to become a drug-dealer, but facing tremendous obstacles separating him from becoming a lawyer.

Making money out of authorship now relies on the same sort of personal connections that would give you access to a career as a drug-dealer.

If I published in the most prestigious Canadian literary magazine imaginable I would either be paid nothing at all, or else a merely-symbolic honorarium (seriously: we're talking about $50).

A full-length article for "" (allegedly reaching 15 million readers) earns a merely symbolic payment of $150.

The famous Rolling Stone magazine pays $250 for an article of up to 1000 words.

The Washington Post pays $250 for a feature essay of up to 1000 words.

Talking to Idiots

[What's that you say?  "We will take discard your work  ."  You certainly will, old boy, you certainly will.]

[Updated March 26th, 2015: the same website actually stole my work a second time, a few months after this absurd dialogue!]

You have stolen an article of my own authorship, that I reserve the rights to: [link omitted].

You do not have the right to have this text on your website.  You should not have copied-and-pasted this content.

However, you _do_ have the right to discuss my work, and then to provide a link to the location of the article on my website (or to just provide a short notice with the link, etc.).

Here is a link to the article, as it appears on one of my own web-pages (with illustrations of my own selection, etc.).


Hi Eisel Mazard

First of all we have not stolen anything, your article as much I know its available in internet .

We thought you are a Buddhist because you  wrote about  the Buddha , and Buddhist usually share knowledge freely but in your case it seems totally opposite.Are you against to spread knowledge about Dharma

Secondly, usually people are happy that their work are listed in our Encyclopedia, because its   probably the biggest collection of Buddhist materials in web and its just the beginning of it

We will take discard your work  .