Eisel Mazard: The Death of Pali

Experiences with Buddhism in Laos and Yunnan.



Mazard and I corresponded some many years ago. He’s an interesting fellow, for sure.

It’s disconcerting to appreciate not just what artifacts we have available in the Pali for scholarship, but what has been lost. How much has been destroyed in terms of artifacts and transcripts, or else stolen or purchased by speculators, never to be seen again.

Mazard references in this interview a female scholar “J. Filiozat,” whom I googled. This resulted: Jean Filliozat - Wikipedia I wonder what the confusion might be. No references to a female Pali scholar with this name from the period of time referenced in the Mazard interview.

Looks like maybe his mistake, he may have only corresponded with a “Jean” and assumed he was female.


The Jean Filliozat that was an Indic scholar died in 1982…Mazard looks to be about 40 years of age…

Maybe a daughter? But I can’t find any mention.

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Same, Bhante. I was actually hoping there was a daughter that succeeded the father’s scholarship, but no trace of her so far…

Edit: More digging, and found this: The commentaries to the Anāgatavaṃsa in the Pāli manuscripts of the Paris collections [Texte imprimé] : ein memoriam Ven. Hammalawa Saddhātissa / Jacqueline Filliozat / London : Pali Text Society , 1993


Okay, well then. And here’s her extensive and very impressive bibliography.



…and just found at acadamia.edu…

  • jacqueline filliozat

Jacqueline Filliozat has been a librarian, a lecturer and a research fellow during forty years in Ecole française d’Extrême-Orient, working in Pāli philology. She dedicated herself specially to cataloguing Pāli manuscript collections in Europe and Southeast Asia as well, searching for new texts to be distributed to students and colleagues preparing romanized editions. Now retired, she is currently feeding the EFEO PALI Database available in EFEO Paris Library for consultation and compiling a Vocabulary of Pāli codicology (Abhidhānasadda pāḷipotthakañāṇa). jacqueline filliozat - Academia.edu


Taking up the suggestion of @SeriousFun136 I’ve read the article too and found it a very interesting piece, especially in the mixture of styles of being-involved in the real-life aspect of trading, stealing, etc (and even the aspects of style of cultural and political repression in the east-asean countries/regions Laos vs. Yunnan) and the scholarly aspects. I surely have to take this to memory! :slight_smile:

By this I got curious about that man and looked for more articles, my first other find was “Dissent from the top (Eisel Mazard, 2012, also in his blog)” but this piece made me sceptic about his grip on one important aspect of early-sangha- and early-buddhism-matters.

That is the question of a heir(?) for the Buddha in regard of leading the Sangha. I feel it to be very light-weighted how he deals with this (general) idea, for instance terming this as “taking over power” (either by Sariputta, or Mahamoggalana, or Mahakassapa) while I remember that the Buddha said explicitely (in the sutta about the controversy with Devadatta) “I even would not ‘hand over’ the sangha to Sariputta, so of course not to you(…)” (I’ll add the reference later when I’ve located it)

Besides of this one explicite remark of the Buddha I’ve felt his framing of this issue in his whole article even more general alienating to my own take of the transmission of the Buddha and Sangha history, but which I cannot make more explicite at the moment. (So I’ve put “I feel” etc in my comment here).

Just a doubt, so, and also a suggestion for to read another interesting article of Eisel Mazard … :writing_hand: :roll_eyes:

Update 1

  • Hmm, I tried to find the story of the rejection of Devadatta and found it in Palicanon.com under vinaya/cullavagga/. But it seems a short piece/extract in translation/compression of Klaus Mylius and not useful for crossreferencing to suttacentral
  • An english reference by Hellmuth Hecker to this story I found at ATI : “When Devadatta voiced his claim to lead the Order, the Buddha said that he would not entrust anybody with the leadership of the Sangha, not even his two chief disciples, let alone Devadatta (C. V. VII, 3).”
    That “C.V.VII.3” means again “cullavagga” and still does not help for reference into Suttacentral.
  • But I seem to be unable to find this in suttacentral, sorry … (searching for cullavagga (no results) looking in index of vinaya (no matching entry); searching for devadatta and/or devadatta sariputta (too many and nothing seems to match, search-result is overwhelming filled with references to jatakas…)) so I gave up there

Update 2

  • Found it in suttacentral using explanations about the location of the Cullavagga in the vinaya/khandhaka (with offset in numbering) in another thread, pointing to KD 17 in SC. The german version is by Fritz Schaefer.

Eisel Mazard says:

Mahā-Moggallāna was one of two monks who were expected to inherit the leadership of Buddhism (as a then-new religion) at the time of the Buddha’s death; this didn’t happen. Despite the fact that both of these monks were younger than the Buddha, they both pre-deceased him; and Mahā-Moggallāna was reportedly murdered.

According to DN 16, Buddha says:

Now the Blessed One spoke to the Venerable Ananda, saying: "It may be, Ananda, that to some among you the thought will come: ‘Ended is the word of the Master; we have a Master no longer.’
But it should not, Ananda, be so considered.
For that which I have proclaimed and made known as the Dhamma and the Vinaya, that shall be your Master when I am gone.

I agree with your assessment that Mazard seems to have been mistaken on this particular issue.
The Buddha seems quite clear regarding who the successor is: the Dhamma-Vinaya.
Like you said, not Sariputta, Moggollana, Maha-Kasapa, definitely not Devadatta, but also not - in my current opinion - the various Sangha-Rajas and other such seemingly artificially created, unauthorized leadership positions that seems to have come into existence today.

