True History versus New History ──A Brief Discussion on the Position of Buddhism in History Based on The Agama Sutras

Tsai Lichen
Research Fellow,
Buddhist Institute of True Enlightenment


The new history is a general mark for the historiographical society to challenge the old history. Under the continuous development of new historiography, gradually, the new historiography has become the target challenged by the newer historiographical theories. Therefore, in the slogan of new history, the new historiography marches toward postmodernism step by step, overturns all theoretical bases of historiography, and makes historiography face the predicament of "the death of history."

The challenge from postmodernism reveals a common defect of new and old historiographical theories, i.e., lack of theoretical basis and consistency on the basic questions about "What is history?", "What function can history have?", "What is the scope of the subject of history?", etc. However, the historiography of postmodernism neither solves the basic questions nor discovers the fact that its defect does not differ from that of other new historiographies; on the contrary, it continuously goes forward according to the original wrong base and direction of new and old historiographies, and thus results in the predicament of "the death of history." This article finds both new and old historiographies are wrong, false historiographies because they are all based on the wrong start and end points of logic.

The article tries to further explore the basic questions of historiography and fundamentally corrects the common defect of new and old historiographies so that the historiography can become alive again and marches toward the stage of the true history. This article discovers that both new and old historiographies confuse the definition of history with that of historical book, and wrongly claim that history only has the past character, neglecting it in fact having the present and future character at the same time.

The argument between new and old historians about the scope of historical subject is only the argument for the minority or majority of human beings; both historians do not correctly recognize that the scope of historical subject in fact includes all sentient beings of the ten dharma-realms. Therefore, the object that the new and old historians are loyal to and the functions of history they recognize are also totally wrong due to this narrow scope of subject.

The various mistakes which new and old historians make all result from the fact that they build the logic starting point of history on the relationship of name and form dharmas, and neglect the correct starting and ending points of history should be based on the eighth vijnana, (the embryo-entering vijnana, or Tathagatagarbha), which gives birth to both name and form dharmas. Only the true history based on Tathagatagarbha can conform with the fact of the dharma-realm and make full play of the functions of science and rationality so that the sentient beings can understand their own positions in the dharma-realm and endeavor to practice for Buddhahood.

Consequently, the historians who possess the real professional knowledge and capability exist in Buddhism only; the non-Buddhist historians are not professional. The fifty-two practice stages of the Bodhisattva-Way are the standardized, strict training and procedures for the professional historians. Only those Mahayana bodhisattvas who have personally realized the eighth vijnana Tathagatagarbha are qualified as professional historians and thus can receive the standardized, strict training and procedures. The Buddha, who has completed the training of the fifty-two stages and attained Buddhahood in the dharma-realm, is the greatest historian. Therefore, Buddhism is the "central government, or central nervous system" of history.

Keywords: positivist historiography, Positivist Buddhism, historiography of textual criticism, true historiography, new history, old history, postmodernism history, Humanistic Buddhism, Confucianization, tunnel vision, Tathagatagarbha, eighth vijnana, true history, historical view, historical officer, historical subject, all sentient beings


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