As Mahavira was the senior contemporary of Gautama Buddha, the
founder of Buddhism, it is natural that in the Buddhist literature there
should be several references of a personal nature to Mahavira. It is,
however, very significant to note that in Buddhist books Mahavira is
always described as nigantha Nataputta (Nirgrantha Jnatrputra), i.e., the
naked ascetic of the Jnatr clan and never as the founder of Jainism.
Further, in the Buddhist literature Jainism is not shown as a new religion
but is referred to as an ancient religion. There are ample references in
Buddhist books to the Jaina naked ascetics to the worship of Arhats in
Jaina chaityas or temples and to the chaturyama-dharma (i.e. fourfold
religion) of 23rd Tirthankara Parsvanatha.
Moreover, it is very pertinent to find that the Buddhist literature refers
to the Jaina tradition of Tirthankaras and specifically mentions the names
of Jaina Tirthankaras like Rsabhadeva, Padmaprabha, Chandraprabha,
Puspadanta, Vimalnath, Dharmanath and Neminatha. The Dharmottara- pradipa,
the well known Buddhist book, Mentions Rsabhadeva along with the name of
Mahavira or Vardhamana as an Apta or Tirthankara. The Dhammikasutta of the
Amgutara-nikaya speaks of Aristanemi or Nemi-natha as one of the six
Tirthankaras mentioned there. The Buddhist book Manorathapurani, mentions
the names of many lay men and women as followers of the Parsvanatha
tradition and among them is the name of Vappa, the uncle of Gautama
Buddha. In fact it is mentioned in the Buddhist literature that Gautama
Buddha himself practiced penance according to the Jaina way before he
propounded his new religion.