Wanderer. The name given to some of the ascetics and recluses of the Buddha’s time. They were not exclusively brahmin. Their presence seems to have been recognized and respected from earlier times. Generally speaking, their creed is formulated as a belief in perfect bliss after death for the self purged from evil, and as a conviction that this bliss can be won by brahmacariyā, by freedom from all evil in acts, words, aims, and mode of livelihood. MN.ii.24
All these four standards of conduct were bodily incorporated in the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path, and the last of the four gave to the Ājīvakas their specific name as a separate sect. The Paribbājakas claimed to be identical with the followers of the Buddha in their tenets and teaching, MN.i.64f MN.i.84f. but the Buddha maintained that the two teachings were quite distinct. This is clearly indicated Vin.i.39 in connection with the conversion of Sāriputta and Moggallāna, who were Paribbājakas under Sañjaya. The goal of the Paribbājakas was deathlessness which, to them, probably meant birth in the world of Brahmā. Their conversion to the Buddha’s Doctrine followed the recognition that Gotama dealt, not with effects but with causes, and that he went to the root of the matter by teaching how casual states of consciousness arose and how they could be banished for ever. AN.iv.35ff. AN.iv.378 AN.i.215
The Paribbājakas were not ascetics except in so far as they were celibates; some of them were women. They were teachers or sophists who spent eight or nine months of every year wandering from place to place for the purpose of engaging in friendly, conversational discussions on matters of ethics and philosophy, nature lore and mysticism. They differed very much in intelligence, earnestness, and even in honesty. Some of the views discussed in the Brahmajāla Sutta, for instance, and described as those of “Eel wrigglers” and “Hair splitters”, were undoubtedly truly thus described. The books mention halls erected for the accommodation of the Paribbājakas, such as those in Mallikā’s park at Sāvatthī, DN.i.178 and the Kūṭāgārasālā at Vesāli.
Sometimes special places were set apart for them in the groves near the settlements, as at Campā on the bank of the Gaggarā lake, DN.i.111 at the Moranivāpa in Rājagaha, AN.v.326 and on the banks of the Sappinikā. AN.i.185 AN.ii.175
It was in such places that the Paribbājakas met each other, and in the course of their journeys they would visit each other in order to exchange greetings of courtesy and to engage in profitable discussion. The utmost cordiality seems to have prevailed on these occasions, intercourse and discussions were free, there were no restrictions of creed, caste or pride. Thus Dīghanakha calls on the Buddha, MN.i.497 the Buddha on Sakuladāyī MN.ii.29 AN.ii.175ff. and Sarabha. AN.i.185 Vekhanassa calls on the Buddha, MN.ii.40 as do Timbaruka, SN.ii.22 Vacchagotta, SN.iii.257 and Sivaka Moliya. SN.iv.230 Potaliputta calls on Samiddhi, MN.iii.207 Susīma on Ānanda, SN.ii.119 and Jambukhādaka on Sāriputta. SN.iv.251
The inhabitants of the towns and villager, near which the Paribbājakas stopped, visited them, both to show their respect and to benefit by their teachings. The names of a considerable number of Paribbājakas, besides those already mentioned, who were well known in the time of the Buddha, are given in the texts e.g., Annabhāra, Varadhara, etc., AN.ii.175 also Sāmaṇḍaka, SN.iv.26 and the Paribbājikā Sucimukhī. SN.iii.238f. In most cases they are represented as having large followings, so that they were evidently regarded as distinguished teachers.