It has been fourteen years since JVS focused on sacred biography. Our second issue (Volume 1, Number 2, Winter 1993) was called “Hagiography,” and it explored the lives of numerous Vaishnava saints, reformers, and even avatars. This issue picks up where that one left off, and since I explained the intricacies and controversies surrounding the word “hagiography” and how it relates to the Vaishnava tradition in the Introduction to that issue, I will not repeat that information here.
What I will say is that the Vaishnava tradition is filled with extraordinary tales about men and women who not only give their lives for what they believe in, but who also fully embody the ideals and qualities of their religion. When looking at the exemplary lives of great Vaishnavas, it is sometimes difficult to separate fact from fiction, and scholarly methods can often help in this regard. Inconsistency, inaccuracy, and pious fraud are not uncommon in religious literature, but thorough linguistic analysis, cultural familiarity, textual knowledge, historical information, and philosophical hermeneutics can serve
to at least partially correct these problems, giving both scholars and practitioners more accurate information about a given tradition.