Head of one of the six heretical sects mentioned in the Pitakas as being contemporaneous with the Buddha. He is described as a Titthaka (non-Buddhist teacher), leader of a large following, virtuous and held in esteem by the people. SN.i.68
According to the Sāmaññaphala Sutta, DN.i.55 where Ajātasattu describes a visit paid to Ajita, he taught the doctrine of “cutting off,” i.e. annihilation at death. He was a nihilist who believed in neither good nor evil. The answer Ajita gave to Ajātasattu is given elsewhere SN.iii.207 MN.i.515 as being the view of a typical sophist. His name is often introduced into the stereotyped list of the six teachers even where the views they are alleged to have expressed do not coincide with those attributed to Ajita in the Sāmaññaphala Sutta. In the Saṃyutta SN.iv.398 he is represented as talking about the rebirths of his adherents—he who denied rebirth. In the Aṅguttara AN.i.286 he seems to have been confused with Makkhali Gosāla. He was called Kesakambali because he wore a blanket of human hair, which is described as being the most miserable garment. It was cold in cold weather, hot in the hot, evil-smelling and uncouth.
Ajita was evidently much older in years than the Buddha, for we find Pasenadi, in the early years of his friendship with the Buddha, telling him that he was a young novice compared with Ajita. SN.i.68
References to ascetics wearing hair garments are found in several passages of the Pali canon. DN.i.167 MN.i.77 MN.i.238 AN.i.240