- Response to Robert Zydenbos' Review of An Introduction to Mādhva Vedānta
I am grateful to the editors of Philosophy East and West for asking me to write a response to Zydenbos' review of my book, An Introduction to Mādhva Vedānta. To this end, I will address four issues: typographical errors, unfounded claims about my translations, content and problems of method and theory, and the future of scholarship in Mādhva Vedānta.
First, I wish to thank Zydenbos for pointing out the typographical errors. I take full responsibility for them and I intend to correct them in future editions. These are unintentional mistakes and should not be taken as an accurate indicator of my academic ability. I invite readers to examine my other publications on Mādhva Vedānta and to decide for themselves. Jayatīrtha (1365-1388 C.E.), a renowned Mādhva commentator, explained the reasons for such errors in his Pramāṇapad-dhati. He held that defective eyes, whether from cataract, jaundice, or the like,1 [End Page 670] can give rise to defective knowledge, and further, that if an object is too far away, too near, too small, obstructed, or even mixed with similar things, then this will give rise to incorrect knowledge.2 I knew that such errors were likely to occur (especially given the size of the fonts in the page proofs!), which is why I wrote the following in my acknowledgments: "Errors that remain in this text are entirely my own responsibility. If any are found I beg your forgiveness and hope that they inspire you to further study Mādhva Vedānta!" (p. xi). Perhaps all of the undue attention paid by Zydenbos to typographical errors (he devoted a significant portion of his review to them) will inspire further study!
I am delighted that Zydenbos found my translations to be "not badly done" and disappointed that he incorrectly "assumes" that they are not my own. Rest assured that they are mine. I was assisted by Professor Lawrence McCrea and scholars of the Pūrṇaprajña Saṃśodhana Mandiram (PPSM) and have dutifully acknowledged all of them in my book (p. xii). Zydenbos should know better than to speculate about matters he has no knowledge of.
Content and Methodological Issues
The typographical errors and accusations of plagiarism are far less interesting than the points that were raised about the content of my book. Disputes in the West about interpretations of Mādhva Vedānta are recent; it has been largely ignored in favor of Buddhism and the crypto-Buddhist school, namely Advaita Vedānta. There have been very few books on Mādhva Vedānta written by outsiders, and those few are no longer in print, are poorly written, use dated language, or are in a language that is not available to most lay Mādhvas. Interpretations of Mādhva doctrines made by their authors have remained unquestioned by Western readers given the relative novelty and obscurity of Mādhva Vedānta, while Mādhva insiders have ignored most of them. It is wonderful, then, that Zydenbos doubts my interpretations. After all, his disputes are among the first ones published by an outsider concerning the interpretation of Mādhva doctrines.3
Zydenbos' skepticism is reason for celebration for it indicates that Western scholarship on Mādhva Vedānta has come of age. There are now enough scholars of Mādhva Vedānta (or, rather, scholars who claim knowledge of Mādhva Vedānta) in the West that such a debate can occur. I invite others to investigate the points of dispute and to join this expanding community!
Zydenbos has also faulted me on the organizational principles of my introductory text. I have, as he correctly notes, intentionally ignored issues of contemporary politics, a topic that he finds essential. Although some historical and political issues are relevant, I find that philosophical discourse sans context is far more intellectually appealing. I am well aware of my biases and have acknowledged the limitations of my historical analysis: [End Page 671]
. . . the history presented here is not intended to be comprehensive. Instead, it is intended...