David Buchta is the Lecturer in Sanskrit in the Classics Department of Brown University. He received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 2014, writing a dissertation on the devotional poetry of Rūpa Gosvāmin. He also published several papers on the Vedānta theology of Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa.
According to a consensus amongst early Vedānta traditions, elaborated in commentaries on the Brahmasūtra 4.1.13-19, accumulated karman is destroyed and no further karman accrues after the attainment of knowledge of Brahman. The only exception is that karman which is already beginning to manifest its results (prārabdha-karman) , which can only be exhausted through experiencing those results. The late Vaiṣṇava Vedāntins Viṭṭhalanātha (1516–1586) and Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa (ca. 1700–1793), however, insist that there can be no limitations on the absolute will of the Lord, and argue that some devotees can be freed of even prārabdha-karman without experiencing its results by the Lord’s grace. Through clever exegesis, they read this theory into the Brahmasūtra passage in question. This article examines their exegesis and highlights the influence of Viṭṭhalanātha on Baladeva, noting also the seeds of this theory in a poem of Baladeva’s predecessor, Rūpa Gosvāmin.