III Congreso Internacional Historia a Debate Santiago de Compostela

III Congreso Internacional Historia a Debate
Santiago de Compostela, 14-18 de julio de 2004

Reconstruccin del paradigma historiogrfico

MESA Q. Oriente y Occidente

Kidder Smith (Asian Studies Program, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, USA)

"Padma Sambhava and a historiography out of Tibet"


This paper offers a fundamental revisioning of Western historiographical convention. It does so by addition rather than challenging current modes, it seeks to include them as revealing prospects within a larger historiographic view. The present demonstration uses the Indo-Tibetan figure Padma Sambhava to illustrate four of its aspects, presented here as four stages.

The first stage is occupied by historiographies we already know. Whether these are political or anti-political, skeptical or dogmatic, methodologically self-conscious or mute, they share broadly in certain assumptions that what is real is what humans make, think, and plan, that these matters take place in linear time, and that knowledge of them depends on memory, as configured in documentary evidence of multiple types. In this view Padma Sambhava is an Indian saint who introduced Buddhism to Tibet in the eighth century.

In the second stage Padma Sambhava is recognized as the Tibetan culture hero par excellence, that is, as myth--not through a first-stage debunking of his historicity due to inadequacies in his documentation, but as real myth, as archetype, as dream, as angel, existing in a shamanic dreamtime that is neither linear nor circular but somehow perfectly interwoven of itself. Here memory functions not by retrieving information from independently veritable documents but in vision, a recalling from timelessness. This mythology can be intensely political, as when we say with Martin Luther King, Jr., "I have a dream."

There is a third Padma Sambhava, for in Tibet he is also understood as wisdom itself. This wisdom exists only in the moment of its realization. There is no time here, thus no memory, no concept, and no possible history. But there is the same knowing that we experience when we open our eyes from sleep every morning.

All three of these Padma Sambhavas occur at once. This is the fourth stage. As historians, we need to acknowledge them as aspects of an integrated historiography, as coexistent ways of knowing.

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