Sri Madhvacharya (1238-1317 A.D.), also known as Vasudeva, Purnaprajna and Anandatirtha, is the illustrious propounder of the Dvaita school of thought. As a thinker, he was original and critical, diverging considerably from the beaten track. The new Indian Philosophy of Realism found in him, its most powerful exponent. With stress on a devotional approach to Lord Narayana, the Dvaita school has remained a living system of thought.
In his interpretations of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, Sri Madhva anticipated some modern trends in the study of the texts. He demonstrated that the Vedas can be interpreted from the mythological, psychological and spiritual viewpoints. He thus became the forerunner of Swami Dayananda Saraswati and Sri Aurobindo too.
Sri Madhva was fortunate in getting many worthy successors of outstanding scholarship and dedication, through whom his writings became well-known and popular. His style is terse and turgid, and without Jayatirtha's lucid commentaries, his works would have remained sealed for posterity.
Jayatirtha's amazing proficiency in several branches of learning, masterly analysis and superb command of the language, make him one of the most celebrated commentators of Vedanta.
Pramana Paddhati is a manual of the Dvaita School, dealing with its epistemological position. Although it had been edited and translated into English earlier, those editions “are not easily accessible to the younger generation,” observes Dr. Shrinivasa Varakhedi. Epistemology consists in investigating the grounds and nature of knowledge itself. A study of epistemology focusses on the means of acquiring knowledge, and points out how one can differentiate between truth and falsehood.
The word ‘Pramana' in Sanskrit conveys two meanings, viz., Knowledge and the Instruments of Knowledge. A Pramana should apprehend an entity as it is (yathaartha). The knower and the object of knowledge are no doubt ‘causes of knowledge' but they are not the ‘means' thereof.
To avoid confusion, Sri Madhva and his followers have classified Pramana as Kevalapramana and Anupramana. Anupramana is the instrument or means of arriving at knowledge whereas Kevalapramana is the knowledge produced by those means.
As in Visishtadvaita, in the Dvaita School too, only three distinct means of valid knowledge are accepted. They are Pratyaksha (Sense-perception), Anumana (Inference) and Sabda (Verbal Testimony).
While the first two means can grasp all the objects of knowledge directly or indirectly, Sabda or Agama alone is capable of proving the existence of God. It may be noted that there is no unanimity among different schools of thought regarding the number of valid means of knowledge.
The Charvakas accept only Pratyaksha; the Buddhists and Vaiseshikas accept one more, viz., Anumana and the Samkhyas accept three, including Verbal Testimony. The Nyaya School adds Analogy (Upamana) to these and the Prabhakaras include Presumption (Arthapatti). The Bhattas and the Advaitins accept one more, viz., Non-apprehension (Anupalabdhi). But according to Madhva, all these can be brought under one or the other of the first three Pramanas. This has been ably demonstrated by Jayatirtha in his lucid commentary (pp.97-100).
The book deals with these three Pramanas in three different chapters. Jayatirtha's commentary is just to the point, without entering into elaborate polemics. It is thus ideally suited for beginners who want to have a grasp of the Epistemology of the school. This forms the foundation on which the grand superstructure of the Madhva system rests.
Dr. Shrinivasa Varakhedi has carefully edited and provided a reliable and useful translation for this excellent manual. The Preface summarises the main concepts of the Madhva-system. The Appendix provides a Glossary of important technical words.
The Path Of Proofs – Pramana Paddhati
Sri Jayatirtha: A Monograph on the Dvaita Epistemology; English translation by Shrinivasa Varakhedi. (Dvaita Philosophy Resource Centre, Manipal University Press, Manipal, Karnataka; Price: Rs. 295 in India & 12 Euros Outside India.)