A banker (seṭṭhi) of Sāvatthī who became famous because of his unparalleled generosity to the Buddha. His first meeting with the Buddha was during the first year after the Enlightenment, in Rājagaha., Vin.ii.154ff. whither Anāthapiṇḍika had come on business.
His wife was the sister of the seṭṭhi of Rājagaha, and when he arrived he found the seṭṭhi preparing a meal for the Buddha and his monks on so splendid a scale that he thought that a wedding was in progress or that the king had been invited. On learning the truth he became eager to visit the Buddha, and did so very early the next morning. Vin.ii.155–156 He was so excited by the thought of the visit that he got up three times during the night. When, at last, he started for Sītavana, the road was quite dark, but a friendly Yakkha, Sīvaka, sped him on with words of encouragement. By force of his piety the darkness vanished.
The Buddha was staying in the Sītavana, and when Anāthapiṇḍika reached there spirits opened the door for him. He found the Buddha walking up and down, meditating in the cool air of the early dawn. The Buddha greeted him and talked to him on various aspects of his teaching. Anāthapiṇḍika was immediately converted and became a Sotāpanna. He invited the Buddha to a meal the next day, providing everything himself, although the seṭṭhi, the Mayor of Rājagaha and King Bimbisāra asked to be allowed to help. After the meal, which he served to the Buddha with his own hand, he invited the Buddha to spend the rainy season at Sāvatthī, and the Buddha accepted, saying “the Tathāgatas, o householder, take pleasure in solitude.” “I understand, o Blessed One, I understand,” was the reply.
When Anāthapiṇḍika had finished his business at Rājagaha he set out towards Sāvatthī, giving orders along the way to his friends and acquaintances to prepare dwellings, parks, rest-houses and gifts all along the road to Sāvatthī in preparation for the Buddha’s visit. He had many friends and acquaintances and he was ādeyyavaco (his word was held to be of weight). Vin.ii.158
Understanding the request implied in the Buddha’s words when he accepted the invitation, Anāthapiṇḍika looked out for a quiet spot near Sāvatthī where the Buddha and the monks might dwell, and his eye fell on the park of Jetakumāra. He bought the park at great expense and erected therein the famous Jetavanārāma. As a result of this and of his numerous other benefactions in the cause of the Sāsana, Anāthapiṇḍika came to be recognised as the chief of alms-givers. AN.i.25
Anāthapiṇḍika’s personal name was Sudatta, but he was always called Anāthapiṇḍika (feeder of the destitute) because of his munificence; he was, however, very pleased when the Buddha addressed him by his own name. Vin.ii.156 He spent eighteen crores on the purchase of Jetavana and a like sum on the construction of the vihāra; another eighteen crores were spent in the festival of dedication. He fed one hundred monks in his house daily in addition to meals provided for guests, people of the village, invalids, etc.