To his credit, he did raise an interesting question about Mahā-Moggallāna though:

Modern readers tend to regard the death of Mahā-Moggallāna as an historical fact, even if they regard all of the stories told about it as mythology. How is that possible? If your only evidence is myth, why would you suppose that you have evidence of anything other than mythology?

This is a broader concern I have about any and all later texts - even when people regard later texts with suspicion and skepticism (often rightly so), they still seem to draw conclusions from those sources anyway!

Also to his credit, he outright rejected a seemingly false claim made by an academic skeptic:

The question might then be asked, “Given all of this supernatural material in the canon (that you complain about other western interpreters selectively ignoring, etc.), why does anyone think of these texts as records of specific historical events at all?”
I received an utterly unexpected response from an established, PhD-wielding, career academic (specialized in Buddhism) who felt that my work supported his own conclusion that the Pali canon contained no description of the Buddha as an historical figure at all, nor (in his opinion) did the texts depict him as a human being.
This was both astounding and hilarious, as I then had to provide this professor with a link to one of my prior articles in reply: I had already written “The Buddha was Bald” to discuss the descriptions that we have in the Pali canon that do indeed make the Buddha seem like a normal human being (with nothing supernatural about his appearance, etc.).
I have never heard back from that professor again. Socratic method is dead, apparently.


Indeed, I think he is a inveterate controversialist, who makes valid criticisms, but also a lot of dubious claims. I wouldn’t take all his opinions on face value, but the article I linked to is mostly personal experience and some quite interesting on-the-ground insight into the role that texts have played in an oft-neglected area of Theravada.


Thanks for the link to the Baldness essay. Loved this quote especially:

culture is the sum of the questions that it prevents from being asked


Welcome :pray: Venerable.

Thank you for sharing. I share some more lines that resonated with me from the Baldness essay below:

One of the most obvious fallacies of modern Theravada Buddhism is the depiction of the Buddha with a full head of hair.

admitting that it is incorrect but supposing that it is not worth worrying about

opposite extreme of taking offense and demanding to know how anyone could dare to raise the question

tries to answer the question (that almost nobody dares to ask) in as few words as possible, by working from the primary sources.

However, priority is given to disclosing the primary sources: in this case, as in many others, there is no controversy at all if we simply lay bare the original texts, and let them speak for themselves.

the failure to question the underlying assumption…is encouraged by the art-history

if there had been significant numbers of men whose heads were shaven as a punishment (prior to some sort of banishment or period of penitence) we cannot expect that any special was respect accorded to the Buddhist monks of that era simply on account of their lack of hair.
For Buddhists who have grown up in cultures where the shaven head is exclusively associated with monasticism, this sort of contrast in cultural assumptions is too easily forgotten in considering the evidence of the original texts.

The real significance of culture is the sum of the questions that it prevents from being asked: the doubts that are precluded by crass assumption are the substance of culture itself. Texts may answer questions, but they remain inert if people do not ask them; philosophies may raise new doubts, but only for those who are willing to hear them.

The question of the Buddha’s baldness is an interesting example wherein Buddhist culture has become something quite separate from the religion, and, indeed, the culture has come to exalt a heresy. In Southeast Asia, this heresy is not merely common but ubiquitous;
…this very dubious hair (along with the worship of “hair relics”, and so on) is now more widely known than any philosophical discourse the Buddha ever recited.

Well, it looks like the case has been cracked: like Venerable Nāgārjuna, Venerable Mahāmaudgalyāyana has simply never died, and like Ven Nāgārjuna, he is alive, present, and practicing Buddhadharma and body alchemy on a mountain “somewhere!”


I mean, who does he mean by “modern readers”? If he means traditional Theravadins, then it’s true enough, but people who actually read the EBTs? I’m not sure that anyone regards the commentarial story as “historical fact”: I certainly don’t.

I’m not sure I have ever met a historical fact, in that every representation of them seems useless or worse outside of context. :laughing:

However stuff happened/happens/will happen. And I’m grateful for Buddha/Dhamma/Sangha which have had persistent effect and effectiveness.

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Have come across Eisel Mazard’s blog and youtube channel previously. He definitely seems like an interesting character and some of his writings provide food for thought. Personality-wise, he seems to leave it all hang out there and doesn’t hold back (probably not the most diplomatic :slight_smile: ). I think I’ve seen him label himself as an “ex-Buddhist” and “ex-Pali scholar” so his Buddhist and Pali articles probably date from a few years back. He has lots of veganism articles/videos too (seems to be into Chinese calligraphy and writing these days).

Regarding Eisel and Devadatta, Sariputta and Mogallana leading the Sangha, searching for lead the mendicant finds:

MN67:13.5: Now he will remain passive, dwelling in blissful meditation in the present life. Meanwhile, Venerable Sāriputta and I will lead the mendicant Saṅgha.’”
MN67:13.7: For either I should lead the mendicant Saṅgha, or else Sāriputta and Moggallāna.”
MN51:2.3: All the perfected ones, the fully awakened Buddhas in the past or the future who lead the mendicant Saṅgha to practice properly will at best do so
MN51:3.2: All the perfected ones, the fully awakened Buddhas in the past or the future who lead the mendicant Saṅgha to practice properly will at best do so
AN5.100:2.3: ‘I will lead the mendicant Saṅgha.’

Thank you for bringing up the Devadatta issue. The search phrase “lead the mendicant” is now a Voice example for Inspire Me.

Of particular note, in MN67, the Buddha says “Sāriputta and Moggallāna.” He does not say “or”. In other words, they share the lead.