Nigaṇṭha NāṭaputtaNigaṇṭha NāthaputtaNāthaputtaNāṭaputta
Founder or reformer of the Jains. One of six eminent teachers, contemporary with the Buddha; he is described as a outsider. SN.i.66
He was leader of a sect known as the Nigaṇṭhā, and a summary of his teachings is found in the Sāmaññaphala Sutta. DN.i.57
Nāṭaputta is stated to have claimed omniscience—to be all-knowing, all seeing, to have all comprising knowledge and vision. “Whether I walk or stand or sleep or wake,” he is mentioned as saying, “my knowledge and vision are always, and without a break, present before me.” MN.ii.31 AN.i.220 MN.i.92f. MN.ii.214ff. It is curious, in view of this statement of Nāṭaputta’s doctrine of inaction, that the main ground on which he is stated to have objected to Sīha’s visit to the Buddha, was that the Buddha was an akiriyavādī. AN.iv.180
He taught that past deeds should be extirpated by severe austerities, fresh deeds should be avoided by inaction. By expelling through penance all past misdeeds and by not committing fresh misdeeds, the future became cleared. From the destruction of deeds results the destruction of dukkha; this leads to the destruction of vedanā. Thus all dukkha is exhausted and one passes beyond the round of existence. It is said that Nāṭaputta did not employ the term kamma in his teaching; he used, instead, the word daṇḍa; and that, according to him, the daṇḍa of deed was far more criminal than the dandas of word and mind. MN.i.371
He is said to have shown no hesitation in declaring the destinies of his disciples after death SN.iv.398 ; but Sakuludāyi says MN.ii.31 MN.i.93 MN.ii.214f. that when asked a question as to the past, he skipped from one matter to another and dismissed the question, evincing irritation, bad temper and resentment.
Only one discussion is recorded between Nāṭaputta and a follower of the Buddha, and that was with Citta gahapati at Macchika Sanda. SN.iv.298ff. He praises Citta at the outset of the discussion, holding him up as an example to his own flock, and agreeing with Citta that knowledge is more excellent than faith. But later, when Citta claims knowledge of the four jhānas, Nāṭaputta is represented as condemning him for a deceitful man. Citta, thereupon, asks him ten questions and, getting no answer, leaves him.
The Devadaha Sutta MN.ii.214 MN.i.91ff. AN.v.150 DN.iii.119 contains a detailed analysis and attributed to the Buddha, of the beliefs and teachings of the Nigaṇṭhas. He there selects for his condemnation ten of their operative utterances, major and minor, and proves that the efforts and strivings of the Nigaṇṭhas are fruitless.
The books contain the names of several disciples of Nāṭaputta, among them a deva called Ninka. SN.i.66 Nāṭaputta is so convinced of the truth and the irrefutableness of his own doctrines, that he actually encourages his disciples to hold discussions with the Buddha. Some, like Dīgha Tapassī, come away unscathed, without having carried the discussion to any conclusion; others are mentioned as being convinced by the Buddha in the end and as becoming his disciples. Such, for instance, are Asibandhakaputta SN.iv.317ff. and Abhayarājakumāra. MN.i.392ff. Nāṭaputta tries, without success, to dissuade Sīha, general of the Licchavis, from visiting the Buddha. AN.iv.180ff. Sīha goes and is converted. The next day he holds an almsgiving, on a grand scale, to the Buddha and his monks, at which flesh is served. It is said that Nāṭaputta went about Vesāli, sneering at the Buddha for encouraging slaughter. Vin.i.233ff.
But the greatest blow to Nāṭaputta was when Upāli-gahapati MN.i.373ff. joined the Buddha. Nāṭaputta had allowed Upāli to visit him in spite of the warning of Dīgha-Tapassī as to the Buddha’s arresting personality. But Nāṭaputta thought Upāli would be proof against it, and, on hearing that he had renounced his allegiance to the Nigaṇṭhas, refused to believe it until he could verify the information himself. The discovery of the apostasy of Upāli prostrated him with grief.; he vomited hot blood and had to be carried away on a litter from Bālaka, where he was then living, to Pāvā. There, soon after, he died, and immediately great dissensions arose among his followers. When the Buddha heard of the quarrels, he remarked that it was only to be expected. MN.ii.243f. DN.iii.117 DN.iii.210
Nigaṇṭha Nāṭaputta is the name by which the Jaina teacher, Mahāvīra, was known to his contemporaries. He was also called Vardhamāna. Nāta was the name of his clan.